Steinway & Sons 30004
I understand Federico Mompou’s four books entitled Silent Music for piano (1959-67) as music to be co-constructed by creator and listener. The needed frame of mind, conditions, and responses must come from the listener. Then pensive moments may arrive that take us beyond ourselves. The Spanish title Musica Callada comes from mystical poetry by St. John of the Cross, the 28 pieces sharing a quality of monastic sparseness with soft dynamics and slow tempi.
Since acquiring ArkivMusic in 2008, Steinway & Sons has released several discs showcasing its topflight piano. This is a special recording where instrument, production, engineering, documentation, and performance are all superb. Jenny Lin displays flawless pianism with superb control of dynamics and occasional flashes of virtuosity. I am reluctant to single out particular favourites: the books create cumulative effects and listener responses will vary widely.
In Mompou’s own recordings, melodies are shaped more incisively, rubato is freer, and old-fashioned “breaking of the hands” is heard. As a contemporary listener, I much prefer Lin’s approach. But Mompou’s own passionate playing belies any notion of minimalist intentions. The mood is different than Satie’s and closer to Debussy at his most sparse, in the prelude …De pas sur la neige, or in Le petit berger from the Children’s Corner Suite.
One extra piece, Secreto, comes at the disc’s end. Here, criticism takes its leave and readers are invited to seek their own experiences with this remarkable music.