It has long been time to make the distinction between “Spanish” music and the music of Catalonia, which, with its Capital, Barcelona, has more influence from ancient Carthage and the dark-skinned Moors who were famous for Hercules and thus, their sinewy nature of the rhythms that lay at the heart of Catalan culture long before the advent of Hannibal.
As in warriors, so also in art. Great figures like Federico Mompou and the legendary poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca, the latter of whom wrote the great palimpsest Romancero gitano  and – more importantly gave wing to the true nature of Duende in a lecture, the seminal Theory and Play of the Duende: And, Imagination, Inspiration, Evasion [delivered before his death and published as a book by Kanathos in 1981]
The Andalusian master of Flamenco music, Paco de Lucía and the iconic composer and pianist, Chano Domínguez turned the emotion, indeed the legendary rhythm and metre of Duende into music and dance form that stood apart and turned what García Lorca “saw” in the dark spirit of an art that gripped the heart in a twist that is almost next to impossible to put in words.
And yet… more and more we are in the grip of this magical music and dance – now in the music on Olivia, the eponymously-named debut album by the prodigious Olivia Pérez-Collellmir, who by virtue of her tutelage at five years of age with Núria Bonells, is associated with the legendary classical pianist Alicia de Larrocha, as well as the Barcelona Conservatori Superior de Música which she entered at just eight years old, and who is now a professor in the piano department at Berklee University, Boston.
This album features repertoire strung like a necklace of exotic gems around a suite of incidental music improvisations entitled Promenade. It is the kind of music, which swoops in and out of works by Mompou, beginning with Angelico and another glorious work – Le Tombeau de Couperin – by Maurice Ravel, whose Catalan heart defines the work, which is [of courrse] written in the form of a tombeau and pays tribute to François Couperin. It is also highly evocative, plunging into the depth of the art and spirit of Duende.
Along the way it delves into the interconnectedness of cultures suggested by Combat del Somni, so beautifully unfolded by Mompou’s work and featuring – with its Flamenco heart and rhythms – magnificent, undulant vocalastics of Judit Neddermann binding Mompou and Together, a piece written by Miss Pérez-Collellmir, featuring the ululations of the Indian vocalist Shradha Ganesh. Both of these find release in the album’s climactic finale Barcelona, a remarkable love letter to the beating heart of her city by Miss Pérez-Collellmir.
The latter is an inspired work from the pianist and composer, written as if by the nerve-endings of her hands rather than with ink on staved paper. Throughout, immediately, the more harmonically sophisticated and emotionally entrancing Catalan world, with its dark heart beating to the rhythm of Duende, reels you in. Can music capture both the twist in the rigors of the heart and rarefied air?
Miss Pérez-Collellmir and her music and musicianship are defined by the ache of her pianism – like Mr Domínguez’s music before her, and, of course, Ravel’s and Mompou’s – says “Yes”, a resounding “Yes!” The music framed by Promenade, reels you back in. The entire repertoire is a significant discovery, capturing the unexpected splashes of the dark mysticism of Spanish culture with surprising turns and thick harmonic colour.
The composer/pianist’s Together, Granada and Barcelona – are marvellous instances of songs that use descriptions of nature to reveal intense inner states of being. They are also models of conversational directness , proof of which comes from the lyrical lines in each of the songs. Overall, the repertoire on this disc is magnificently paced and, it is spiced with the artist’s timeless music, though, should it even go out of print will never fail to reside in the heart and the memory of listeners.
Pianistically-speaking, Miss Pérez-Collellmir also inspires these wonderful musicians, and dancers who accompany her on this quest, to scale impossible heights of fantasy. As for the pianist, her virtuosity is not big and fruity, but conveys as much meaning in such the “smallness” which is packed into her angular virtuosity. This enables her to evoke the volatility of her music without any audible strain.
YouTube Video – Olivia Pérez-Collellmir: Tangos a Mompou
Music – 1: Promenade; 2: Cançó i Danza VI; 3: Promenade 2; 4: Angelico [Tangos a Mompou]; 5: Promenade 3; 6: Combat; del Somni; 7: Promenade 4; 8: Le Tombeau de Couperin; 9: Together; 10: Promenade 5; 11: Granada; 12: Promenade 6; 13: Barcelona.
Musicians – Olivia Pérez-Collellmir: compositions and piano; John Lockwood: bass [2, 4]; James Heazlewood Dale: acoustic bass ; Fernando Huergo: electric bass [9, 11]; Bertram Lehmann: drums [4, 9, 11, 13]; Aleix Tobias: percussion ; José Moreno: cajón [4, 9, 11, 13]; Giri Subramaniam: tabla ; Leonardo Prakash: sitar ; Amir Milstein: flute  and winds ; Bengisu Gokce:1st violin ; Helen Sherrah-Davies: 2nd violin ; Josh Wareham: viola ; Naseem Alatrash: cello [6, 8]; Judit Neddermann: vocals ; Loreto de Diego: vocals ; Shradha Ganesh: vocals ; Ismael Fernández: handclapping [9, 11, 13]; Sonia Olla: handclapping [9, 11, 13] and footwork .
Released – 2023
Label – Adhyâropa Records 
Runtime – 43:36
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