"The more I know the art of Ernesto Halffter, the more I want to explore it further. Among the music of the 20th Century his voice was not a loud one, but it’s worth listening to. It said beautiful things.... Martin Jones is a perfect advocate for this beautiful music." Oleg Ledeniov, musicweb-international.com
"Martin Jones is a perfect advocate for this beautiful music."
Like his older brother Rodolfo, Ernesto Halffter played an important role in the birth of the new Spanish musical voice in the Twenties. After studying with de Falla and Ravel, he became one of the central figures in the progressive group of Spanish composers, The Group of Eight. Like Rodolfo, Ernesto had to leave the country during the Civil War. He settled in Portugal. Whereas Rodolfo’s music is more modern, dry, at times ascetic, with some urbanistic acidity, Ernesto’s is more soulful, more Spanish, and its most conspicuous feature is the rich, daring harmony. The present disc collects almost the entire known solo piano output of Ernesto Halffter, and its span covers all his creative life. The earliest pieces here were written when he was 14, the last ones date from one year before composer’s death.
A piano sonata does not have to be a large, multipartite composition – the name that comes to mind as a proof is Domenico Scarlatti. Halffter’s first Sonata is clearly of Scarlatti’s heritage, but its Baroque genes express themselves in modern features. It is a short – just six minutes long, very concentrated work. The episodes follow each other without breaks, as in Prokofiev’s First piano concerto. The piano writing is complex, and there is a lot of fortissimo. The mood is jubilant, except for the beautiful, tender cantabile episode. This music is far from “easy listening”, but it is stimulating and rewarding.
Three short pieces written in 1988 are homages to three Spanish composers. Homenaje a Rodolfo Halffter is a tender lullaby. A more active middle episode quotes from one of Rodolfo’s early works. Whereas the language of this piece is advanced, the ensuing Homenaje a Federico Mompou is as simple as a song. This is another lullaby with a poignant melody, sad and sincere. As a contrast, Homenaje a Turina is a joyous scene – boisterous, exclamatory and very Spanish. It provides an excellent ending to the album.
Martin Jones is a perfect advocate for this beautiful music. He is technically impeccable, and finds something special in every work. This is “absolute” playing: the pianist does not show off, but puts the listener right into the music. The interpretations are honest and sound right. But they are not plain: much thought is apparently put into the decisions. The voice of the piano is light and round; the music sounds fragile, clean, silvery transparent. This is aided by a clear recording. Calum MacDonald provided excellent liner-notes with engaging historical and musical analysis of the works.
The more I know the art of Ernesto Halffter, the more I want to explore it further. Among the music of the 20th Century his voice was not a loud one, but it’s worth listening to and said beautiful things.
Oleg Ledeniov, musicweb-international.com