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Mompou, Federico (1893 - 1987)

Federico Mompou, Catalan composer and pianist, was born in Barcelona in 1893. He studied piano at the Conservatorio del Liceo in Barcelona and gave his first concert at the age of 15. However, his shy and reticent nature did not predestine him to be a virtuoso performer, and he decided to become a composer after hearing Gabriel Faure perform his Quintet. Three years later, with a letter of recommendation from Granados, he went to Paris to study harmony and piano with Isidor Philipp and Ferdinand Motte-Lacroix. In Paris, he became influenced by the French impressionism of Debussy Satie. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Mompou returned to Barcelona, where he wrote his first works for the piano.

In 1921 Mompou returned to Paris where he remained for 20 years and became a respected composer. In 1941 he settled permanently in Barcelona. He was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, elected to the Royal Academy of San Jorge in Barcelona and of San Fernando in Madrid, and made Doctor Honoris Causa at the University of Barcelona. He married the Catalan pianist Carmen Bravo in 1957, and died in Barcelona on June 30th, 1987.

Mompou was a modest, quietly spoken, and thoughtful person and this is reflected in his music. He wrote no operas, concertos or symphonies, and some choral works are as close as he got to producing large-scale works. He was predominantly a composer of lyric songs and piano miniatures. The music is imbued with the colours, sounds, and images of his beloved Catalonia, the style ranging from elegantly impressionistic to simplistic and minimal. Here we see the influence of Satie in using the utmost economy of means, doing away with key signatures and bar lines, and occasionally inserting silly comments. As a young man, Mompou worked briefly in a bell factory, and the sound of bells can be heard throughout his works. For Mompou, less is more, and one needs a finely attuned ear and a responsive state of mind to properly appreciate his music.

Among his vocal works, we mention the songs Comptines I-VI (1931, 1943), Combat del somni (1942-48), and Llueve sobre el rio, Pastoral (1945) and the choral works Cantar del alma (1951) and Improperios (1963), the latter with orchestra.

The bulk of his large piano oeuvre (which Mompou recorded completely for the Spanish label Ensayo), is organized into sets of pieces. The smaller sets being Pessebres (1914-17), Scènes d'enfants (1915-18), Cants mágìcs (1917-19), Fêtes lointaines (1920), Charmes (1920-21), and Suburbis (1916-17). Some larger sets were composed over long time spans : the 12 Cançons i dansas (1921-28, 1942-62), the ten Préludes (1927-30, 1943-51), Variaciones sobre un tema di Chopin (1938-57), the brilliant and evocative Paisajes (1942-60), and the four books of Música callada (1959-67).
 
Recordings
  1. Cançons i dansas
  2. Charmes
  3. Dues Impressions 1910
  4. Impresiones Intimas
  5. Impressions de La Garriga
  6. Impressions de Muntanya (1910)
  7. Impressions Sobre La Vida D'un Miner (1914)
  8. Miscellanous
  9. Musica Callada
  10. Pessebres
  11. Preludes
  12. scénes d´enfants
  13. Variations on a theme by Chopin
  14. Additional fotos
Published:
Jan 5, 2016
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