Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Finest since the archetypal Ciccolini recording
Daniel J. Rose | Shrewsbury, MA USA | 02/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is perhaps the finest recording of Iberia since Ciccolini recorded his monumental classic in 1966 (recently reissued: Albéniz: Iberia; Granados: Goyescas). It can also be closely compared to the more recent recording by Nicholas Unwin (Albéniz: Iberia).
What all three of these performances share is a profound fidelity to meter (tactus) and rhythm that permit effective tempo changes and variation (rubato) without losing the direction, the driving pulse, that carries the listener and never leaves or loses them. Their approach is distinct from an entirely different class of performance perhaps best represented by Alicia de Larrocha (e.g., Albeniz: Iberia/Granados: Goyescas - Alicia de Larrocha) and Marc-Andre Hamelin (Albéniz: Iberia). Larrocha and Hamelin take great liberties with meter using extremely wide rubatos that both destroy the dance rhythms of this piece and often leave this listener lost. Many seem to enjoy this approach, perhaps considering it profoundly Spanish, but not at all from this perspective. To me, the famous angular rubatos of Spanish music cannot replace, and indeed require, a precise beat against which to express themselves. This requirement is rooted in the dance rhythms of flamenco and other Spanish folk musics that form the foundation of works like Iberia. (Lovers of Segovia, of whom I am one, might well object, but in reality, it works with him, too, if you listen carefully.)
Heisser and Unwin also depart from Ciccolini in hewing far closer to the written score, in terms of tempo changes, rests, and dynamics. It may well be that Ciccolini's recording suffers from the compression that was required in the 1960's to reduce a performance to vinyl, and that is the main difference. However, it cannot be denied that Ciccolini, perhaps in common with early 20th century pianists, found reasons to depart from clear indications in the score. In any case, Heisser and Unwin remain truer in this respect.
Where Heisser may stand somewhat apart from Unwin, and what brings him noticeably closer to Ciccolini, is his ability to both clearly isolate the melodic line in rich textures and offer a more natural rhythmic pulse to support it. (Unwin uses some odd rhythmic accents perhaps encouraged by his somewhat faster tempos.) This is most noticeable, for example, in the canonic and complex writing of Lavapies from Book III or all three contrapuntally rich selections from Book IV (Malaga, Jerez, and Eritana). Overall, I just find Heisser to fill out his measures and to sound out his turns, trills, and accents a bit more fully, providing a more satisfying sense of direction.
In the end, Heisser, while very, very close to Ciccolini in approach, and despite paying closer attention to the composer's stated intentions, is not quite as lyrical and thematic as Ciccolini. Where Ciccolini shines, and I think wins a special place in the annals of Iberia performances, is his ability to never ever lose sight of that rich melodic line, and to subordinate the busy and precisely executed textures behind it. No one I have heard quite matches Ciccolini in this. The result is a long and endlessly engaging song, no matter how complex the writing gets. However, Heisser comes the closest of any I have heard on this point, and really offers an equally satisfying performance to savor in the fuller fidelity of contemporary sound."
Outstanding interpretation of Iberia
Peter Chordas | Portland, OR USA | 03/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jean-Francois Heisser deserves a standing ovation for this interpretation of Albeniz' Iberia. It is played artistically with feeling. The mood is set from the very beginning and sustains itself with rich color throughout.
I at one time had Alicia de Larrocha's recording on CD but was dissatisfied with her interpretation. This recording has more passion and vivacity. Heisser captures the spirit of Catalan. I find Heisser's playing to bring out the brillance of Albeniz technically, stylistically, and expressively. Though music is subjective in taste, I believe it is safe to say most who listen to this CD would agree it is worth owning and listening to again and again!"