Composers: Albéniz, Debussy, Ravel, Falla, Mompou
Performers: Imogen Cooper p
Catalogue Number: Chandos CHAN20119
This might look like a program of colourful showpieces sponsored by Rioja, but it has a far more complex remit even if, as Imogen Cooper writes, the connections between pieces are “more felt than proven”.
She’s being unduly modest; one of the beauties of this collection is the way it conveys so powerfully the free-flowing, almost 360-degree influences that these composers exerted on one another. So much so that mid-way through Albéniz’s Evocación you might wonder if you’re listening to Debussy’s Soireé dans Grenade. Experiencing Iberia Y Francia as a recital will bring you many similar surprises, not least of which is the way Albéniz’s writing – with its pervasive (and rubato-laden) dance rhythms, extravagant dynamic range and heady combination of delicacy and abandon – owes something to Debussy who demonstrates his affection and respect for Albéniz’s Iberia suite in La Puerta del Vino.
The ‘odd composer out’ here is Mompou, but that makes his inclusion all the more interesting. The apparent simplicity of his music masks a deep, wistful engagement with his Catalan heritage.
Cooper’s playing is also consistently stimulating. The album opens with a poised account of Ravel’s Pavane (not too slow) and includes a magically atmospheric Albéniz bracket. The central section of Alborada del Gracioso seems a little unyielding, as if Cooper can’t quite surrender to the moment, but so much else is so finely nuanced it is almost rude to complain.