All the most famous de Falla works are here in this
two-for-the-price-of-one collection of reissues. Two items are from
the 1960s; the rest from the following two decades. Two major works
are in full DDD sound with the rest being in healthy analogue.
The work-mix is promising with strong representation
from the great ballets, from his romantic-impressionistic masterpiece
for piano and orchestra, from the solo piano music, from the canciones
and from his neo-classical phase.
Frühbeck de Burgos (who I always associate with
one of the greatest Carmina Buranas - on EMI Classics) has resilient
Spanish roots and it is fitting that he directs two of the vintage major
scores. It is notable however that Decca took him to London to make
the sessions rather than working with him in Madrid, Barcelona or Bilbao.
The Dutoit Montréal Tricorne was part of a longstanding
cycle of recordings made in Canada. At one time in the 1980s it would
have been astonishing if a month had gone by without the issue of a
Decca-Montreal-Dutoit CD; almost as surprising as if a month had gone
by without Chandos issuing a Järvi-SNO disc.
This is a very decent El Amor Brujo if under-powered
and lacking strong Hispanic inflection (the Pantomime, a quintessential
moment, chugs somewhat when it should flow with the viscosity of warm
syrup). It is more cosmopolitan in character than Iberian. Nati Mistral
is suitably earthy and an improvement on Ines Rivandeneyra (Markevich,
Madrid, 1966) on the single disc Australian Eloquence Falla collection.
I still hanker for the rawness (and probably equally non-Hispanic) and
ragged passionate edge of Irina Arkhipova in that long-gone scrawny
sounding Classics for Pleasure LP (Leningrad PO with Arvid Jansons).
Mistral is closely recorded and very aptly too in the final 'Bells of
The Harpsichord Concerto (which I learnt from a tape
of a broadcast featuring one of de Falla's biographers, Lionel Salter)
glints and sparkles, liquorice and peppermint sharp. Constable and Rattle
startle this listener with the parallels with Copland. Here is a work
close in spirit to Respighi and to the Martinů
of the Paris years. The London Sinfonietta are also the orchestra for
that rarity Psyché. This may be written for a sparely
specified orchestra but it is from much more succulent fruit. I am not
at all sure about Jennifer Smith's accenting of the French text by Georges
Jean-Aubry but her strong voice soars and strides over the top of the
orchestra. This work might pair well with similarly specified works
by Patrick Hadley such as Ephemera and Scene from 'The Woodlanders'.
Fernandez's lovingly shaded and sketched Homenaje
is the most recent recording. It is a considered plangent brevity written
two years after Debussy's death.
The first disc ends with a refined and tense Noches
en los Jardines de España. Larrocha and Frühbeck de
Burgos know this music inside out and it goes well. It is winsome rather
than embracing the wilder extremes of fire and poetry. Conductor and
soloist must know every twist and turn of this music. This delicate
travelogue for piano and orchestra has few sisters but one is Joseph
Marx's Castelli Romana. The final panel of the triptych is reminiscent
of Liszt's Totentanz at times.
The second disc starts with a no nonsense account of
the grim La Vida Breve with its oboe chanted premonition of the
music for Le Tricorne and its delirious slide into Chabrier-Bizet
Hispanicism complete with castanets. Irresistible.
In the Spanish songs Marilyn Horne initially dashes
hopes with the first song which she rather flattens with her auditorium
voice - better suited to the wide-stage than to these more intimate
morsels. Was this to be a washout? In fact things warm up nicely with
Seguidilla murciana and Cancion which Horne manages very
well indeed. Both Asturiana and Nana have Horne on outstanding
steady-toned form singing a long-breathed slow line with rapt control.
Polo takes us back to the gitana flourishes of El Amor Brujo and
here the sheer power of Horne's voice tells supremely well. I was all
set to dislike this but in fact recommend it as a gorgeous interpretation.
Alicia de Larrocha's version of the Four Pieces
takes us through the pert cheekiness of Aragonesa, to the
warm and sly charm of Cubana, to the somnolent dusty heat of
Montanesa and finally to the steel heels and castanet-haunted
world of Andaluza.
Not so very long ago I reviewed the Ansermet version
of Le Tricorne. Its aural brilliance is not in doubt and it has
some character but in the face of Dutoit's Montreal version it has to
take several steps back. The Montreal sessions must have been extraordinary.
The soloistic work especially in the woodwind brims with personality
and with unanimity. Attack is split-second and vicious. Galvanic bite
and restlessness leap out from every corner. Then again there is the
flighty avian flurry of the Las uvas. The French twang of the
brass is apparent in the Miller's Dance. The Corregidor's
Dance is surely the most neo-classical of the sequences in a ballet
otherwise strong on fulsome passion and energy. Dutoit's final dance
is all braggadocio, swagger and dazzling sunlight. Just as it should
be. Again undeniably irresistible. This catches a virtuoso orchestra
in full flight.
The anonymous liner notes quickly and economically
cover the composer basics omitting artist profiles. Discographical detail
is mostly in place if not specific on exact dates and with no information
on session locations. All words are printed as sung and in English translation.
The discs are in a single width hinge-out housing.