This inaugural volume in a cycle of the complete solo piano music, including transcriptions and juvenilia, of Manuel de Falla contains many, maybe the majority, of the composer's most popular keyboard works, including the colorful Ritual Fire Dance. Volume 2 in the series has already been issued, and I'm not sure whether there will be more than two or three discs in the project since Falla's piano output was not large.
Spanish pianist Daniel Ligorio does well here in the more lyrical pieces but is less successful in the faster, more dynamic music. Thus, his Ritual Fire Dance is more ritual than fire, and contains slight changes in the score – the trills are played differently, for one thing. But in the end one must concede there is nothing egregious in his emendations here. Moreover, there is still enough excitement in his thicker, more orchestra-tinged sonorities to grab the listener's attention.
Also, on the plus side, I can say that most of the disc is well played: the Homage to Debussy and the four early pieces that open the disc (Nocturno, Serenata, Serenata andaluza and Allegro de concierto) are beautifully rendered. The Four Spanish Pieces are also competitive with most versions. Some listeners, however, will prefer de Larrocha in this corner of the repertory, and I cannot forget my introduction to the Ritual Fire Dance, which came via a 1950s Jose Iturbi recording, wherein the pianist offered an utterly thrilling performance from beginning to end. But back to the issue at hand – Ligorio's readings are solid, at times imaginative and certainly satisfactory, especially considering Naxos' budget price. The sound is fine. Those with an interest in de Falla's piano output will certainly want this disc.
Copyright © 2007, Robert Cummings