Haskell Small

Federico Mompou: Música Callada

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Federico Mompou took the title for his collection of piano music, Música Callada (Silent Music), from the writings of St. John of the Cross, a theologian who fascinated the composer. He wrote the 28 miniatures that constitute the four books of Música Callada between 1959 and 1967, but by the sound of the music, it's easy to imagine that it could have been written in the second decade of the twentieth century. While Mompou's musical language and vocabulary are distinctly his own, it would be reasonable to guess that this music was written in France under the strong influence of Debussy and Satie. Mompou was indeed in Paris just before and after the First World War, and it was there where he developed the style he employed throughout his life, little influenced by the tides of modernism that dominated musical composition for much of the century. That's not to say Mompou wrote conventionally tonal music, but his use of dissonance was circumspect, always in the service of his gently expressive musical vision.

The vast majority of the movements are slow and quiet. Fourteen movements are marked lento, or some variation on it, such as lento molto, and most of the rest have markings like placide, tranquillo, or calme, and the few relatively active movements stand out in stark relief. Mompou finds an infinite number of ways to express quiet serenity, so the music never becomes dull or predictable. Haskell Small performs with disarming directness, resisting the urge to overplay or impose an innovative agenda on this essentially simple music. The straightforward clarity of his playing, though, misses some of the mystical impulse that underlies Mompou's writing. The sound is admirably clean and nicely atmospheric.

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