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A pianist at his best

The Pharos Arts Foundation, with the support of the Embassy of Spain and the Instituto Cervantes in Nicosia, will present a piano recital by Spanish pianist José Menor on Friday in Nicosia. The recital will commemorate Spanish composer Enrique Granados’ centenary.

One of the most colourful turn-of-the-century Spanish musicians, composer and pianist, Granados is best remembered for his evocative solo piano works, as well as a great deal of orchestral music and six operas. Granados was one of the great pianists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and virtually all his music relies heavily on the Catalan and Spanish folk idiom.

An important number of his works find their inspiration in the paintings of Francisco de Goya. These works include Granados’ essential set of pieces for piano, the suite Goyescas Los Majos Enamorados, which represents, together with Albeniz’s Iberia, the pinnacle of the Spanish piano literature. But the concept of Goyescas is even greater, as it also involves the opera Goyescas, which was based on the material of these piano pieces as well as other piano pieces like El Pelele and Intermezzo, Jacara, Crepusculo and Serenata Goyesca. Quoting the composer’s own words: “I am enamoured with the psychology of Goya, with his palette, with him, with his muse the Duchess of Alba, with his quarrels with his models, his loves and flatteries. That whitish pink of the cheeks, contrasting with the blend of black velvet; those subterranean creatures, hands of mother of pearl and jasmine resting on jet trinkets, have possessed me.”

Menor, who has been called one of the most outstanding Spanish pianists of the new generation by The Daily Telegraph, is quickly establishing himself as the Spanish pianist with a huge projection in the field of contemporary music. He earned four stars in the German magazine Fono Forum due to his comprehensive recording of the work of Joan Guinjoan, which was described by Melomano magazine as an “industry milestone”.

Born in Sabadell, Menor studied piano, composition and conducting at the Conservatorio Superior Municipal de Barcelona. He completed his studies with a Masters from the Royal College of Music in London, and an Artist’s Diploma from Yale University.

Awarded in several international competitions, the pianist made his international debut at the age of 15 at Carnegie Hall in New York, after winning the first prize in the youth category of The World Piano Competition in Cincinnati. In 2009 he was enthusiastically received by the international press in his debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, playing the Concierto Fantástico by Albeniz, on the centenary of the composer, premiering this concerto in different countries, including the premiere throughout the Americas, with the Symphonic Orchestra of Xalapa, Mexico.

In May 2015, Menor made his debut in the prestigious Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele of Germany, performing the first monographic recital of piano solo of Hector Parra, a composer with whom he collaborates regularly, after having also performed, last season, the premiere of his Piano Sonata in Spain, within the cycle of concerts of the BBVA Foundation in Bilbao. Upcoming engagements include recitals at the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, the Carnegie Hall in New York and the Beijing Concert Hall, performing Goyescas to mark the Enrique Granados centenary.

The pianist regularly performs as a soloist with numerous orchestras in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the USA, including Spanish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra RTVE in Madrid, Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra (OBC), Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès (OSV), Philharmonic Orchestra of Wuhan (China); Chamber Orchestra of Birmingham, Philharmonic Orchestra of Montevideo (Uruguay), Wroclaw Philharmonic (Poland).

As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with renowned musicians and ensembles such as Philip Setzer (violinist of the Emerson Quartet), Ransom Wilson, David Cohen, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Dai Miyata, Peijun Xu, Istvan Vardai, the New York Chamber Musicians. Nowadays, he regularly collaborates with violinist Francisco Fullana.

His unusual interest in Spanish contemporary music and his enthusiasm to spread this music all over the world has led him to premiere new works and perform music by a number of composers such as Hector Parra, Benet Casablancas, Erkoreka Gabriel, Joan Albert Bitter, Josep Soler, and Ramon Paus.

Jose Menor
The Pharos Arts Foundation presents a piano recital with Jose Menor. February 19. The Shoe Factory, Nicosia. 8.30pm. €15/10. Tel: 22-663871

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