The Albuquerque Journal (online version
April 2, 2017
Review by D.S. Crafts
Spanish composer Enrique Granados lived through the end of the 19th century and
into the 20th. Today he is primarily known for his piano suite Goyescas and the
popular Spanish Dances, favorite works of guitarists. Last week after a week-long
series of lectures culminating in a final concert entitled The Granados Project,
Maxine Thévenot's[cq] group Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico presented
little known works by the composer as well as a revival of his Canto de las estellas
(The Song of the Stars). Much of the concert was strictly instrumental, but three
pieces highlighted the excellent voices of the choir.
The lion's share of the music went to pianist Douglas Riva[cq], the leading exponent
of the piano music of Granados. The echoey atmosphere of St. John's Cathedral
may not be an ideal acoustic environment for a solo piano, but Riva plays with
an elegant persuasiveness easily overcoming the drawbacks of the venue.
He began with Capricho Español, a bravura and convivial salon piece typical
of the period providing a nice vehicle for him to commence his lengthy section
of the program. Cuentos de la juventud (Scenes from Youth) consists of ten short
pieces influenced by the works of Robert Schumann of similar names and themes.
The work features generally bright harmonic colors with simple yet poignant melodies.
Esceneas romanticas (Romantic scenes) is in two short movements, a Mazurka, highly
reminiscent of Chopin, and a tender Epilogo. Violinist Michael Shu[cq] joined
Riva for Romanza, another short salon work.
Escenas religiosa (Religious scene) for piano, violin and organ (Edmund Connolly[cq]),
the least effective work on the program, proved quiet and austere until several
extremely loud organ notes which seemed to come out of nowhere.
Polyphony, accompanied by Connolly, sang the short but tunefull Salve Regina,
music hearkening back to the days of the Spanish Renaissance.
Polyphony and Connolly at the piano were joined by members of Las Cantantes and
oboist Kevin Vigneau for two songs of New Mexico composer John Donald Robb, the
haunting I am Very Old Tonight, and Tears, the text from a Chinese poem.
All hands were on deck for the primary work of the evening Canto de les estrelles.
Written in 1911 but never published, it was not revived until 2007 due to various
legal difficulties. Described as a poem for piano, organ and voices, Canto begins
with a long piano introduction before the women's choir enters with the words, “Oh,
infinite vastness and stillness of space!”
The work is steeped in late-Romantic chromaticism, in its last throes before
the modernism of the 20th century. Its harmonic progressions are highly reminiscent
of Cesar Franck. The text, written in response to the poetry of the German Heinrich
Heine, speaks from the point of view of the stars themselves. The line “...wild
delirium of love, whose fever we [the stars] can never know!” neatly summarizes
this ethereal work.