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Francisco Mignone’s Piano Concerto (1958) is for those with a spirit of adventure who long to journey far from the safe and narrow. The ultimate in ‘let-it-all-hang out’ music it blends folk, café gaucho elements and something that sounds suspiciously like a negro spiritual into a heady and audacious mix. There are even references to Rachmaninov’s and Prokofiev’s second concertos, though seen through essentially Brazilian eyes and ears. Beneath an audacious and rhetorical finery is a mood of savagery, and never more so than in the finale’s coda where fist-shaking gestures are punctured with wild swipes across the keyboard.

It is fascinating to note that Mignone commenced life as a composer of popular music under the name of Chico Bororo. He wrote four Fantasias Brasileiras for piano and orchestra, colourful and expressive songs and a Piano Quintet. Returning to his concerto, the demands for both pianist and orchestra are extreme and Clélia Iruzun comes into her vivid own, playing with a superb mastery and empathy.

After Mignon’s shock-waves, the Albéniz concerto comes like balm. It was composed long before the incomparably rich maturity of Iberia, La Vega and Azulejos, and the ghosts of Chopin and Mendelssohn hover behind music of an endearing and decorative charm. Again it is diffi cult to imagine it played with greater skill and affection. For encores Iruzun gives us two by Albéniz and two by Mignone. The thrumming guitars of the former’s Granada and the exuberant dance rhythms of Seville take us closer to Albéniz’s ultra-Spanish nature, while the first of Mignone’s Valses de Esquina is wholly characteristic with its sly side-steps and innuendo.

This is a highly enterprising disc, brilliantly balanced and recorded.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2018 - ©Rhinegold Publishing