Review by: Jens F. Laurson
Artistic Quality: 7
Sound Quality: 8
The quality of Sira Hernández’s piano music–performed by the composer herself–could well be summarized as “modern timelessness”. It’s of an ear-pleasing, inoffensive ruminative tonality, and our ears, always out for comparisons, might consider her compositions on this disc a happy mix of Frederic Mompou and Ludovico Einaudi, just never quite as insipid as the latter’s. To describe the more lively passages, add a soupçon Frederic Rzewski. The subtle Spanish accents that pop up here and there are audible but never drift into the realm of cliché as it so often does when a lesser composer wishes to signal “Spanishness”. Extended repetitious passages suggest influences of minimalism. Short phrases are repeated on end; persistently recurrent minor chords eventually lead into well-behaved major resolutions.
In the closing moments of “Don’t Forget About That” (dedicated to the memory of Primo Levi and the most recent of the four works composed between 2015 and 2019), we hear chords that remind so deftly of Rachmaninov that it suggests an intentional reference. The booklet text suggests that this is the most “intense” work. That sounds about right. But the claim that it is particularly “atonal” is surprising. Perhaps it displays less tonal harmlessness, but it is very much within the bounds of anything someone listening to late Schumann would be familiar with. Lacking a score to check, atonal techniques are decidedly not audible.
The technical demands also seem manageable, which suggests that the performing composer can focus fully on the interpretation. The same, presumably, is also true for Mompou’s music and yet that doesn’t make the composer the best interpreter of his own music. But since we will not likely get rival performances to these, the point is moot. It shouldn’t, in any case, keep us from enjoying this recording of Hernández’s very easily appreciable music, music that sounds far less attractive described than being listened to. Anyone looking for new piano music that, for all its quality and cogency, is not too proud to work as background music, should sample it, at least.
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Recording Details:Album Title: Initiation to the Shadow--Music for Piano
- HERNÁNDEZ, SIRA:Initiation to the Shadow; Terra Santa; Fantasia for Piano; Don't Forget About That
- Sira Hernández (piano)
- Naxos - 8579072