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Benita Meshulam has already established her credentials as a top-ranked player of Spanish piano music with remarkably idiomatic recordings of Granados (a scintillating Goyescas for Chesky) and contemporary composer Xavier Montsalvatge (ASV). In this gorgeous-sounding recording, Meshulam demonstrates her affinity for Falla’s flavorful piano works. With a veritable rainbow of colorations and superbly judged rhythmic accenting, she gets to the very heart of this wonderful music. Her Nocturno is suitably dreamy, her Cuatro piezas españolas conveys the essence of its wistful moodiness, and the subtle inner voices of the Danza de la vida breve are heard in all their tangy splendor. Meshulam’s rubato-laden Ritual Dance of Fire is probably the most engaging account I’ve heard since the 1950s orchestral version by Constantin Silvestri (on a Hungaroton disc that remains in LP limbo). And even the diffuse Allegro de concierto for once does not outstay its welcome.

Competition? To my ears, Meshulam displays a greater willingness to take risks than the more sedate Alicia De Larrocha (RCA), and her rhythmic thrust is more compelling than Miguel Basalga’s (BIS). In the dances from El sombrero de tres picos, Meshulam has a more sensual and varied tonal palette than Jean-François Heisser (Erato). Meshulam’s Cuatro piezas españolas has a bit more stylish inflection than the otherwise estimable Ralph Votapek’s (coupled with a fine Goyescas on Ivory). Her reading of what is arguably Falla’s finest and most polytonal work, Fantasia baetica, comes extremely close to the inimitably committed account by the late Esteban Sánchez (in a partial Falla collection with less agreeable sound on Ensayo). If you are seeking a complete edition of Falla’s piano music in excellent sound, this bargain-priced Brilliant Classics set is the one I would choose. Highly recommended..

Jeffrey J. Lipscomb, Fanfare Magazine


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.

Sullivan, American Record Guide


In light of Benita Meshulam's colorful, bracingly idiomatic Albeniz and Granados recordings, it comes as no surprise that she's also technically and temperamentally at home with Manuel de Falla's piano music. Her vivid rhythmic sense and natural way of "orchestrating" the composer's often-busy textures at the keyboard never fail to delight the ear. Listen to how the inner voices and elaborate accompaniments nonchalantly fall into place in the Danza from La Vida Breve, how effortlessly Meshulam untangles the gnarly polyphonic webs in the ambitious Fantasia Baetica, or notice the long-lined sweep with which she sustains the rambling Allegro de concierto. And how about the slight variations in touch and accent that pump fresh blood into the well-worn Ritual Fire Dance? Although the engineering does not quite mirror the big, juicy sonority Meshulam unleashes in front of an audience (and it's well worth hearing her in concert), who's to complain at Brilliant Classics' super-budget asking price? If you want Falla's piano music complete, look no further.

Jed Distler, Classics Today


de FINITIVE de FALLA
Simply put: Benita Meshulam makes this music her own, and it's no wonder. She did exactly the same with a gorgeous version of Granados' Goyescas [Chesky] and with a phenomenal traversal of Montsalvatge piano works [ASV]. When I first heard her rendition of Goyescas, I was bowled over. No pianist had ever come this close to getting to the "heart" of the work. No, not like Benita. And so it is with her new set of de Falla. What she reveals in this music--- the inner voices, the atypical melancholy, the subdued, almost fantasia-like episodes, the juxtapositioning of the overt with the contemplative--- is wondrous and is exactly what I adore about her playing. It's fearless, as well, and willing to delve, take risks and extract hidden wonders, hidden magic--- precisely what is called for in de Falla's piano works. For openers, try the beautiful Four Spanish Pieces. Listen to how she handles the melodic lines and the sustained alternation of passion and nostalgia. Try the lovely Vals Capricho, the haunting Nocturne, ethereal Serenata or charming Mazurka for a taste of Meshulam's exceptional sensibility. Sample her rhythmic strut contagiously uncompromised in the Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat, or the sensual tweaking of the oft-hackneyed Ritual Fire Dance. And the Fantasia Baetica? Meshulam transforms this whirlwind into some sort of transcendental "Dies Irae"---the undercurrents, emotions and yearnings interwoven therein are stunning. Don't miss, either, the wistful Cancion, or the delightful dance from La Vida Breve.

