Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Mike Tilling
Arts Correspondent
1:03 AM 4th November 2023

Classical Music: Federico Mompou, Piano Works

Federico Mompou, Piano Works

Paisajes; Variations sur un thème de Chopin; Cançons i danses

Marina Staneva
Chandos CHAN 20276

One of the many positives of reviewing CDs is that you occasionally have the opportunity to hear the music of composers who have merely been names up until the moment you press ‘play’.

Mompou is one of those composers who was celebrated in their day (1920s, although he died as recently as 1968) but seem to have disappeared from sight. Looking back, it is a wonder that he made headway at all given his quiet, reflective pieces and the ostentatious experiments of contemporaries like Stravinsky and Schoenberg. Mompou’s work is far more reticent and serene. A near neighbour stylistically would be Erik Satie, although Mompou is not as playful as the Frenchman.

Mompou was essentially a miniaturist, with many of the tracks on this CD lasting only minutes. For example, the thirteen Variations sur un thème de Chopin(Prelude No. 7 in A Minor) illustrate not only the brevity of his style but also the inventiveness of his output. Each variation is not just an alternative recreation of Chopin’s work but also a channel to rethink what might have been. It is as though Chopin’s finished work is a straight line with the variations cutting across it, each one issuing a challenge: ‘where might the music have ended up had he taken this alternative?’

Other pieces on this disc include Cançons i danses (songs and dances) and Passages I – La Fuente, II – Lago and III Carros.

All the pieces share the same limpid quality, though they are not in any sense monotonous. Any real music lover hates the claim that music is an aid to relaxation; however, Mompou’s piano works are soothing and invite reflection.

I am not equipped to comment on the technicalities of Marina Staneva’s playing, but it is self-evident that she has a wonderful touch. She uses suspense to engage the listener as she lengthens the distance between notes, then manages to inject passion at the resolution of our anticipation. Originally from Bulgaria, she comes laden with awards and a history of playing concerts at the most prestigious venues.

Entirely appropriate for one who retired from conducting after finding the public exposure too stressful, Mompou creates here a mood of introspection. Staneva interprets his work with sensitivity and warmth.