Cool yet sensuous, aristocratic yet playful, the piano music of Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge, now in his late 90s, is a constant delight. Whether playing with Spanish motifs, as in the sexy habaneras sketch and the second of the Three Divertimentos, or with French-perfumed Impressionism, as in the pieces for left hand, Montsalvatge demonstrates a gift for elegant melody and delicate piano sonority. Especially ingratiating are the children's pieces, the Sonatine and Noah's Ark set, exquisite miniatures that are playful but sophisticated. Benita Meshulam, a champion of this music, makes a seductive case for it, as does the crystalline recording.
The French conductor François-Xavier Roth was born in France in 1971 and studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. In October 2000 he won joint first prize at the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in London, following which he was appointed for two seasons assistant conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra. From 2000 to 2002 he was also assistant conductor with the Caen Orchestra. In 2003 François-Xavier Roth created the chamber orchestra Les Siècles (The Centuries), combining period and modern instruments, an orchestra which covers a vast repertoire from Baroque to contemporary music.
Apart from his popular Canciones negras, written more than half a century ago, the compositions of the now 87-year-old Montsalvatge (in 1999) have made little impact on the musical public in general: many of his works remain unrecorded – the opera Puss in Boots, the Indian Quartet, the five Invocaciones al Crucificado and the virtuoso Harpsichord Concerto, to name only four. But there are two Montsalvatges – one with a more traditional manner, and a later more trenchant, experimental and individual. From his earlier period comes the Sinfonia Mediterranea, composed three years after the Canciones negras; its lack of fashionable ‘modernity’ tempted him at one time to consider rejecting it completely. I’m glad he didn’t, for it’s an attractive (if slightly overlong), warmly romantic work that includes melodies of a popular cast.
For more than two decades, Xavier Naidoo has thrilled audiences with his unique voice and virtuoso musicality. Thanks to his versatility and curiosity, he always reveals new musical facets - now with his probably most personal album, which will be released on November 24, 2017 under the title "Für Dich.". The seventh studio album is a homage to life, hope and love.