There's no doubt in my mind that this set deserves the accolades I hope it will eventually receive. I was enchanted for nearly two hours. Each piece gives special pleasure in turn. But, in Benita's case, it's not only about the music; it's also about the very tangible connection the artist has with what she plays; how she brings her persona to everything she does play, but without distorting it; and how she surrenders herself to the music, becomes vulnerable, and communicates this so convincingly. Frankly, it is something to hear.

Melvyn M. Sobel, Freeport, New York, Amazon.com

Recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art staged one of the most stimulating exhibits ever. . . the art of Manet and Velásquez . . . The real point of the exhibit was that French artists of the nineteenth century visited Spain and drew what they saw using French technique. . . . And much the same can be said of music of the twentieth century. Debussy’s "Iberia," Ravel’s "Rhapsodie Españgole" are but two examples on the French side. Albéniz, Granados, de Falla and many other Spanish born composers studied in Paris absorbed the technical facility of the French school and returned to Spain to apply the modus operandi in a completely original way.

On a balmy Thursday night in Caramoor’s lovely Spanish Courtyard Benita Meshulam presented us with a program that to a large extent proved that point. With no intermission the concert was seventy-five minutes in length and was not only stimulating, it was gorgeous. Ms. Meshulam presented us with some of the best parts of Albéniz "Iberia" played in a very laid-back way. Not at all like Larrocha, rather it was dreamy in parts, robust in others. In short: quite original. My only complaint was that I would have wished for more.

As you will note the Nin is not the more popular Joaquín Nin y Castellanos but the Berlin born Nin-Culmell. But the little suite shows that Berlin was not on the composer's mind. More ‘advanced’ sonically than the Albéniz it too evokes the bouquet of the subcontinent. Montsalvatge’s Sonatine with its echo of "Ah! Vous dirai-je, maman" is a charmer as is the "Little Sketch". The "Tribute to Esplá" for the left hand I assume was written for Paul Wittgenstein. Like the "Ravel Concerto"it is a dark and moody piece. Finally a single part of de Falla’s fiery "Pièces Espagñoles" and what I believe is the composer’s own arrangement of the popular first dance from "La Vida Breve."

It was all quite wonderfully played
.

Ward_FM, Classical Music Guide


. . . Providentially, we have Benita Meshulam to set things right, and this she does with an affinity, expertise, panache and obvious love. As a personal friend of the composer, herself, I cannot but think that Montsalvatge could ever have a better interpreter of his music, a better guardian or savior. There's not one piece on this CD that does not ring true, nor bear an obvious devotion--- because of Ms. Meshulam's own emotional experience of this music and her complete and total immersion in it; never does she forfeit the spirit of the composer, or his trust in her. The more one listens, the more one realizes just how much Benita brings to this music... and brings out. The utter nakedness of her humanity, her soul, and her willingness to share everything with us through her miraculous talent, without a glimmer of pretense, leaves me speechless.

The QUATRE DIALEGS (Four Dialogues in Memory of Ricardo Vines) (Composed between 1933 and 1997), performed with grace and élan by Ms. Meshulam, are quite delicious "diversions": whimsical, melodic, dance-like. Especially enjoyable are the early "Impromptu" (1933) and the final "Ritmos," an obvious nod to Albéniz. With the ELEGIA A MAURICE RAVEL (1945), we see the profound affection Montsalvatge has for this composer--- and the homage pays tribute to both Ravel's SONATINE and his PAVANE in the most loving use of the gentlest of tonal coloring. Benita is truly ravishing here. DIVAGACION (Digression) (1950), written for pianist Alicia de Larrocha at the time of her wedding, is a marvelously lyrical work played with consummate delicacy by Ms. Meshulam. What a superb artist she is!

The availability of this 1998 ASV CD is not to be taken lightly, nor is the amazing talent of Benita Meshulam. Too often, marvelous recordings, like this one, disappear overnight and are gone forever. To not avail yourself of this compilation of the majority of Montsalvatge's incredibly memorable piano music, performed to perfection by the enchanting Ms. Meshulam, would be a regrettable mistake. As if all this wasn't enough, the sound afforded Benita is warm, intimate, mellow, the CD has a timing of 64:33 .... it retains the imprimatur of Montsalvatge, himself. What more could you want?

