An often neglected impressionistic composer
July 22, 2010 12:21 AM   Subscribe

Frederic Mompou (1893 -1987) composed many often exquisite and mysteriously adventurous minatures for piano. Born in Barcelona, he then went to Conservatory and spent several decades in Paris, and of course was influenced first by Gabriel Faure and Chopin, then Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc, and notably Erik Satie. Yet, unlike them, he never quite became a "household name" in classical music.

Frederic Mompou (sometimes referred to as Federico Mompou,) was, however an individualistic composer for piano (and later a few vocal works). He retained the Catalonia spirit of his native Spain, yet incorporated it in his impressionistic works. He was very shy and had a strong distaste for self-promotion, yet he developed a devoted following that grew stronger in his later years, when Artur Rubenstein, Arturo Michelangeli (here's the Cancion no.6), as well as Jordi Maso and others featured more Mompou ,even more so after after his death in 1987. Three years back, renowned pianist Stephen Hough, (after a concert of Rachmaninov with orchestra), performed a sweet Mompou piano piece as an encore to a packed stadium, which was seemingly mesmerized by the performance.

The composer said about one of a series of his works (Musicas Colladas):

"This music is quiet (callada) because one listens to it within... It is my desire that this music, should bring us closer to the warmth of life, and the expression of the human heart, that is always the same and constantly changing."

With not much imagination, a trained ear could almost swear a piece or two of Mompou's here and there may even sound like something Keith Jarrett or Bill Evans (at his most introverted) might have written.

The often contemplative music of Mompou does however, often display a wide wide range of emotion, the more you listen, and can even be quite aggressive and rhapsodic at times. But he did speak about he needing only to say what was to be said, without a note too many or one note less. Some have called him the first minimalist (perhaps after Satie), insofar as he also could break a musical idea down to its mere essence, yet without losing its luminous magic. There is much to hear by this brilliant composer, and much that can touch the heart.

Perhaps after all the music in this post, it may be fitting to hear Mompou himself playing Mompou.
posted by Seekerofsplendor (13 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I accidentally "doubled up" on two links in the post. The proper link for the word "THERE" in the mention of Jarrett and Evans should be this. Sorry.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 12:35 AM on July 22, 2010

I love this post. Can't believe I never heard of Mompou before. Thank you very much.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:06 AM on July 22, 2010

Never heard of him either, but I love me some Satie.
This wonderful post is a great way to be introduced to this composer. Thanks!
posted by Zigurana at 1:46 AM on July 22, 2010

I had heard of him, but only just, by way of a few short pieces on Alexandre Tharaud's Chopin Préludes CD: I'm enjoying these links - thank you!
posted by misteraitch at 2:11 AM on July 22, 2010

Seconding Zigurana on Satie. Thanks for this!
posted by Cheminatrix at 3:20 AM on July 22, 2010

Thanks ... I've always been fascinated by his music, which is impressionistic on the surface but has a very deep philosophical layer underneath. "Callada" doesn't just mean quiet but also silent: "Music That Is Silent."
posted by texorama at 4:35 AM on July 22, 2010

lovely stuff. thankyou.
posted by peterkins at 4:42 AM on July 22, 2010

Thanks for answering the AskMe that's been sitting in my head for the last year.
posted by sciurus at 5:51 AM on July 22, 2010

I became aware of Mompou through some Segovia performances. I tried to tackle Suite Compostelena a few times, but I was a far cry from Segovia's romantic performances.

Thanks for reminding me of this composer!
I will have to dig out my old CDs tonight.
posted by oshburghor at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2010

fantastic. thank you.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:09 AM on July 22, 2010

Perhaps apocryphal, but someone explained the difference between Satie and Mompou by pointing out that Satie didn't really believe in songs, while Mompou was always rewriting and incorporating folk music into his work.
posted by minkll at 11:31 AM on July 22, 2010

@minkil - I think you're right, to some extent. Stephen Hough even went so far as to say some of Mompou's work was like Satie, "but without the cynicism". I believe Mompou was often was more conscious of form than Satie was, or at least more often. He departed from it and went to another place at times in the middle of a piece, but usually returns thematically in some way.

And thanks to all who said such nice things about my post. I very much appreciate it. There are many "worlds" within Mompou's world -- I am still discovering new and extraordinarily beautiful ones in the Impressiones Intimas and the Preludes, both well-represented on YouTube, and available on, usually recorded by Jordi Maso. Much of his music gives me that indescribable feeling, like falling in love for the first time. Maybe you need to be a pianist to really hear it, but maybe not.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 6:11 PM on July 22, 2010

Thanks- I just bought one of the Jordi Maso volumes. I have a feeling I'll get all four. This is lovely.
posted by Erroneous at 4:40 AM on July 31, 2010

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