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This live recording of a recital in 2011 in the new concert hall in Zaragoza, Spain, by the Cuban pianist Jorge Luis Prats is one of the most important recordings of a pianist released in the past year or so. Decca has a history of rescuing great pianists from undeserved phonographic neglect. One thinks of Jorge Bolet, Shura Cherkassky and, more recently, Nelson Freire.

In a way, Prats’ cause is even more worthy. Bolet, Cherkassky and Freire were neglected; but it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that Prats was about to pass from obscurity into oblivion. This marks his first appearance on a major label in 33 years, ever since a superb – and short-lived – debut recording of works by Beethoven, Schumann and Ravel.

The performances on this disc are among the best ever recorded of this repertoire. In Granados’ El fandango de candil, for example, Prats is able to weave the music’s several lines so expertly that the piece never seems to wander. He raises the lyricism of Quejas o la maja y el ruisenor to the height of exquisite perfection. And he can unleash, without the slightest strain, a torrent of virtuosity in El pelele, while being no less sensitive to the passionate love duet of Coloquio en la reja.

In the Villa-Lobos, he captures the great Brazilian composer’s improvisatory spirit and kaleidoscopic colour in a manner that matches great interpreters of the past, such as Novaes, Tagliaferro and Rubinstein, and is equaled today only by the likes of Freire and Arnaldo Cohen. Let’s hope that Decca sets Prats loose in his equally remarkable Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Liszt and Rachmaninov.

STEPHEN WIGLER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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