Kudos, Benita! You glorious pianist you!

Melvyn M. Sobel


Meshulam is a characterful player, whose rhythmic élan, balancing of glassier and denser sonorities, and scherzando cadencing comes with the composer's (Montsalvatge) admiring endorsement.

BBC Magazine


Here is a deliciously alert, romantic, entirely idiomatic and sensitive performance of the Granados infamously difficult favorite. Ms. Meshulam illuminates this work at every turn. Her articulation, for example, in the opening "Los Requiebros" is breathtaking, bringing to the fore hidden voices and harmonies. For this playing, alone, I would buy the CD. Luckily, though, her artistry pervades entirely. The fifth movement, "El Amor Y La Muerte," is of such nuanced subtlety and beauty that it must be the best I've heard in years.

Benita Meshulam is a pianist to be reckoned with. She possesses exquisite taste and refinement; yet, in a flash, can amaze us by her passion. Granados has a fine advocate here, and also a brilliant one. This is a "Goyescas" not easily forgotten. The addition of the "Spanish Dance No.5" is fine; however, it only brings the CD to a timing of 52:51. It might have been wonderful to have her rendition of either the "Valses Poeticos" or the "Escenas Romanticas." One wants more of Benita Meshulam, not less.

The Chesky "sound" given her is fabulous. Ravishing. Don't miss this CD, especially if you're a Granados fan.

Melvyn M. Sobel


This beautifully recorded performance (Granados, "Goyescas") of one of Spain's keyboard masterpieces reveals a pianist of exception quality. Benita Meshulam shows herself utterly at one with the intricate rhythms and evocative harmonic system with which Granados underpins melodic lines of rare beauty.

. . . . At every turn Meshulam shows herself at one not only with the music's letter but, far more importantly, with its spirit. This can only be achieved through soaking oneself in the rich warmth of an idiom which Granados made his own . . .

The pianist's task is to bring out the dialogue and characterisation which bring vitality and realism to music which refuses to linger in luxurious romanticism. That is there, and Meshulam reminds us of it, without, however, over-indulging us. What is so mavellous about her performance of all six movements is the deftness and certainty with which she makes us imagine -- as Granados intended -- that real people are whispering, talking and love-making. She reaches a peak in the famous fourth movement, depicting maiden and nightingale in close colloquy. But it is all beautifully done. Her reading surpasses the very good one by Luisada for Deutsche Grammophon who is just a shade more matter-of-fact.

Geoffrey Crankshaw, Classic CD


It takes a lot of guts for any pianist, much less a non-Spaniard, to attempt a reading, but guts -- and chops are exactly what Benita Meshulam displays here. It's a well-informed, idiomatic, deceptively casual-sounding performance so redolent of the Iberian landscape that one can hear the birdsongs wafting on the orange-blossom-scented breezes. Intensely lyrical, her conception of the piece is nonetheless marked by a lean rhythmic drive that keeps it from floating off into the ether . . . .As an 'encore,' Meshulam offers "Andaluza," from the "Danza Españolas," in a simple, wistful reading that proves how much strength can inhabit a gentle statement. More, please. Soon!

Wes Phillips, Stereophile


Anybody who attempts a complete "Iberia" must have a superior technique and plenty of confidence. And anybody who comes through it is going to be up against the competition of the great Alicia De Larrocha. Ms. Meshulam survives on both counts. For one thing, she gets the work on one disk, with space left over for the Granados "encore." Ms. De Larrocha, who plays other Spanish pieces, takes two disks. Thus those who want a good "Iberia" can save money with the Classic Masters disk, which, incidentally, is a beautiful example of piano recording at its best. And Ms. Meshulam goes through the music with rhythmic snap, a fine feeling for line and the sense of a tradition handed down from the composer to Ricardo Vines, Blanche Salve, Frank Marshall and Ms. De Larrocha. These wonderful pieces are in very good hands here. 
  

Harold C. Schonberg, The New York Times