In Honor of Mompou

"I place complete trust in the forms of expression I carry within myself. I cannot subordinate my spontaneity and form of expression …to theories, the need for which escapes me. (…) I consider music to be pure inspiration." With these words Frederic Mompou (1893-1987) defined his attitude towards the creative act. Mompou is a unique figure in the history of Catalan music (in fact, Vladimir Jenkelevitch went even further in 1969 by asserting "there is only one Mompou in the world!"). He was an intuitive composer, an enemy of theories ("first the work, then the theoretical treatment", he used to say), a lover of brevity and of the essential ("my only aim is to produce works in which nothing is missing, but which are not too long") and most of the works he wrote were for piano. He has been compared -always mistakenly- with Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Frederic Chopin- even with Anton Webern. But from his first compositions he clearly showed a completely personal and mature language, which was to change little over the years (except perhaps to increase in richness and harmonic complexity). Mompou was a composer who, faithful to himself, remained on the edge of the fashionable throughout the long years of his life ("only one thing should be demanded of a composer: that he is always what he is" he wrote).
He did not form a school, he had no followers who would carry on with his aesthetic ideals (even his great friend Manuel Blancafort wished to distance himself from his influence from a certain moment onwards, which is very clear in his early piano works). Nevertheless, this isolation did not cause him to lose his interest in getting to know the composers of this time, thus gaining the respect and admiration of his contemporaries. This CD gathers together some of the fruits of this admiration, presenting works inspired by his music. The range is very wide: from a piece by Blancafort written in the twenties, to recent compositions, some written for this recoding. Stylistically, each composer has remained true to his language, in spite of the fact that all have made some reference to some specific aspect of the music of Mompou.

There could have been no better way to start the CD than with a work by Manuel Blancafort (La Garriga. 1897-1987), who in his early stages wrote music which was strongly influenced by that of his friend. "Camí del solitari" ("The Path of the Loner") is the first piece of a set of four which make up the suite "Chemins" ("Paths"), written between 1920 and 1923 and published by Maurice Senart in Paris in 1928 with a dedication to "friend Frederic Mompou". The "Candenza in honour of Mompou", written in 1983 by Joan Guinjoan (Riudoms, 1931) presents in little more than three minutes some of the identifying characteristics of this composer: "clusters" played with the palms of the hands, "glissandi" over black and white notes, and passages which are random or left to the choice -and inspiration- of the performer. Joan Comellas (El Masnou, 1913-2000) was an artist with many faces, who in the musical field considered Mompou as a "spiritural father" (as Comellas himself called him). "Homage to Frederick Mompou" belongs to the "Suites d'homenatges" ("Suite of Homages") op. 4, which also significantly includes pieces dedicated to Satie, Debussy, Ravel and Falla.
Agustí Charles (Barcelona, 1960) makes use, in his "Prelude nº 7 (From a Harmony)" (2002) of the well-known "Cançó I dansa nº 6" (Song and Dance nº 6) by Mompou - perhaps the most frequently performed in the series and one of the few that is not based on Catalan folk melodies. The "Preludi" by Charles requires the pianist to directly alter the strings of the piano to achieve effects similar to the Thai gong, or to a harp. "Arabesc" by Francesc Taverna-Bech (Barcelona 1932) is the first of the suite "Camins Somorts" ("Fading Paths") (1983-88), a work written as a tribute to Mompou. The central part contains dense chords -which reminds one of the Mompou of "Cants Magics" ("Magic Songs")- round a melody on Gregorian lines which were also clode to the spirit of some of the early works of Mompou. In "On Reflection" (2002), Josep Mª Guix (Reus, 1967) starting from the group of five notes we hear at the beginning, develops a study in resonances not far removed from the sounds of the bells which Mompou often evoked in his music. The "Preludi" by Anna Cazurra (Barcelona, 1965) is the first of her "4 Noves Evocations" (4 New Evocations), written in 1996 (and revised in 2002) based on various piano works by Mompou. This "Preludi" takes as a base "Ocell Trist" ("Sad Bird"), a piece included in the "Impressions Intimes". Joaquim Homs (Barcelona, 1906) uses as a base the form which made Mompou so famous: the "Cançó I Dansa". His "Diptych a Mompou" (1983) is divided into a Prelude written strictly in the twelve-note form -typical of the music of Homs from 1955 onwards- and a "Cançó" ("Song") based on a folk melody which Homs and already used in his "Variacions sobre un tema popular català".

My "Impromptu" (2002) is based on the opening motif of piece number XXV of the "Musica Callada" ("Silent Music"), the work for which Mompou is best known (the motif is quoted literally in the penultimate bar of the Impromptu). Antoni Besses (Barcelona, 1945), an excellent performer of the music of Mompou, wrote "Cançoneta I dansa" in 1988 for the City of Berga Piano Competition. The work, subtitled "Homenatge a Frederic Mompou" ("Homage to Mompou"), follows the model of the "Cançons I Dansa", only in more modest proportions (the work lasts little more than a minute). "A la manière de Frederic Mompou" ("In the style of Frederic Mompou") by Josep Soler (Vilafranca del Penedès, 1935) is a piece from the year 1983 included in his "Album per a piano". It belongs to the period prior to the systematization of the Tristan chord and can be considered a study in sonorities very close to the sound world of the composer evoked, with a very short interlude of unexpected violence. "De Mompou a mon pou" ("From Mompou to my well") (2002) by Miquel Roger (Barcelona, 1954) follows the classical form of the theme an variations. The theme is the folk song "Que li darem al noi de la mare?" which also inspired Mompou in his "Cançó" of the famous "Cançó I dansa nº 3". Xavier Montsalvatge (Girona, 1912-Barcelona 2002) wrote "Si, a Mompou" in 1983 and included it in a set of "Three pieces for the left hand". The title plays with the double meaning of "si": "yes", to affirm support to Mompou's music -a composer with whom Montsalvatge shared aesthetic ideals- and the musical note "si" (B), repeated up to forty two times during the piece. "In Mompouriam" (2002) by Antoni-Olaf Sabater (Barcelona, 1959) is a work of solemn character, in the tradition of the elegiac "tombeaux" in memory of deceased composers.

"A Frederic" (1997) by Ramon Humet (Barcelona, 1968) is a suite of nine pieces inspired by the nine which make up the first book of Mompou's "Musica Callada". The composer uses the same material for each of his pieces to develop a kind of paraphrase of the original. Victor Estapé (Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, 1962) is an expert on the piano works of Mompou, and uses, in his "Cri et cloche. Un homage à F. Mompou" ("Cry and Bell") (2002) two characteristic elements of the composer he pays tribute to: the "cries" of the children playing in the street (which Mompou evoked in his "Escenes d'infants"), and the bells, present in the harmonic language of the composer from his early works onwards. "Homenatge" by Joan Albert Amargós (Barcelona, 1950) was written in 1983 for an album of pieces which a group of Catalan composers collected together as a present to Mompou to commemorate his 90th birthday. The CD ends with a composition for cello and piano by Benet Casablancas (Sabadell, 1956) entitled "Cant per a F. Mompou" (Remembrança)". Written in 1993 celebrate the centenary of the composer's birth, this piece, of aphoristic dimensions, presents a rise in pitch of the cello, from its lowest register to its highest, accompanied with impressionist chords on the piano.

Jordi Masó
(Translation: Paul Jutsum)