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Conveniently coupling most of Falla’s larger keyboard works, Luis Fernando Pérez’s new disc comes into competition with the classic Alicia de Larrocha compilation on Australian Eloquence (same programme plus the Four Spanish Pieces). That was originally recorded in 1970-73, and sounds it: the new recording is crystal-clear by comparison, in fact possibly too much so in Nights in the Gardens of Spain, with the Basque National Orchestra conducted by Carlo Rizzi. Here, the piano (intended to be concertante within the orchestra rather than an up-front soloist) is so closely miked as to drown some orchestral details, and to cancel out Pérez’s attempts at pp.

Pérez’s playing (here and throughout) is technically immaculate, unlike the orchestra, afflicted with sour woodwind here and there. He is neat, careful and tender wherever this programme allows, although riding roughshod over many dynamic and articulation marks in the Fantasia Bética.

The Three-Cornered Hat selection is not the same as the familiar orchestral suite: only the Miller’s Dance is common to both. The Love the Magician suite (like the Three-Cornered Hat, Falla’s own selection) is not in the same order as the complete ballet: it starts at the 'Pantomime', hops back and forth, omits a few movements, and ends – inescapably, perhaps – with the 'Ritual Fire Dance'. Passion in these performances is controlled rather than frenetic: they are reliable and enjoyable readings for repeated listening rather than jaw-dropping one-offs. Pauses between works are minimal: nevertheless the disc plays for 10 minutes more than the documentation would have you believe.

MICHAEL ROUND Read the full review on Agora Classica


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