MOMPOU: Cinq Mélodies.* Combat del somni + / Montserrat Alavedra, sop; *Frederic Mompou, pno (live: January 19, 1977); +Miguel Zanetti, pno / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking links above
This was going to be a review of the new CD by Montserrat Alavedra and the composer at the piano, Mompou Live (Marchvivo MV 001), but since the label has seen fit to not provide downloads for reviewers and there is only one song available for streaming online, and you have to pay to hear it(!!), they can go shove it. Instead, I will review what I’ve found online which is a much shorter program but equally fascinating.
Montserrat Alavedra, who I had never heard of before, was a Catalanian soprano born in 1945 who specialized mostly in early music. This means that she was trained to sing with no interpretation of the texts, and she carried this into her performances of more modern music like that of Mompou, but since the composer was a reactionary who wrote in an earlier, tonal style and subscribed to the bizarre French “tradition” that gripped France between 1905 and 1955 (but not before or after) that singers were not to interpret the words they sang, she was one of his favorite singers of his songs. Alavedra made a decent amount of recordings, many of them of early music, before dying of cancer one day before her 46th birthday in 1991. She had a bright, clear voice with a flicker-vibrato typical of many Spanish sopranos, but also an exceptionally beautiful timbre.
With that being said, her voice is somewhat distorted on the highest notes in the live performance of the Cinq Mélodies, though not so much that you can’t appreciate her singing. (One thing you notice is that she had an exceptionally rich low range for a soprano.) Mompou’s music had some of the harmonic sense of Ravel, but that was about as far as he went, yet the settings of these poems by Paul Valéry are excellent (the complete texts, in English, are available under the video on YouYube). There is also some pitch distortion in the piano introduction to the last song, but fortunately it doesn’t last long.
The songs of Combat del somni appear to be from a commercial recording session in 1967; the songs are very much in the same vein as the previous cycle, but Alavedra’s voice is better recorded. In the last of these songs, Mompou uses some interesting descending chromatics in the harmony.
A very short recital, then (less than 30 minutes), but clearly worth hearing. These are excellent performances of songs not frequently recorded.
—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
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