Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002) is one of the lesser-known Spanish masters of the twentieth century. Prior to this CD the only music of his that I could say I truly knew was his 5 Canciones Negras (Five Black Songs) sung by Isabel Bayrakdarian on her disc called Azulão Isabel Bayrakdarian ~ Azulão, and influenced by music coming from the Caribbean. And as it happens there is more Caribbean-tinged music on this disc as the reintroduction to Spain of Spanish-flavored music from the West Indies became one of Montsalvatge's musical thumbprints. On this disc, for instance, are 'Ritmes' and the second of his 'Three Divertimentos' (the delicious 'Muy dulce'), each borrowing West Indian rhythms and melodic outlines. The music collected here spans three decades of his composing life, from 1933 ('Three Impromptus', long thought lost but which came to light after the composer's death and given their first recording) to 1961 ('Sonatine pour Yvette', written for his then five-year-old daughter Yvette and including a saucy rendition of one of her favorite songs, 'Ah, vous dirai-je Maman' ['Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' to English speakers]). There are several other works, including a heart-felt 'Elegia a Ravel'. And the disc concludes with 'Recóndita Armonía' for piano and string orchestra (also in its first recording), one of several settings Montsalvatge made of an early string quintet. It ends with a mysterious scherzo followed by finale that, until its coda -- a rumbustious tarantella -- is slithery, slidy night-piece.
Montsalvatge's style is not quite so easily recognized as Spanish as that of his older colleagues Falla, Granados or Albéniz. Instead, his most obvious influence is that of Les Six, Milhaud in particular. His use of polytonality is distinctive and personal.
Jordi Masó, the pianist on this disc, has made a specialty of the music of his native Spain. He has recorded music of Turina, e.g. Piano Music 1 and Mompou, e.g. Piano Music 1 as well as other 20th-c. Spanish and French composers. A fine pianist.