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Following the muddle of Nicholas Zumbro’s ‘complete’ Goyescas (Kritonos Records, reviewed in IP Sept/Oct 2017), it is a relief to have the six movements Granados published complete and in the correct sequence, with no inauthentic interlopers to dilute the clear, satisfying dramatic profile of Books 1 & 2. Granados’ pieces called Escena goyesca, such as ‘El pelele’ (often played as an encore to Book 2), betray common inspiration in Goya’s paintings but little more. Whether Granados would have collated a third book had he not been killed in 1916 (the year Book 2 was published) is anyone’s guess; I rather doubt it.

Like Alicia de Larrocha and many others, Xiayin Wang treats the two books (composed in 1909-10 and 1911 respectively) as one large suite. Her touch is light – especially in ‘El fandango de candil’, ‘El amor y la muerte’ and the concluding ‘Serenata del espectro’ – and tempi fast: at 47 minutes this is one of the fleetest on disc, outpacing de Larrocha and her Decca stablemate Nikita Magaloff by up to five minutes (although not so fast as Granados himself, in Book 1 at least, on a historical recording from Pierian).

The merits of Wang’s account are best illustrated when compared with Douglas Riva (Naxos), who also recorded the early Valses poéticos (c 1894) and Allegro de concierto (1903). Riva is markedly slower and heavier-handed in almost every case. There is a beautifully natural flow to Wang’s playing and she catches the spirit of youthful Spanish ardour very nicely. In her hands, Allegro de concierto sounds like a prize-winning piece; granted Zapateado could stamp a touch harder! Chandos’s marvellous sound has depth and clarity that places this disc at the top of the pile technically, though de Larrocha’s Goyescas still retains primacy.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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