Salón Mexicano. CASTRO: Caprice-Vals. Vals caressante. Vals amoroso. Mazurca melancólica. Barcarola. Vals sentimental. Vals bluette. Mazurca de Salón. Vals melancólico. VILLANUEVA: Sueño Dorado, Mazurka. Causerie, Vals lento. Tercera Mazurka. Ebelia, Mazurka de Salón. Amor, Vals de Salón. Vals Poético, Vals de Salón. PONCE: Mazurca de Salón No. 8. Marchita el Alma. Todo pasó. Mazurca de Salón. Por ti mi Corazón. ROLÓN: Vals Capricho.
José Federico Osorio (piano).
Cedille CDR 90000 132 TT: 74:10.

The smell of face-powder, brandy, and cigars. Before the widespread recording of music, if you wanted to hear something, you played it and sang it yourself, prevailed upon a musically-capable friend or relative, or bought a ticket. The enabling technology was the piano, usually allied with music publishers eager to supply the "software," and the piano became a status symbol of middle-class aspirations and upper-class confirmation and the center of "musical evenings," usually held in the front parlor or the "salon" -- hence the designation "parlor music" or "salon music."

Such terms came to imply a sneer toward the Biedermeier tastes of the bourgeoisie. Then, as now, the taste of the public at large was never all that high, and much of what got played in parlors was indeed kitsch. However, we should also remember that Chopin, Liszt, Grieg, and (later) Debussy wrote music for the salon.

None of the works here reach those exalted heights, but that doesn't make them dreck. They aim at nothing more than listener pleasure. The composers write music of genteel emotion. I can well imagine a bad pianist making a hash of them.

Fortunately, Osorio is a wonderful pianist, giving what seems to me ideal performances of these morceaux. He phrases elegantly and produces a rich tone. Above all, his musical intelligence allows him not only to see them as worthy, but to transmit their worth to the listener.

S.G.S. (August 2014)