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Isaac Albéniz: Iberia
Paul Verona (Piano)
Recording: Studio A509 at Legacy Studios, New York City (October 6 and 9 and November 14, 2008) – 109’49
Centaur #CRC 3256/3257 – Booklet in English

For a man who lived his early years in a town just a hair’s breadth away from the French border in The Pyrénées, he certainly had a musical pulse on this peninsular land. Indoctrinated with an ounce or two of Gallic reign, specifically the élan of Debussy, Chabrier and Ravel, his music captured the essence of a region whose populace seethes with burning passion and evocative energy. His name is Isaac Albéniz, from Compradon, Spain. Born of Catalonian blood, Albéniz created an entire collection for piano based predominately upon his musically intellectual translation of lively rhythms stemming from the regions of southern Spain.

But the remarkable draw into Iberia are the conditions under which Albéniz wrote such captivating sketches: it was during a period when his health was rapidly declining, having been exposed to the terminal effects of Bright’s disease. After an adventurous life and a period ‘in search of self’, Albéniz finally found his musical niche. He created twelve (12) compositions for piano that percolate with lyrical rigor, emphasizing dance forms effectually describing a people nestled inside the rugged region of Andalusia. Albéniz’s Iberia gyrates in emotional content, brimming with sorpresas extraordinaire (extraordinary surprises) that are satisfyingly translated by Paul Verona.

Highly credentialed with degrees from the Bologna Conservatory of Music (1977), The Julliard School (1982) and the Manhattan School of Music (1991), Paul Verona stresses the importance of exposure to other art forms (i.e. literature and painting) as a means of enhancing piano technique. This approach conveys well when interpreting Albéniz’s Iberia.

The music of Isaac Albéniz is not for the faint-hearted for even the composer himself made several attempts at destroying his manuscripts because he deemed them as ‘unplayable.’ These ‘unrealistic’ creations were a sort of catharsis in demonstrating against the rules of the classical music establishment. Daunting though it may seem, Paul Verona still manages to finesse the keyboard with a captive bite and a conservatively polished blend in his own take on Iberia.

Each of these pieces housed inside the ‘Four Books’ are unique in structure and dynamic markings; therefore, no selection can be singled out as being better than another. This anthology has pleasant variations despite its tricky mixture of time signatures and modulations. Despite the technical challenges, Mr. Verona undeniably flourishes inside the pages of Isaac Albéniz’s Iberia with a highly attentive and thoughtful connect.

Christie Grimstad




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