Born in Barcelona on 16th April 1893 to a Catalan father and a mother of French descent, Federico Mompou displayed pianistic talents at an early age, giving his first public concert at the age of 15. Encouraged by Marguerite Long's playing of Fauré's music and Granados, the young Mompou went to Paris in 1911 to further his studies, but as a result of the First World War he had to move back to Barcelona for seven years, returning to France in 1921. Despite a certain reticence of character he succeeded in forging a number of important friendships, moving in social circles that included Miro', Poulenc and other composers resident in and passing through Paris. With the advent of the Second World War, Mompou had to go back to his home-city for a second time in 1941. Despite the occasional lecture and awards from both the Spanish and French governments, he lived the rest of his life out of the limelight, playing his pieces in private to his friends. He kept teaching right to the very end of his life which was cut short by a stroke on 30th June 1984. He was 94 years old. His 30 years in Paris left a certain mark on his modest output, but his works remain characteristically Catalan – not only through his use of folk idioms and melodies, but also through his natural ability to capture moods in music. He shyed away from the atonal and serial trends of the 20th century, and always sought an uncomplicated and miniature sound world.
This most welcome second volume of Mompou's piano music presents pieces that remained unpublished during the composer's lifetime. Indeed, many came to light in 2008 when his apartment was being cleared out and three folders were unearthed filled with manuscripts containing his initial attempts at composition. Thanks to the Frederick Mompou Foundation, most of these scores have now been published. The rest of the programme comes from a smaller collection of works preserved in the Bibliotheca Nacional de Catalunya's Mompou Collection, and a piano version of the ballet "Perlimplinada", the composer's most substantial work, which he wrote in 1956 with the collaboration of Xavier Montsalvatge.
As in his volume one, Martin Jones is on top form and does not hide his love and affinity with Mompou's miniature masterpieces. His playing is consistently gentle yet brisk, and his magical touch faithfully mirrors the myriad of nuances contained in these pieces. Mompou's discography is still sadly under-nourished, so this superbly recorded and brilliantly annotated set is welcome in more ways than one. Hopefully, there are more such projects in the pipeline to which I look forward with eager anticipation.
Copyright © 2012, Gerald Fenech