Andrew Palmer, Group Editor

Classical Music: Frederico Mopou Música Callada

Frederico Mompou Música Callada

Primer Cuaderno (1959); Segundo Cuaderno (1962);Tercer Cuaderno (1962) Cuarto Cuaderno

Stephen Hough Piano
recorded on a Yamaha CFX in St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London.

Hyperion CDA68362

Released: 3rd February

I had not heard of Spanish composer Frederic Mompou (1893-1987), who is mainly known for his piano works and who composed sounds that Stephen Hough once wrote, "represent the music of evaporation", which according to Philip Clark is an oddball strategy for any composer to adopt.

Hough presents us with a sequence of 28 untitled pieces across four books composed between 1959 and 1967. Clark aptly describes the set of miniatures as each resembling a carefully polished gem which is rotated slowly against the light.

The illustration used on the cover is Isabel Baquedano’s iconic Table, which is often described as ‘silence’ and compared to the stripped-down still life works by Zurbarán and Morandi. Its minimalistic feel captures the essence of the music. The pieces invite you to the table to just sit and catch the stillness.

Listening to the music, I was drawn to a passage from St Aelred of Rievaulx Speculum caritatis iii, 39, "… a man who, though absent in body, is yet present in spirit, where heart to heart you can talk with him, all the more delightfully for being so secret, where heart to heart you can confer with him and, when the noise of the world is still, rest heart to heart with him in the sleep of peace, in the embrace of charity, in the kiss of unity, where you so join yourself and cleave to him that soul mingles with soul and two become one."

The pieces are poetic and Mompou’s title, according to Clark was borrowed from Cantico spiritual by the Spanish mystic and Carmelite friar St John of the Cross, consider a major figure of the Spanish Counter-Reformation.

Such is the intensity of these poignant, emotional pieces that penetrate the psyche and open up an expanse in which one listens and a space which Hough with such fine dexterity, crafts between the notes, that one feels commanded to do some soul searching in the 70 hypnotic minutes.

The slow sound conveys simplicity; don’t expect technical pyrotechnics requiring technical virtuosity. However, expect the brilliance to come from Hough’s brilliant and intelligent interpretations and superb control.

His skill helps the listener to immerse in the improvisatory genius of Mompou by constructing a musical landscape that has a frisson of expressionism and incandescence and which, cleverly, has a three-dimensional effect.

At the end of the emotional aural journey, the lyrical music evaporates and we are left hanging for a moment in our contemplation before solitude is distilled and the meaning of Música Callada, ‘silent music’, is understood.