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Hyperion Records

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Coxcombs by Ben Moore
Reproduced by permission of the artist / Private Collection
Track(s) taken from CDA66963
Recording details: July 1996
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: August 1997
Total duration: 12 minutes 22 seconds

'Altogether outstanding in every way … a real treat … utterly compelling playing with a recording to match … in the hands of an imaginative pianist like Stephen Hough this other-worldly, almost eremitic [music] becomes revelatory. He catches Mompou's wistful moods to perfection' (Gramophone)

'It's a rare thing for an artist's programme notes to vie in quality with his playing. There is simply no better description of this music, nor any more persuasive, imaginative and spiritually attuned performer of it. Fascinating, hypnotic, mystical. Commended' (BBC Music Magazine)

'In his skilfully planned and superlatively played programme Stephen Hough achieves a vivid sense of contrast, of temporal and spiritual reflection. His rare empathy for such music is reflected in Hyperion's cloudless recording' (BBC Record Review)

'Perhaps the most significant piano release of the year' (The Independent)

'Pianism of a very high order indeed, backed up by a recording of beautiful limpidity. Spellbinding music, immaculately performed' (Classic CD)

'Ce CD est une parfaite introduction à une oeuvre aussi passionante que difficile à cerner. La prise de son d'une qualité exceptionelle de rondeur et de naturel' (Répertoire, France)


El Lago  [5'29]

The first two pieces of Paisajes (‘Landscapes’) were composed in 1942 and 1947 respectively and they are among the most visionary and distilled of Mompou’s entire output; the third piece was a later addition in 1960. ‘The Fountain and the Bell’ was written when Mompou had just returned to Barcelona after a twenty-year exile and it was inspired by a courtyard in the Gothic Quarter of the city near the cathedral. However, this piece is not concerned with prosaic description as such—there are no water effects and only a solitary, muffled bell. Rather his interest is with the essence of fountains and bells: in philosophical terms, the substance not the accidents. Similarly in ‘The Lake’ (inspired by Barcelona’s Montjuic Park) he is removed from the ‘blueness’, ‘wetness’, ‘stillness’ or ‘storminess’ of the object; rather it is its ‘waterness’ which interests him. A bell is not so much one metal dome, ringing with vibration, but rather every bell ever rung—wedding, funeral, sanctuary, or cow—with all their smiles and tears. Furthermore it is that sense of distance again, of memory; we look past the lake, and it is the breath of the wind which has carried the bell to our ears. Bells are one of the principal ‘presences’ in Mompou’s music (his grandfather had a bell foundry which the composer must have frequented as a young boy); yet they are not so much a call to prayer, as a prayer itself—an abstract orison celebrating a sacredness in the very quiver of the metal.

The third piece in the set, ‘Carts of Galicia’, is contemporary with the first book of Música Callada and is almost atonal in its syncopated chord-clusters accompanying a twisted melody played ‘très lointain’. It is an experimental piece, a prototype for Mompou’s late style, and although his journey in search of a purer language may seem rather strained here (we are far from the unaffected lyricism of the Cancións y Danzas), there remains an integrity and a powerful sense of striving, of refining, which calls to mind a poem of St John of the Cross, whose writings were the inspiration for the Música Callada cycle:

Cuanto más alto se sube,
Tanto menos se entendía,
Que es la tenebrosa nube
Que a la noche esclarecía;
Por eso quien la sabía
Queda siempre no sabiendo
Toda ciencia trascendiendo.
The higher he ascends
The less he understands
Because the cloud is dark
Which lit up the night;
Whoever knows this
Remains always in unknowing
Transcending all knowledge.
Stanzas concerning an ecstasy experienced in high contemplation (Collected Works of St John of the Cross: ICS, Washington D.C. 1979)

from notes by Stephen Hough ę 1997

Other albums featuring this work
'The Stephen Hough Piano Collection' (HOUGH1)
The Stephen Hough Piano Collection
Buy by post £4.50 This album is not yet available for download HOUGH1  Super-budget price sampler  
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