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Recital Media Review Print

Half a Dozen CDs from Mac McClure & Friends

October 25, 2001 - Raleigh, NC:

Albéniz: Songs (in Spanish, English, French & Italian - complete): 6 Intimate Ballads; 2 Prose Texts by Pierre Loti; [5] Rhymes of Bécquer; Il en est de l'amour; Cançó de Barberine; & 13 songs to English texts by F.B. Money-Coutts. Antonio Comas, tenor, & Mac McClure, piano. Columna Música 1CM 0025 (71:27)

Montsalvatge: Music for Violin & Piano and for Cello & Piano (complete): Madrigal; Sketch; Duettino; Lullaby; Variations on a Theme by Farnaby; 3 Polocromías; Evocación; Sonata concertante; & Microrapsòdia. Ala Voronkova, violin, Selma Gokcen, cello, & Mac McClure, piano, with Marisa Martins, mezzo-soprano (in the Madrigal) & Guerassim Voronkov, violin (in the Duettino). Columna Música 1CM 0042 (65:17)

Montsalvatge: Chamber Music: [Piano] Trio; Quatrivío para Stradivarius (string trio); Peragria a Santiago (for viola & piano); & Cuarteto Indiano (string quartet); plus multimedia-video file (interview with Montsalvatge). Mac McClure, piano, Ala Voronkova, violin, Josephine Fitzpatrick, viola, & Manuel Martínez del Fresno, cello, & Quartet Tàlia (in the Cuarteto Indiano). Columna Música 1CM 0063 (60:03)

Montsalvatge: Piano music (complete): 3 Divertimentos; Elegia a Ravel; Divagación; 4 Diàlegs; Shubertiada; Pastoral d'automne; El arca de Noé; Sketch; Sonatine pour Yvette; 5 Ocells en llibertat; Sí a Mompou; Berceuse a la memoria de Òscar Esplà; Una página para Rubinstein; & Alegoría a Turina. Marta Zabaleta, Mac McClure, Carlota Garriga, Raimon Garriga, Dagmar Muñiz, Alfredo Armero, Katia Mitchell & Emili Brugalla. Columna Música 1CM 0036 (72:55)

Montsalvatge: "Barcelona Blues": Barcelona Blues (for 2 pianos); Calidoscopio (for 2 pianos); Variations for Harp; Adagietto spirituale (for guitar); Fantasía for Guitar & Harp; Paráfrasis Concertante for Piano & Violin; & 3 Divertimentos (for 2 pianos). Magdalena Barrera, harp, Mac McClure & Raimon Garriga, pianos, Jaume Torrent, guitar, & Ala Voronkova, violin. Columna Música 1CM 0054 (62:32)

Bach-Saint-Saëns: Gavottes in E and B Minor, from S.1006 & 1002; Andante in C, from S.1003; & Overture to Cantata No. 29. Bach-Busoni: Non komm der Heiden Heiland, S.62; & Ich ruf dich, Herr, S.177; & Bach-Liszt: Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, S.542; plus multimedia-video file (preparations for the recording session). Mac McClure, piano. Columna Música 1CM 0062 (40:18)

Spanish music's in the air. A recent concert by Sonos, the San Francisco-based handbell ensemble, concentrated on music of Spain and South America, some of it actually by Spaniards; see elsewhere in this issue for a review of that October 21 Duke Chapel performance. Three programs centering on guitarists will provide a big dose of Spanish fare next weekend - a 5:00 p.m. program by Joe Pecoraro, at Meredith on November 3 (repeated - presumably - two days later for Music at Cherry Hill, in Inez); "Tangos y Canciones," with Randy Reed, flutist Alma Coefman and soprano Ariel Reed, planned for Nelson Music Room on the evening of the 3rd; and Jason Vieaux, appearing at 3:30 p.m. November 4 in the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist and sponsored by the Triangle Guitar Society. If this weren't enough, November 6 brings a recital by Milton Rubén Laufer, new this season at Peace College, whose background includes extensive work in Spain and whose mixed program begins with works by Albéniz. And if that weren't enough, this Sunday (October 28) brings a Hill Hall program of Spanish music, postponed from last March, that features Boston mezzo-soprano Cynthia Sanner and the distinguished Barcelona-based American pianist Mac McClure (http://www.macmcclure.com/). For more information on all these programs, see our calendar.

