About this Recording
8.573502 - Piano Recital: Sakiya, Akihiro - BRAHMS, J. / DEBUSSY, C. / ROMÁN, A. / GRANADOS, E. / RUIZ, J.M.
English  Spanish 

Akihiro Sakiya: Piano Recital
Brahms • Debussy • Román • Granados • Ruiz


This recital from the young Japanese pianist Akihiro Sakiya is the perfect showcase for his qualities as a performer—for the sound he produces and the atmospheres he can evoke with his playing. He leads us from the expressive density of Brahms’s piano music to the subtle soundworld of Debussy, as well as introducing us to some of the latest works to have been created for his instrument in Spain, and taking a fresh look at a Spanish classic by Granados.

Brahms’s three piano sonatas are early works—outpourings of imagination and unalloyed Romanticism. The Sonata in F minor (1853), which he performed for Schumann (as he did its two fellows), is one of the great piano sonatas of the age. Brahms wanders deep into a dark Romantic forest to bring us this expansive and hugely expressive work, shot through with poetry. It has many moments of lofty beauty, for example in the Andante espressivo, which, unusually, is not the only slow movement here, as an introspective Intermezzo acts as a watershed between the traditional Scherzo and the powerful Finale, adding a touch of modernity and surprise to the conventional pattern.

Debussy’s Estampes (Prints, 1903) is cast in three movements, like several other works in his catalogue, Images among them. Brimming with evocative writing, it was composed for the Spanish pianist Ricardo Vines, who inspired so many works from the composers of the day. Its first movement, Pagodes, draws on eastern influences, including gamelan percussion. La soirée dans Grenade (Evening in Granada) is one of a series of pieces conjured in Debussy’s imagination by the exotic world of the Alhambra, a world then washed away by the rainstorm portrayed in Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the rain).

Although also inspired by the works of Goya, Granados’s El pelele (The Straw Doll, 1914—the painting of the same name is on display at the Prado in Madrid) stands alone from his well-known piano suite Goyescas. In the words of Manuel de Falla, who heard El pelele played by Granados at the home of pianist and composer Joaquín Nin, it “is a luminously rhythmical dance … its tonadilla-like phrases conveyed with exquisite sensitivity”. This gem of the repertoire gives the impression of a door being opened and daylight flooding in.

Also included here are two contemporary piano works by Spanish composers, both commissioned by the Provincial Council of Jaén and both drawing on local folk tunes. Juan Manuel Ruiz’s Almenara was composed for the 2013 competition, and he himself describes it as follows: “Almenara comprises a single movement made up of two linked but contrasting sections. The first, marked Enérgico, is more static than the second. It introduces several juxtaposed thematic elements, both modal and chromatic in nature, thereby creating sonorities that vary in colour and register, and in terms of their use of the pedals. Those elements continue to change throughout the piece, the tension building until it culminates in a pungent cadenza. This is followed by a coda that combines the previous themes with a modified folk tune from Jaén, “Que no me quedo sola” (So as not to be alone). The second section, marked Allegro con fuoco, evokes the foot-stamping sounds of a zapateado. The full range of the piano is used, with a relentless, percussive rhythm. After various different episodes, the folk theme reappears; the work then ends in a long coda which brings together all the thematic elements in one last, dramatic synthesis.”

Alejandro Román wrote his Gaiena, diez paisajes jienenses (Gaiena, Ten Jaén landscapes) for the 2014 competition, basing it on a local Christmas carol, Alegría, alegría (Joy, joy). To quote the composer: “The title refers to a possible derivation of the name of the province—it may come from the Latin “villa Gaiena”, or “town of Gaius”, corrupted over time to become “Jaén”. The work is a journey through the province’s ten districts, from Martos to the city of Jaén. Each section title includes an allusion to the place in question:

I. Martos, Cuna del Olivar (Birthplace of the olive grove)
II. Alcalá la Real, el Sur (The South)
III. Jaén, La Villa de Gayo (The town of Gaius)
IV. Cazorla, Piedra, Cal y Jardines Andaluces (Stone, limestone and Andalusian gardens)
V. Villacarrillo, Aceite y Olivas (Olive trees and oil)
VI. Úbeda, Legado del Renacimiento (Renaissance heritage)
VII. Baeza, Antiqua Universitas
VIII. Linares, Tarantos y Mineras (Styles of flamenco and Mining)
IX. La Carolina, Aceituneras y Cantos Flamencos (Olive pickers and flamenco songs)
X. Andújar, Montería y Cerámica (Hunting and ceramics)
XI. Jaén, Villa Gaiena

“With the exception of parts II, III, V, X and XI, the work draws frequently on the melody of Alegría, alegría, a traditional Christmas carol from the village of Beas de Segura. I found it easy to channel the spirit I needed to write this music—I feel an emotional connection with Jaén, because it’s where my roots lie. My maternal grandparents both came from that part of Spain: my grandmother Josefa Palomares (Pepa) was from Úbeda, and my grandfather Manuel Román (Manolo) from Linares. I also owe the fact that I’m a musician to him—he played the bassoon, originally in the local Linares wind band. Before the civil war they moved to Madrid, where he played with the Banda Sinfónica Municipal for the rest of his life.”

Gonzalo Pérez Chamorro, Juan Manuel Ruiz, Alejandro Román
English translation by Susannah Howe

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