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Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, October 2010

I have never understood why some people call Mompou “the Spanish Satie” for his music is so different as to be from another planet. True, both of them can write music of almost virginal purity, but nowhere does Satie show the kind of high spirits that you can find in the seventh section of the Don Perlimplin ballet. This work is a real find. Until now I’d only heard an orchestral Suite but here is the complete score. It’s a fine piece, totally Mompou—Montsalvatge only created the second and eleventh sections and added a few linking passages, he also orchestrated the work—and there’s none of the spirituality of other works, such as the Musica callada. Extrovert Mompou? Yes, and why not? There’s much Spanish colouring à la Falla and Granados, and, the note tells us, a whiff of Poulenc, but breathe and you’ll miss it. No matter. This is a major discovery and with such a persuasive performance as this it might just make some concert promoter give us the orchestral version.

Ballet is a collection of 12 miniatures, all, but the opening Prelude, playing for around 60 seconds. There’s no development, simply statement and thoughtful discourse. Despite their brevity these are very satisfying and compelling pieces.

The rest of the programme is more miniatures, but ones which stand alone, and include Mompou’s only three chamber works. The Glossa and Fantasia on Au clair de la lune are both studies on the children’s song. The Romanca was written for the third anniversary of his engagement to his future bride. Mompou was obviously not a man to rush into things, for they didn’t get married for another 13 years! Moderato expresivo was later reworked and it appeared as no.18 in the Musica callada.

And so to the chamber music. Altitud for violin and piano was written whilst the composer was living in Paris and there is a distinct French feel to the piece. El pont is a late reworking, not a transcription, of a piano piece (1947) (available on Naxos 8.554727) in homage to Casals for his centenary. The final Comptines I–III are so short as to be lost after the other pieces which seem gargantuan by comparison—“the ant’s a centaur in his dragon world”, as Pound wrote. They are a most enjoyable finale to a delightful disk. The performances are very good and the sound is excellent. Mompou deserves the audience which I hope that this disk, and the previous four in the series, will bring him.

Christopher Webber, April 2010

Around the millennium Jordi Masó released his 4-CD Mompou solo set. It may lack the touch of mystic charm that made the composer’s own recordings classics, but Masó’s set is the modern choice, cleanly imaginative as well as complete. Or very nearly so. Ten years on, he and Naxos have provided us with a gorgeous pendant in the shape of two substantial piano ballets, a handful of unpublished manuscript pieces, plus for good measure Mompou’s three chamber compositions—none of them previously recorded, at least in this form.

The 34 minute ballet score based on Lorca’s Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín is the main meat. This curious poetic drama relates how an aging Granada nobleman marries a sexually unawakened village girl. In order to seduce her he invents the character of a lover for whom she falls. The tragic climax comes when the jealous husband “kills” the lover, and therefore himself, leaving Belisa alone and bereft.

Well I too have fallen for Don Perlimplín hook, line and sinker. Lorca’s surreal perversity inspired a limpid score, reminiscent of Mompou’s beloved Poulenc in its cool, contemplative passion, but defining very much its own world—Mompou Lite if you like, after such crystalline masterworks as Música Callada, but with direct theatrical impact and one searingly good big tune. Some of its success is due to Xavier Montsalvatge, who added a couple of spiky additional dances and the orchestration when Mompou ran out of time before the 1956 Barcelona premiere. The piano original was only published in 2007, but Masó makes a compelling case for preferring its fino spareness to the orchestral version (still available on a first-rate 2002 Trito CD with Gianandrea Noseda conducting the Joven Orquesta Nacional de España).

If the Satie-esque Ballet—a series of twelve miniatures, mostly under a minute in duration, written in 1949 for a bibliophile book—is not of comparable musical depth, it’s cut from the same fastidious cloth. The same can be said for the other short solo pieces, and the 4-hand Comptines. But the two piano-string duos round out our picture of a great Catalan composer: El pont in particular wears its heart surprisingly on its sleeve, and has an eloquent advocate in Joan-Antoni Pich.

This is more than a mere appendix to Masó’s excellent solo series. Don Perlimplín is a moving theatre work of gorgeous quality, and ensures that this Naxos CD is one to which I’ll be returning very often.

WRUV Reviews, April 2010

The works on this CD, Don Perlimplin, Ballet and Comptines, were unpublished during Mompou’s lifetime (1893–1987). They are impressionistic, lively, and very sweet.

James Manheim, April 2010

…highly recommended… These will give the enthusiast some interesting insights into Mompou’s musical mind…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2010

Following the release of four volumes containing the complete known piano works of Frederic Mompou, several unpublished works have surfaced and are recorded here for the first time. Throughout his long life Mompou never overcame an introverted personality, his only public appearances as a pianist taking place before friends or in small recital rooms. Born in Barcelona in 1893, he was a pianist of phenomenal technique, though he preferred working as a composer. His piano output reflect that personality, being essentially quiet and of a delicate quality. Though many of his scores are extensive, they are usually built from a series of miniatures, the ballet, Don Perlimplin, consisting of fourteen short pieces, while each of the twelve sections of Ballet areso concise they are little more than a simple melody. Mompou was commissioned to write the full-length ballet based on Federico Garcia Lorca’s sad play, Amor de Don Perlimplin con Belisa en su jardin, but time ran out and it was left to his colleague, Xavier Montsalvatge, to orchestrate and add two dances. Now discovered is that original piano score. The disc also contains two pieces composed in his eighties, El pont, for cello and piano, and the infinitely short Three Comptines for piano four hands. The remaining works—Glossa sobre ‘Au clair de lune, Romanca, Moderato expresivo and Fantasia sobre ‘Au clair de lune’—are brief cameos. It is in total a disc of simple and uncomplicated enjoyment, only in the energetic finale to Don Perlimplin does the music present any challenge to the pianist’s technique. As in the first four volumes, Jordi Masó proves the most persuasive and excellent champion a composer could ever wish for. His three colleagues are exemplary in their short participation and the sound is first class.

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