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Manuel De Falla is a great and – a few popular works apart – still neglected composer. He was not prolific in any medium, and the mature piano works fit on a single disc, leaving space for a few early pieces. There’s little top-flight competition for Javier Perianes’ very fine disc, especially as it includes Nights in the Gardens of Spain for piano and orchestra.

Perianes opens with the Cuatro Piezas Españolas (1906-09). Perianes offers a delicate, affectionate portrayal, with a persuasive, breathing flexibility of tempo. In the colourful, Debussyan Nights in the Garden of Spain (1916), Josep Pons conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in an exciting, never self-indulgent interpretation, sonically well balanced with great presence.

Most striking are the later solo works, notably the 13-minute Fantasia Baetica (1919). Falla famously said, ‘Virtuosity, with its concert tours, has always repelled me,’ but this thrilling work, written for Arthur Rubinstein, is demanding nonetheless. It should be a staple of the modern piano repertoire, yet I’ve never heard it live. Perianes’ compelling sense of overall structure acknowledges and subsumes its quicksilver changes of mood and tempo.

The two shorter ‘in memoriam’ pieces are wonderful. In Le tombeau de Claude Debussy (1920) and Pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas (1935), dedicated to his teacher, Perianes movingly renders the composer’s transition from Spanish Impressionism to the subtler allusions of his austere late style. A superb, beautifully conceived disc that shows the evolution of a 20th-century master composer.

ADRIAN HORSEWOOD Read the full review on Agora Classica


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