Jenny Lin, piano
Release date: April 26, 2011
Available at ArkivMusic
Watch a film “Silent Music” by Mike Lubik
The music of the Catalonian composer Federico Mompou is soft-spoken but direct: its melodies are graceful and pleasing, and its harmonic language, though mostly tonal, occasionally flirts with both expressive and purely coloristic dissonance. If you were to guess its origin on first hearing, you would more likely say France than Spain.
“Musica Callada” (“Silent Music”), a collection of 28 aphoristic piano works composed between 1958 and 1967, reveals a strong current of Gallic elegance. But there is more to it: many of these gentle, texturally transparent pieces could pass for music of Morton Feldman, were it not for their brevity.
Mompou’s themes here have an almost Minimalistic simplicity. Some movements are built of short, slowly expanding phrases that describe a single musical idea, without so much as a countertheme; others are more elaborate, but you will look in vain for stark contrasts within a piece.
Tempos are mostly slow. Lento is the most plentiful dynamic marking, with variations of Calme and Tranquilo also prominent. And the dynamics generally range from pianissimo to mezzo-piano.
Yet constrained as the music is, its variety is striking. Works built largely around single lines are offset by chordal meditations and occasionally involved (if patiently unfolding) counterpoint, and moody introspections are set beside pieces with a childlike playfulness that calls to mind some of the less rambunctious movements in Schumann’s “Kinderszenen.”
Jenny Lin, an eloquent pianist whose tastes more typically lead her to new music of a wilder stripe, gives a magnificently serene, probing account of these works. She draws you so fully into Mompou’s world that even his most subtle coloristic gradations seem clearly drawn.
The beautifully recorded disc is among the first releases on a new label started by the piano maker Steinway & Sons, which backed into the record business with the purchase of ArkivMusic in 2008.
By ALLAN KOZINN
The New York Times