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Stephen Hough – Mompou: Música callada



‘Having earned his credentials on an earlier disc of Mompou, Hough has returned to the composer with more exquisitely judged playing. With individual headings such as ‘Placide’, ‘Très calme’ and ‘Tranquillo’, these miniatures might be thought to limit a pianist’s scope, but Hough’s precision and crystalline sound quality pay dividends. It is an irony of Mompou’s music that the durations of these pieces should be so tiny, yet their visionary quality seems to invoke far distances of time and space’… Financial Times

A trembling patient asks: ‘Doctor, doctor, I feel so frazzled. How can I unwind and find calm?’ The doctor thinks for about two seconds. ‘You need a dose of Mompou.’ ‘What on earth is that?’ The answer comes in the latest album by Stephen Hough, the supreme British pianist who both thinks and feels, and also treats the curiosities of music with as much love as he does the mainstream.
For repertoire like this, a pianist with a delicate touch is essential, and Hough’s subtleties are never-ending. Through minute gradations of dynamics or the fragile sculpting of a phrase, the sparest and simplest of these pieces assume a rare beauty. Mompou borrowed the collection’s title from the writings of the Spanish mystic St John of the Cross, but the spiritual element in the music goes hand in hand with the medicinal. Do give it a listen. Doctor’s orders.  The Times

The Catalan composer Federico Mompou was fundamentally an extremely shy person — introverted to the point where his music was mostly an insiders’ secret. He didn’t like to perform in public concerts, choosing only private occasions. He couldn’t help it; this was his DNA, and this kind of personality generally doesn’t gain much traction in a world that values extroverts. If he had been an American, he most likely wouldn’t have been able to have a musical career at all. But one wonders whether his shying away from the spotlight also contributed to his living to a ripe old age. He died in 1987 at 94, the same age and year as his far more famous Spanish contemporary, guitarist Andrés Segovia, for whom he wrote the Suite Compostelana.
Mompou’s personality—his congenital shyness—seems to be indelibly stamped all over Música callada, a collection of 28 short piano pieces divided into four books that has just been recorded by Stephen Hough (Hyperion). ‘Música callada’ means ‘silent music’ or ‘voices of silence.’ The pieces have no titles, just speed indications, with 12 selections marked Lento scattered among the batch.
These are late works, spanning from 1959 to 1967 in origin, completely at odds with all of the trends of their time except one—the revival of the music of Erik Satie, which had a brief flurry of attention in the counterculture. Most of these pieces follow the Satie example of brevity, spareness, simplicity, and quietude—and there are allusions to Mompou’s and Satie’s joint influence, Claude Debussy, as well. Yet Mompou’s musical language is just a little tougher harmonically, even reflecting a bit of the jazz harmonic concept (but never the rhythmic aspects) that runs through Bill Evans and his many imitators.
Now and then, a touch of extroversion punctures the placid surfaces, like the dissonant storm that suddenly interrupts the deceptively titled movement No 13, Tranquillo: Trés calme—or the forte chords in No 11, Allegretto, the only movement whose tempo indication suggests a quickening of speed. No 18 is marked Luminoso, and it does have a lightly applied sheen to its textures. No 22 is so introverted and leisurely that it merits an extra boost to its tempo instruction—Molto lento e tranquillo.
Hough, who once wrote that Mompou’s art is ‘the music of evaporation’, appropriately plays as if in a trance, permitting these miniatures to drift along on their own power, coming to inconclusive conclusions. Experiencing the complete cycle of these pieces—which runs some 68 minutes—is to immerse oneself in an inner world that manages to maintain its grip on one’s attention over the long haul.  San Francisco Classical Voice, USA

Música callada I
1: Angelico (1:49)
2: Lent (1:40)
3: Placide (1:43)
4: Afflitto e penoso (2:37)
5: [crotchet = 54] (2:31)
6: Lento (1:42)
7: Lento (3:10)
8: Semplice (0:44)
9: Lento (2:49)
Música callada II
1: Lento: Cantabile (1:39)
2: Allegretto (1:23)
3: Lento (2:28)
4: Tranquillo: Très calme (2:09)
5: Severo: Sérieux (2:05)
6: Lento: Plaintif (2:34)
7: Calme (2:24)
Música callada III
1: Lento (2:44)
2: Luminoso (2:02)
3: Tranquillo (2:21)
4: Calme (3:36)
5: Lento (2:51)
Música callada IV
1: Molto lento e tranquillo (2:25)
2: Calme, avec clarté (2:21)
3: Moderato (2:52)
4: [crotchet = 100] (3:19)
5: Lento (3:22)
6: Lento molto (3:41)
7: Lento (3:40)

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