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Moods, emotions and scenes


SIMON SPENCER considers Turina's piano music

Joaquin Turina - works for piano. Copyright (c) 1999 Claves RecordsTurina is best known for his voluminous output of guitar music. Aficianados of Spanish music also enjoy some of the orchestral music, but this often turns out to be reworkings, within a larger palette, of piano music. This disc offers a selection of some of this relatively unknown music, spanning the whole of Turina's working life, from his opus 2 of 1908 (Sevilla), through the Danzas Fantasticas and Salucar de Barrameda (opp 22 and 24) to Desde mi Terraza of 1947 (opus 104). So, to begin with, the music coincides chronologically with mature Debussy, and it closes with (say) Bartok - but it doesn't sound anything like him! There is some stylistic similarity with Debussy, but it comes rather with Turina's later music than with the earlier, from which we detect a few touches of his teacher de Falla. Impressionistic or not, the flavour throughout is strongly Spanish.

Requejo's performance is imaginative, intelligent and evocative. He has a really idiomatic rapport with the music. In Sevilla, Sanlucar de Barrameda and Desde mi Terraza, Requejo displays an expressove control of dynamic contrast that really brings out the subtleties in harmonic progression and the lush dissonances. But for some reason all this goes to the wind in the Danzas Fantasticas where he rarely rouses himself to make clear the difference between mf and f (likewise mp and pp). The music is either loud or soft, with nothing in between. This is such a shame because a lot of the music, given the chance, would thrive on dynamic contrast. Apart from this curious lacuna Requejo is technically superb, the virtuoso figuration crisp, even and luminescent [listen - track 8, 0:22-1:22]. His sparkling intelligence and his sympathetic emotion get to the heart of Turina's music: the quintessential Spanish dance rhythms, the wit [listen - track 3, 0:00-1:00] and the characteristically bleak romanticism, enveloped in cascades of difficult piano figuration and jumping bass lines [listen - track 7, 7:33-8:31].

However, Requejo does struggle - or rather that's exactly what he doesn't do - with the Danzas Fantasticas, to the point of wanting me to turn off the record. He seems only to be 'running through' them. The playing lacks emotion, clarity, and most important, he does not play what is written. There is very little dynamic inflection and when it does come it's often at an unmarked place. There is no 'body' to the playing and the effect is of an annoying monotony of notes (like practising scales). There appears to be a lapse in Requejo's concentration. I could go on but this would be unfair to the performance of the other three pieces. They are really first class.

My other disappointment is with the recording itself. It lacks edge and spaciousness. To my surprise, the piano turns out to have been a Steinway, but here sounds brittle and unkind to the ear at first, although the ear soon becomes accustomed to it; just in time for Requejo's best performance - Sancular de Barrameda. This CD is the only current recording of these works, for which there's more interest in the orchestral versions. Perhaps this falls slightly short - but only slightly - of the 'fantastic moods, emotions and scenes' Turina sought to create. Those keen on Spanish music in general - and Turina's own impressive voice in particular - would want to possess it.


Copyright © 5 February 2000 Simon Spencer, Colchester, UK




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