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Program Notes

Each week, thousands of San Francisco Symphony concert-goers open their programs to read about the drama, the passion, and the inspiration behind the music they’re hearing. You can read our critically acclaimed program notes online one week prior to select concerts.

Elegance would seem to be part and parcel of Federico Mompou’s musical makeup. We can hear Mompou (1893–1987) playing the bulk of his own piano works, thanks to a series of recordings he made when he was in his eighties. His technique might not have been quite up to its earlier levels but the man’s aristocratic artistry shines through. He came by all that classy musicianship honestly. He studied at the Paris Conservatory with no less than Isidore Philipp, an esteemed piano pedagogue whose technical training was (and is, via his published method books) impeccably rigorous and all-encompassing. Mompou’s compositional training was tiptop as well and some even hailed him as Debussy’s potential successor.

He was first and foremost a miniaturist whose pithy, fragrant creations are distinguished by both superb craftsmanship and disarming emotional honesty. As the pianist Stephen Hough puts it: “There is nowhere for the sophisticate to hide with Mompou. We are in a glasshouse, and the resulting transparency is unnerving, for it creates a reflection in which our face and soul can be seen.”—From notes by JAMES M. KELLER, SCOTT FOGLESONG, MICHAEL STEINBERG, and STEVEN ZIEGLER