You might not expect the Song of the Volga Boatman to emanate from the Andalucian delicacies of Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). But here it is, arranged by the composer in 1922 during a spell of interest in the world music of the day. It is a surprise within a surprise: Falla has fallen from fashion in recent years, but with this magnificent recording pianist Garrick Ohlsson shows exactly why the composer deserves urgent rehabilitation.
Transcriptions from the ballets The Three-Cornered Hat and Love, the Magician take centre stage, arranged by Falla himself. Ohlsson’s playing is beautifully voiced and balanced, evoking an orchestra in full flood and with an unerring and irresistible sense of rhythm. His feel for the pacing of rubato, or the way he can finish a piece with a gentle flourish, suggest the perfecting curl of ribbon on an ideal package.
As for the Fantasia Baetica—once a recital favourite but now heard once in a blue moon—there is virtuosity aplenty. But Ohlsson never allows display to overtake the creation of atmosphere or the highlighting of structure. Like the best Flamenco, this artistry is dignified, poised, focused and magisterial. Rarities, including a tribute to Debussy after that composer’s death (including quotations from La soirée dans Grenade), round out the rewarding programme. And the sound quality is nothing less than you would expect of Hyperion’s piano CDs at their best.