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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


AVAILABILITY

D.I. Music (UK)
Tel: 0161 491 6655; Fax: 0161 491 6688
E-mail: dimus@aol.com

Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)
Complete Songs:

‘Six intimate ballads’ (wds: Marquesa de Bolanos):
1) Barcarola
2) La lontananza
3) Una rosa in dono
4) Il tuo sguardo
5) Moriro!!!
6) T’ho riveduta in sogno
7) Art thy gone forever, Elaine (wds. F.B. Money-Coutts) Two fragments of ‘prose texts’ by Pierre Loti:
8) Tristesse
9) Crepuscule
‘Four melodies’ (wds. F.W. Money-Coutts):
10) In sickness and health
11) Paradise regained
12) The retreat
13) Amor, summa injuria
‘Poems by Gustavo Aldolfo Becquer’:
14) Besa el aura que gime blandamente…
15) Del salon en el angulo oscuro…
16) Me ha heido rectandose en la sombra…
17) Cuando sobre el pecho inclinas
18) De donde vengo? El mas horrible y aspero…
Two surviving songs from the ‘Six songs’
(wds. F.W. Money-Coutts):
19) Separated
20)Will you be mine
‘To Nellie’ (wds. F.W. Money-Coutts):
21) Home
22) Counsel
23) May-Day song
24) To Nellie
25) A song of consolation
26) A song
27) Il en est de l’amour (wds. Costa de Beauregard)
‘Two songs’ (wds. F.W. Money-Coutts):
28) The Caterpillar
29) The gifts of the Gods
30) ‘Barberine’s song’ (wds. Alfred de Musset)
Antonio Comas (tenor)
Mac McClure (piano)
Recorded at the Teatro-Auditori, Centre Cultural, Sant Cugat
No specific recording dates given. Thought to be 1997. DDD
COLUMNA MUSICA 1CM 0025 [71:39]

When this Albeniz CD arrived for review I was expecting a recording of his piano music not a recital of his thirty complete songs. Although pleased to have the opportunity to hear his rarely heard repertoire that I would not have normally come across, I was disappointed by the quality of many of the songs and particularly by the singing of the tenor Antonio Comas.

At the time of the recording Comas and the pianist Mac McClure have enjoyed a 10 year partnership. In spite of this experience it is the tenor who is unconvincing in this repertoire. However McClure comes across as a fine pianist and plays forcefully yet in a most assured manner.

Albeniz was the first significant composer of the Spanish nationalist school and was particularly inspired by Andalusian folk song which became a speciality. Outside Spain I’ll wager that few people will have heard the songs of Albeniz who is almost exclusively known for his brilliant and evocative solo piano music notably ‘Iberia’ and ‘Navarra’, several guitar works and a handful of orchestral compositions.

Half of the thirty complete songs presented here Albeniz wrote as a result of a productive and fruitful collaboration in London with the private banking heir, amateur playwright and poet Francis Burdett Money-Coutts. The poems of Money-Coutts that Albeniz has set here show him as more than a mere wordsmith and his verses I found to be most impressive.

The early songs ‘Poems by Becquer’, ‘Barberine’s Song’ and ‘Six Intimate Ballads’ tend to feature the vocal line with only sparse piano accompaniment. As Albeniz’s writing became more ambitious, around the time of his collaboration with Money-Coutts, we hear a greater diversity of harmonic richness for the voice and the piano takes a more prominent role.

The Albeniz songs do create a certain feeling for the composer’s individuality and resourcefulness. For the most part I found the songs unmemorable, mainly salon in character, lacking in variety and substance and clearly displaying that the composer’s best talents lay outside writing for the voice.

Tenor Antonio Comas works reasonably well in the songs in his native tongue but becomes far too heavily accented in the songs with English words where his articulation presents difficulties on the ear. His vocal timbre is quite distinctive, rich in colour and capable of a large amount of intensity but often shrill and piercing (track 6 at 2:40-3:00). Comas displays a narrow vocal range and unfortunately he often goes out of tune in the lower registers (track 7 at 0:20-3:00) leaving some disturbing moments. Furthermore when strained his vibrato becomes unsteady which can be most unpleasant (track 18 at 1:00-1:13) and I feel that he is often lacking in interpretative expression.

The sound engineers have done a pretty good job providing a bright and clear recording. However, the technical problems that I have with Comas’ voice and his uninspiring performance in this relatively unmemorable repertoire will not have me returning to this disc.

Michael Cookson



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