Seeing Bretón’s engaging 1887 Piano Trio listed for release, I’d assumed that Naxos would be recycling Marco Polo’s full-price recording, sturdily played by members of the New Budapest Quartet with pianist György Oravecz (8.223745, reviewed here.) Not a bit of it. This is brand new, taking a much more relaxed line to emphasise the work’s contrasted moods rather than its robust structure. LOM bring a sweetness, even playfulness to bear which enables us to forget the “quality of the workmanship” noted in my earlier review, in favour of sitting back and revelling in Bretón’s sunny writing.
Contra Joan Orpella’s notes, apart from a hint in the syncopated main theme of the last movement I hear little that sounds like Spanishry, and much that sounds like Brahms or Saint-Saens. Bretón writes in a consciously conservative European mainstream style, which doesn’t exclude the tunefulness apparent also in the Four Pieces, arranged for Piano Trio and gathered together in 1913 (not as the notes tell us 1911) under the French title Quatre Morceaux Espagnols. Marco Polo offers the refined, comparatively impersonal D major String Quartet; but lovers of Bretón’s stage works may prefer LOM’s miniatures, not least a Danza Oriental (new to me, from the 1899 opera Raquel) overflowing with nocturnal fragrance and string tremolandos, heralding de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. The strutting Bolero and Polo Gitano are familiar from Argenta’s 1950’s LP of orchestral originals, and suit their chamber dress well. The fourth, Scherzo andalou, is arranged from the 3rd movement of that D major Quartet.
One or two moments of dodgy string pitch hardly spoil the party, whilst Daniel Ligorio commands a lyric lightness of touch and dynamic control which ensures that the composer’s inspiration comes across as anything but academic. The recording is pure, clear and close – one of the very best I’ve heard from Naxos in Spain – and does much to enhance an enjoyable addition to Bretón’s meagre discography. As a bonus, purchasers may download (through classicsonline.com) the showy Jota Aragonesa from an earlier Naxos disc devoted to Sarasate’s Violin and Piano music, deftly spun by Tianwa Yung accompanied by Marcus Hadulla; but welcome though this is, Bretón needs no bon bouche.
© Christopher Webber 2008
8 August 2008