> Victoria de los Angeles [JQ]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Victoria de los Angeles
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725): ‘Le violette’ [2’26"]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): ‘So shall the Lute and Harp Awake’ (from Judas Maccabaeus) [4’28"]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828): ‘Mein!’ (from Die Schöne Müllerin, D795) [2’33"]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856): ‘Widmung’, Op.25 No.1 [2’27"]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897): ‘Nachtigall’, Op. 97 No. 1 [2’51"]; ‘Meine Liebe ist grün’, Op.63 No.5 [1’31"]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971): ‘Pastorale’ [2’01"]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937): ‘Vocalise-étude en forme de habañera’ [2’59"]
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933): ‘L’Invitation au voyage’ [4’17"]
Ernesto HALFFTER (1905-1989): ‘La corza blanca’ [1’35"]; ‘La niña que se va al mar’ [3’01"]
Amadeo VIVES (1871-1932): ‘La presumida’ [2’23"]; ‘El retrato de Isabela’ [2’09"]
Joaquín NIN (1879-1949): ‘Montañesa’ [2’26"];‘Paño murciano’ [1145"]
Fernando OBRADORS (1897-1945): Chiquitita la novia’ [2’57"]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891): Bonjour, Suzon!’ [2’46"]
Joaquín VALVERDE (1846-1910): ‘Clavelitos’ [1’58"]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869): Les Nuits d’été, Op. 7* (‘Villanelle’ [2’27"]; ‘Le Spèctre de la rose’ [6’41"]; ‘L’île inconnue’ [3’47"])
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano)
Gerald Moore (piano)
*BBC Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Rudolf Schwarz
Recorded in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 25 August 1957
*Royal Festival Hall, London, 24 April 1957


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

This BBC Legends release, though perhaps not intended as such, is a very nice advance tribute to Victoria de los Angeles who, incredibly, will be eighty in 2003. The title of Alan Blyth’s liner note (excellent, as usual) is really apposite. He calls her "an Entrancing Singer". So she was, as this CD demonstrates.

The majority of the CD comes from an Edinburgh Festival in 1957 when she was accompanied by the accompanist par excellence, Gerald Moore. De los Angeles was one of that very select band of singers with whom, by his own admission, Moore had a very special rapport and it shows here.

Having said that, neither singer nor pianist is quite at their best in one of the opening items in this particular recital. The first piece, a rather slight song by Scarlatti, is fine but, as Alan Blyth notes, there are some "smudges" in Moore’s playing of the second item, the Handel aria. I also felt that Miss de los Angeles did not sound quite at ease here; her English is too accented to allow for her trademark clear diction (which is well in evidence elsewhere).

Next comes a group of lieder. It’s a bit unusual to hear a woman singing a song from Die Schöne Müllerin. However, de los Angeles sweeps any reservations aside with her eager vivaciousness. As Alan Blyth justly observes in his notes (which are tantamount to a review) the pair of Brahms songs brings out the best in her. She conveys exquisitely the yearning wistfulness of ‘Nachtigall’ and is urgent and impetuous in ‘Mein Liebe ist grün’.

French repertoire was always a great strength of Victoria de los Angeles as is shown amply in this recital. I find it hard to warm to Stravinsky’s quirky ‘Pastorale’, though Miss de los Angeles floats its line beautifully. The Ravel piece is a different matter. It is, I submit, a finer song and its Mediterranean languor suits her voice perfectly. She savours it, giving a charismatic performance. Just as persuasive is her account of Duparc’s great song which is placed next. She delivers this masterpiece with superb poise and ecstatic fervour. Gerald Moore’s accompaniment is pretty marvellous too; he provides as much light and shade as the singer does.

The disc also includes seven Spanish songs (and one Iberian encore). Unfortunately, this part of the recital throws into sharp relief BBC Legend’s lamentable failure to provide texts and translations for vocal items. This has been a constant criticism (from many sources) ever since this series was launched. It seems to me that this label is one of the most important sources of archive recordings, yet time after time vocal releases are hobbled by this cheeseparing practice. The booklet announces that texts and translations are available on the IMG website but when I first received this disc for review I checked and found only three of the texts had been loaded. Even now, at the time of completing this review several weeks later, only three more have been added and none of the texts concerned are those of the less familiar, Spanish items. In any case, I don’t think that website texts are the answer. Even if a listener has web access (which many don’t) this is not a convenient way to address the issue. Someone listening to a vocal item needs ready and easy access to the text and a translation. I could perhaps understand the label’s policy if these discs were being retailed at super budget price but they are offered at the upper end of the mid-price bracket and are being positioned as important historical issues. It’s high time BBC Legends got their act together in this respect. Why spoil otherwise excellent releases in this way?

I make this point because the Spanish songs in this collection were new to me and I guess they will be to many other collectors. I’m afraid it’s all but impossible to comment on the performances adequately save to say that they sound authentic, spirited and idiomatic (as one would expect). I can report, however, that the singing qua singing is uniformly excellent with superb breath control, an abundance of tonal variety, a consistently bright, forward delivery and every indication that Miss de los Angeles is thoroughly enjoying every moment. There is a real Spanish tang in her voice. Her singing, and Moore’s accompaniments are hugely enjoyable and, I suspect, very witty and sharply observed. Even without the texts I especially enjoyed the vivacious, infectious ‘El retrato de Isabela’ (track 13) and the poignant ‘Montañesa’ (track 14). In ‘Chiquitita la novia’ (track 16) Gerald Moore’s playing is brilliantly suggestive of a flamenco guitar and I suspect the vocal characterisation in this number was especially acute – certainly the audience lapped it up!

The three Berlioz songs were recorded four months earlier (was the complete cycle not performed?) Unfortunately, the recorded sound, very satisfactory in the Edinburgh items, is a serious handicap here. It sounds as if the performance took place at the far end of a large swimming pool! Miss de los Angeles’ singing is involved, especially in the miraculous ‘Le spèctre de la rose’ (track 20), and is well projected. However, the accompaniments, though serviceable, lack the lustre of the support from Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony on the same singer’s marvellous 1955 RCA studio recording (perhaps inevitably) and the backward recording certainly does not advance the BBC Symphony’s cause. No, I fear this sonically compromised recording does not add anything to our knowledge of Victoria de los Angeles’ interpretation of these songs.

The real value of this release lies in the Edinburgh Festival items and all admirers of this great singer will want to acquire it for these alone. For making this Edinburgh recital generally available BBC Legends merit a gold star though they also attract a big black mark for failing to provide texts and translations. This omission is a serious one and, despite the manifold pleasure of Miss de los Angeles’ singing (and Gerald Moore’s accompaniments) prevents me from giving the unqualified recommendation this important and enjoyable release would otherwise merit.

John Quinn

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.