The secret world of Federico Mompou

The music of Catalan composer Federico Mompou (1893-1987) remains undeservedly little-known. Mompou was by nature a miniaturist, strongly influenced by Chopin, Debussy and Satie, and eschewed almost completely the Germanic idea of development in music. In Mompou’s music, things are pared down to the essentials. Pure melody and harmony become the focus – and Mompou is a distinctive voice in both respects – while there is a continual sense of an introspective, interior dialogue that is strongly spiritual in nature. His masterpiece, Musica callada, is inspired by the writings of St John of the Cross.

To play Mompou is to concentrate on the most essential communicative factors in music. The demands on the pianist do not at first sight seem excessive. Only when one is truly inside the music does it become clear how carefully and precisely each note must be graded in respect of the huge range of dynamics required (particularly in pianissimi) and the flow of the music. Ultimately, there is a naturalness to the music that sounds inevitable and that, paradoxically for music that is in the main slow and quiet, makes a very strong emotional impression on the listener.