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Phillip Scott
Fanfare, June 2007

I have just spent a very satisfying hour in the company of a dozen or so Spanish girls, thanks to Jordi Masó and Joaquin Turina. I've also enjoyed a lightning tour of Seville. The latter was care of the three-movement suite Sevilla, an early work as you can see from the opus number, written after Albéniz suggested the composer put aside the late-Romantic language of d'Indy's Schola Cantorum and return to his Spanish roots for inspiration. The suite is in the same form as that of Turina's most well-known work, the Danzas fantásticas, with a similarly exuberant depiction of a festival to close. The second movement, titled "Maundy Thursday at Midnight," reveals in its evocative textures the strong influence of Debussy (notably the Debussy of "Les Parfums de la nuit" from his orchestral Images).

The remaining pieces on the disc are musical representations of Spanish women (op. 17 and op. 73), and women of Seville (op. 89). Women continued to be a source of inspiration for Turina throughout his life; the op. 89 set was written as late as 1935. Not all these gals are hip-swinging, lusty Carmens—although one of the women of Seville is "La cigarrera traviesa," translated as the "Sassy Cigar Maker." They run the gamut of femininity: witness the playfulness of the "Dancing Girl," the languor of the "Sentimental Girl from Andalusia," the persuasiveness of the "Dark Coquette," or the formal shape (musically speaking) of the "Stylish Girl from Macarena."

While none of these works is a big artistic statement (like Albéniz's Iberia Suites), they exhibit the same attractions as that master's secondary piano music: the rhythmic snap, the typically Spanish modal twist to the themes, and above all a sense of atmosphere.

This release is Volume 3 in Jordi Masó's Turina series for Naxos, and I enjoyed it even more than the previous one. The Catalan pianist approaches this music with sensitivity, and a warm recording helps him bring out the gentleness as well as the spirit of these ladies of Spain. The only other complete recording I've heard featured American pianist David Buechner on the Connoisseur label. I don't wish to make too much of this, but it strikes me as a pointed repertoire choice for Buechner, who shortly afterwards became Sara Davis Buechner. (She now teaches and maintains a highly successful career as a pianist in Canada.) From memory, her pianism on that issue was more brilliant than that of Masó, and the sonics were brighter and a little glassy. Sara has since rerecorded the op. 17 and op. 73 sets live for Koch, along with other works by Turina, but I have not heard her newer performance.

You can't go wrong with Masó anyway; he is very sympathetic. If you enjoy Albéniz and Falla, particularly in atmospheric mode, this release is for you. Similarly, if you have a dark episode in your past involving mantillas and combs, Turina will bring it all back.

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