McClure is a remarkable pianist of the younger generation. He trained with Michael Zenge at UNC and in Spain, and his mentors have included some big names, chief among them Alicia De Laroccha (although to tell the truth nearly everyone who claims expertise in the music of Spain seems to have worked with her). He has played in Raleigh several times in recent seasons, and his return to Chapel Hill will doubtless be a major event for him and for his local admirers who have followed his career throughout the years. Among those attending will be his parents, who now live in Wilson.

For the small Spanish CD firm Columna Música, McClure and other artists have made a series of outstanding recordings that contain some rare and unusual works and some high-tech enhancements that add significantly to the value of the "product." Among the latest that have come our way are the complete songs of Albéniz, a CD consisting of music by Bach, given in transcriptions by celebrated 19th-century pianists and composers Liszt, Busoni and Saint-Saëns, and four discs devoted to the music of Xavier Montsalvatge. The last group contains what must surely be a large number of world premiere recordings, for they encompass Montsalvatge's chamber music, music for piano and violin or cello, the complete music for solo piano, and a charming collection of miscellaneous works grouped under the title "Barcelona Blues." The chamber music CD comes with a multi-media file, playable on most PCs, that features a twelve-minute interview with Montsalvatge himself (which is, alas, neither translated nor subtitled). The other CD with a video file is the Bach disc, wherein one may observe seven minutes of the pianist's preparations for the recording session.

The recording sessions that resulted in these discs must have been extremely tight, and there are some minor problems with edits and production, but overall the results are immensely satisfying, and music lovers who are unfamiliar with the works presented will find much to admire.

Albéniz's songs are short, and even in formal groups they don't consume much time. They are charming, delightful, and sometimes moving, but they are perhaps best taken in small doses; Columna Música's presentation, with songs in English alternating with numbers in other languages, will provide a measure of variety for domestic listeners. They are also subtle, so singers seeking new material - and listeners bored with the same old recital programs - may wish to check out this CD.

American collectors are likely to know of Montsalvatge's work primarily through recordings of some of his short piano pieces--Alicia de Larrocha has taped several of them--and as a result of a single song, "Cancion de cuna para dormir a un negrito," available in performances by Victoria de los Angeles, Shirley Verrett and Elly Ameling, among others. This song is one of five Canciones negras, originally for voice and piano but later orchestrated by the composer. The tune of the best-known number turns up in a version for two violins in what may be the most important of the new McClure CDs, one that also offers most of the composer's music for piano and strings. (A stray composition for violin and piano, based on a work in this first CD, is found in another of these discs.) Cellist Selma Gokcen's participation in this collection--with McClure, she plays the CD's largest single work - will doubtless be an added plus for North Carolina listeners; she is a former faculty member at ECU whose performances in this region are fondly remembered by many people - and, like McClure, she appears in the Triangle on October 28 (for details of which all-American program, see our calendar).

The chamber music disc is the second major prize among the Montsalvatge items; these are richly varied pieces in which the Master of the Small Scale shows his not inconsiderable ability in larger forms. Montsalvatge's pieces for solo piano are basically miniatures; the most substantial are the 4 Diàlegs (around 13 minutes, and shared in this recording by two pianists) and the Sonatine pour Yvette (around 11 minutes, played by McClure). The Bach disc is stunning but may be less attractive than the others in view of its comparative brevity. Nonetheless, all of these recordings are enthusiastically recommended and should perhaps sell like hotcakes - they may be ordered from the pianist's website - after Gokcen and then McClure treat the Triangle to concerts in Raleigh and Chapel Hill this weekend.

In the recent past, McClure has been involved in several exciting undertakings. At the invitation of Alicia De Laroccha, he has assumed duties as Artistic Director of the newly-created Granados Foundation. He's also been working on a series of new CDs. These include Rodrigo's solo piano music, works for violin and piano, and songs, slated for release this month; a Granados chamber music CD that contains the premiere recording of the Piano Quintet in its original version, being released in December; and a pending Albeniz CD with arias and romances from the stage works (in which Louise Toppin is a major participant). When he returns to Spain, he will begin recording Montsalvatge's opera "Una Voce en Off" with the Liceu Chorus and Orchestra; this is a continuation of the Montsalvatge project that has yielded the four CDs reviewed above - for which 15-CD project McClure is serving as coordinator. And if all this weren't enough, he will be performing in Europe next summer with Victoria Livengood, star of the recent Opera Company of North Carolina production of Carmen.