This delightful release of songs and small piano pieces by Frederic Mompou, many of them never recorded before and none common, may fall toward the obscure end of the classical album scale, but it is commended to fans of this Catalonian proto-minimalist who distilled the language of Impressionism down to a series of simple gestures. The songs are mostly in Catalan, with a few in French or Spanish. The French-language Cinq mélodies de Paul Valéry, composed over many years, are not really a set, but Mompou's style, other than achieving greater concentration, changed little over most of his career, and all the music on the program, even the unusual Tango (track 8), holds together as a group. Even more than other composers of the 20th century, Mompou inhabited his own unique world, and this collection of pieces exemplifies it even though the composer is not known for vocal music. The songs are not translated, but the texts, several of which are by Mompou himself, are quite simple, and those with serviceable French or Spanish will get the drift. Several of the songs are early works, and perhaps the highly evocative small piano pieces are the main attractions: if you've ever been curious about Mompou, sample "Petit cementiri a la tarda" (Little Cemetery in the Afternoon, track 11), with its sequence of misty yet distinctively etched images of gravestones and personalities. The performances by mezzo soprano Marisa Martins and pianist Mac McClure are ideal: confined to an extremely narrow dynamic range (Mompou's music is nothing if not quiet), they craft the subtle turns of melody that are at the heart of Mompou's art. A lovely and rare find from Barcelona's Columna Música label.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Cinq mélodies de Paul Valéry|