Calling all Romantic piano fans: the first recording of a substantial cycle of tone-poems by a little-known contemporary of Albeniz and Granados.
Any listeners who thrill to Ibería and Goyescas will want to get their hands on Andalucía. Cast in nine movements, divided into three parts, it paints a vivid portrait in sound of the Spanish region, its landscapes, its people, folk-culture and traditions. It is the major piano composition by Manuel Font y de Anta, who was born in the region’s capital of Seville on 10 December 1889. He is still well-known in the region thanks to a pair of religiously themed wind-band marches, which are unofficial anthems for the city, particularly during Holy Week. Font y de Anta studied music with his father, the composer Manuel Font Hernández, with the Chapel Masters of the Seville Cathedral Vicente Ripollés and Eduardo Torres, and with Joaquín Turina.
During his early twenties he toured the US as a pianist and conductor before settling in Madrid, where he became known as a composer of popular songs and marches. He died in the city, aged just 46, at the hands of Communist militia in November 1936. Andalucía mostly dates from 1913-14, except for two movements composed in 1918 and 1921. The cycle begins with an impressionistic evocation of romantic yearning, En el parque de Maria Luisa, and it’s followed by two, briefer, more extrovert pieces.
The central Cuaderno begins with Alhambra, an even more sensuous, nocturnal love scene set in the gardens of the palace. A dance movement with a central barcarolle is followed by the cycle’s most ambitious and complex piece, Perchel. A sultry evocation of the mosque at Cordoba leads into the poetic masterpiece of Andalucía, En un patio sevillano. The cycle concludes with a virtuosic showpiece, En los Toros.
The cycle as a whole is a worthy successor to Ibería and Goyescas. It is championed here by the Italian pianist Riccardo Schwartz, a pupil of Paul Badura-Skoda. This major release will bring his name to an international public.
Manuel Font y de Anta (1895-1936) was a Spanish composer, born in Sevilla (Andalucia, Spain). He studied with Joaquin Turina.
Manuel Font y de Anta’s masterwork is “Andalucía”, a cycle of 9 piano pieces issued in 3 books, one of the great Spanish piano cycles, together with Iberia by Albeniz and Goyescas by Granados.
The 9 pieces of Andalucía are titled after the neighbourhoods of the cities of Andalucia: Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Cordoba, Cadiz. They are evocations of the sounds, perfumes, lights, shadows and the mystic atmospheres of Andalucía’s secret places, capturing the essence of the Andalucían soul. The piano writing is elaborate, highly virtuosic and complex, extracting wonderful sonorities from the piano.
Italian pianist Riccardo Schwarz records here the world premiere of the complete cycle, clearly a labour of love and commitment. Schwartz, a pupil from the famous Italian Imola School, had lessons with Paul Badura-Skoda. Conductor Gustav Kuhn said of him: “A pure talent with an uncanny quest and research for the most subtle beauty”.