Frederic Mompou Dencausse (1893-1987) was a Catalan composer and pianist who composed some songs but whose work largely and masterfully explored the technical and harmonic breadth of the piano. As with the compositions of those men who were composers and prodigious masters of an instrument – from Bach, Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin to Rachmaninov and Prokofiev– it almost always takes an artist of unbridled genius to interpret their work. Pianists and cellists such as Martha Argerich, Friedrich Gulda, Alicia de Larrocha, Pablo Casals, Leslie Howard and Freddie Kempf… Mompou may not be as well-known as Bach, Beethoven and the others mentioned above, but his erudition and genius for composition and his virtuosity as a pianist puts him in a class of his own, demanding no less a genius and piano virtuoso than Daniel García to pay him homage.
Mr García does just that – and more – on Travesuras. Mompou’s work has often been described as “delicate” and “intimate”. He was also known for his brilliant, short, visual nature of his miniatures; the best of these were driven by impressionistic and improvisatory urges. Perhaps this is eminently suited for Mr García, who digs deep into the theory and practice of the improvisatory nature of Jazz to create the four-part sequence, “Dream of Mompou”, which forms the centrepiece of the repertoire on this record. Mr García’s muscular touch and vivid manner of presenting colours and textures through his pianism is eminently suited for this music. Together with his natural affinity for the duende of flamenco he turns this music into what the legendary Spanish poet and playwright of the revolution, Federico García Lorca suggested was something that put such a powerful spell on a person as to twist the heart in both pain and ecstasy.
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Certainly Daniel García with his extraordinary performance of this music does just that not only, but especially in the ethereal beauty of “Dream of Mompou”. However, even before we arrive at the first variation of the Mompou homage, we come face to face with Mr García’s musical thesis in “Potro de rabia y miel”, an explosive bulerías that once made its iconic appearence on the last (eponymously entitled) album recorded by the legendary Spanish cantaor Camarón de la Isla, which also featured the guitars of Paco de Lucía and Tomatito. This gorgeous opening song ushers us in to the mythical (and mystical) song “Oniria”. Ironically this word has a Sanskrit origin, but which is no less emblematic of the “heavenly paradise” of its connotation, the place that the mythology suggests and that which is beautifully evoked by this music – not to mention the magical expression of discovery shared between a mother and child during the music. Of course, when we get to the “Dream of Mompou #1” we can listen to the full impact of Mr García’s musicianship, breathtaking in its ability to tell stories, build characters and scenarios and conjure emotions by caressing the keys of the piano.
We are also, as you would expect, transported to a Spanish landscape where we are enthralled by both its beauty and desolation as in “Alegrías pa Averío” as well as in the theatre of “Travesuras” with its flamenco rhythms subsumed throughout though here – as elsewhere on the disc – Mr García is superbly aided and abetted by the incomparable bass playing of Reiner Elizarde “El Negrón” and the percussion colouring of Michael Olivera. The great Spanish genius of winds and reeds, Jorge Pardo – playing flute here – graces “Travesuras” and “Vengo do moler” and informs the work with breathtaking magic.
Of course it is always Mr García who we are mesmerised by. His ability to draw you in to his world with monumental arpeggios that melt into rivers of emotion is quite remarkable and we never quite get over this even as the album winds down after its series of dreams. With powerful Phrygian modes enunciated with sliding dyads and broad, elliptical triads our emotions are beautifully toyed with as this extraordinary poet of the piano recalls a flamenco tradition that includes everyone from Federico García Lorca to Paco de Lucía and Chano Domínguez, all the while being his eminent self – which is the wonderful musician and pianist who is singularly and above all “Daniel García”.
Track list – 01: Potro de rabia y miel; 02: Oniria; 03: Dream of Mompou #1; 04: Travesuras; 05: Dream of Mompou #2; 06: Alegrías pa Averío; 07: La Comunidad; 08: Dream of Mompou #3; 09: Dream of Miles; 10; Vengo de moler; 11: Dream of Mompou #4
Personnel – Daniel García: piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers; Reiner Elizade “El Negrón”: contrabass; Michael Olivera: drums; Jorge Pardo: flute (04, 10)
Released – 2019
Label – ACT Music+Vision
Runtime – 54:33