Artur Pizarro - Albeniz & Granados - Gramophone

The six thematically connected Goyescas, published in two volumes (1910 and 1914), are subtitles "Los major enamorados" ("The Majos in Love"). The majos were the dandified lower classes of Spain (especially Madrid) at the turn of the 18th century, and a favourite subject of Goya. So these "Goya-like" works, inspired, as Granados wrote, by "the psychology of Goya and his palette", are love poems and Artur Pizarro captures their improvised, dreamlike quality to perfection with a golden tone and caressing touch.

In Iberia, Albéniz's formidable masterpiece (12 works published in four volumes, 1906-09), Pizarro has not only de Larrocha's legendary recording(s) to compete with but Marc-André Hamelin's very different take (Hyperion, 6/05). To generalise, if de Larrocha takes the more robust and theatrical view of the music and Hamelin is the more technically nonchalant and textually astute (the only one, by the way, fully to accommodate Albéniz's extreme dynamics, ranging from quintuple piano to quintuple forte), Pizarro is the more emotionally contained. He is at his best when the music demands charm and introspection ("Rondeña", "El polo") is difficult not to fall for Pizarro's lyrical grace, the even temperament of his approach and the unfailingly lovely sound he produces (he has been very well recorded), a distinct advantage over de Larrocha.

30 July 2010