Federico (Frederic) Mompou i Dencausse (16 April 1893 – 30 June 1987) was a Spanish Catalan composer and pianist. He is best known for his solo piano music and his songs.
Mompou was born in Barcelona to the lawyer Frederic Mompou and his wife Josefina Dencausse. His brother Josep Mompou (1888–1968) became a painter. Mompou studied piano at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu before going to Paris to study with Ferdinand Motte-Lacroix in 1911. He also studied with Isidor Philipp, head of the piano department at the Paris Conservatory. Being rather shy, he abandoned a solo career and chose to pursue composition instead. In 1914 he returned to Barcelona, fleeing the war.
His Scènes d'enfants (1915–18) inspired the French critic Émile Vuillermoz to proclaim Mompou the successor to Claude Debussy.
He returned to Paris in 1921, and remained there until 1941 when he once again departed for his native Catalonia, fleeing the German occupation of Paris.
In 1956 appeared Don Perlimpin (also seen as Don Perlimpinada), a ballet written in collaboration between Mompou and Xavier Montsalvatge. Most of the work was by Mompou, but Montsalvatge helped with the orchestration and linking passages, and added two numbers of his own.
In 1957, aged 64, he married the pianist Carmen Bravo (c.1923 – 29 April 2007). She was 30 years his junior; it was the first marriage for both of them, and they had no children.
In 1974 Mompou recorded his piano works for the Spanish label Ensayo. These invaluable recordings have been issued on four CDs by both Ensayo and Brilliant Classics. Mompou's music has also been recorded by notable pianists such as Alicia de Larrocha, Stephen Hough, and others. Both Arthur Rubinstein and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli made recordings of selections from the Cançons i danses. The great Spanish soprano Victoria de los Ángeles recorded Mompou's haunting song cycle El combat del somni, and a video from 1971 survives of her singing one of these songs in her living room with the composer as her accompanist.
During his career Mompou received numerous awards, including: Chevalier des arts et lettres (France), Premio Nacional de la Música (Spain), Doctor honoris causa, Universitat de Barcelona (1979); and Medalla d'Or de la Generalitat de Catalunya (1980).
An initial supporter of Franco's regime, in Barcelona he became a member of the Royal Academy of San Jorge, but otherwise lived quietly there until his death at the age of 94, from respiratory failure. He is buried at the Montjuïc Cemetery in Barcelona.
After the death of his widow in 2007, about 80 unpublished and hitherto unknown works were discovered in Mompou’s files at his home, and also in the files of the National Library of Catalonia. Some of them were given performances in Barcelona in 2008 by Jordi Maso and Mac McClure. Many others were given their premiere performances in 2009 by Marcel Worms.
Mompou is best known as a miniaturist, writing short, relatively improvisatory music often described as "delicate" or "intimate." His principal influences were French impressionism and Erik Satie, resulting in a style in which musical development is minimized, and expression is concentrated into very small forms. He was fond of ostinato figures, bell imitations, and a kind of incantatory, meditative sound, the most complete expression of which can be found in his masterpiece "Musica Callada" (or the "Voice of Silence") based on the mystic poetry of St. John of the Cross. He typically did not use either bar lines or key signatures.
Works for piano solo
- Impresiones intimas (1911–1914) (Intimate impressions)
- Scènes d’enfants (1915–1918; later orchestrated by Alexandre Tansman)
- Suburbis (1916–1917) (Suburbs; later orchestrated by Manuel Rosenthal)
- Charmes (1920–1921)
- Cançons i danses (1921–1979) (Songs and dances)
- Dialogues (1923)
- Préludes (1927–1960)
- Variations on a Theme of Chopin (1938–1957; based on Chopin's Prelude No. 7 in A major)
- Paisajes (1942–1960) (Landscapes)
- Canción de cuna (1951) (Lullaby)
- Musica callada (Primer cuaderno - 1959, Segundo cuaderno - 1962, Tercer cuaderno - 1965, Cuarto cuaderno - 1967) (Silent music)
Works for voice and piano
- L'hora grisa (1916) (The grey hour)
- Cuatro melodías (1925) (Four melodies)
- Comptines (1926–1943) (Nursery Rhymes)
- Combat del somni (1942–1950) (Dream combat)
- Cantar del alma (1951) (Soul song)
- Canciones becquerianas (1971) (Songs after Bécquer)
- Don Perlimpin, ballet (1956; written with Xavier Montsalvatge)
- Suite Compostelana for guitar (1962; composed for Andrés Segovia)
- Los Improperios for chorus and orchestra (1964; written in memory of Francis Poulenc)
- Cançó i dansa No. 13 (Cançó: El cant dels ocells; Dansa (El bon caçador)) for guitar (1972)
- Canción y Danza No. 10 (Sobre dos Cantigas del Rei Alfonso X), originally for piano (1953), transcribed for guitar by the composer (undated manuscript).
References and further reading