Aureole etc.

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Montserrat CABALLÉ: Récital espagnol
Eduardo TOLDRA (1895-1962)

La Rosa als Llavis, Platxeria, Maig, Canticel, Romanca de Santa Lucia, A líOmbra del Lledoner, Canço de Comiat, Canço de Bressol, Canço de Grumet, La Vida de la Galera
Orquesta Sinfonica de Barcelona/Rafael Ferrer
Recorded 1963, Barcelona
Frederico MOMPOU (1893-1987)

Combat del Somni: 1. Damunt de tu nomes les flors, 2. Aquesta nit un nateix vent, 3.Jo et pressent com la mar, Fes-me la vida transparent, Aureana do sil, Canço de la fira, Pastoral, Tres Comptines (1931): 1. Dalt díun cotxe, 2. Margot la pie, 3. Jíai vu dans la lune, Tres Comptines (1943): 1. Asserin, asseran, 2. Petite fille de Paris, 3. Pito, pito, colorito, Cantar del alma, San Marti
Frederico Mompou (piano)
Recorded 1963, Barcelona
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)

Canciones amatorias, Tonadillas: La maja dolorosa 1-3, El tra la la y el punteado, El mirar de la maja, Callejeo, Amor y odio, El majo discreto, El majo timido, La maja de Goya
Orquesta da Camara/Rafael Ferrer
Recorded 1964, Barcelona
Romanzas de Zarzuelas

La cancion del olvido: Marinela, Marinela
Ruperto CHAPI (1851-1909) and M. RAMOS CARRION

El Rey que rabio: Mi tio se figuro
Amadeo VIVES (1871-1932), PERRIN and PALACIOS

Los Behomios: No quiero que aqui vengo yo

El cabo primero: Yo quiero a un hombre

Marina: Pensar en el

El Barquillero: Cuando esta tan hondo

El nino judio: De Espana vengo

La rosa del Azafran: No me duele que se vaya
Orquesta Sinfonica/Eugenio M. Marco
Recorded 1965, Barcelona
Montserrat Caballé (soprano)
RCA RED SEAL 82876 511882 [2 CDs: 76:23, 79:21]

After the less than enticing album devoted to duets with Bernabé Marti and Giuseppe di Stefano (Montserrat Caballé: En Duo), Caballé is alone again for the final instalment (in my listening order) of this series of four 2-CD packs which bring into wider circulation the early recordings she made in Spain in 1963-4 for the Vergara label, plus a few Columbias, also made in Spain a decade later. I gave an enthusiastic welcome to the other two solo albums: Grandes héroïnes lyriques (dedicated to opera) and En récital (dedicated to artsong).

As I listened to the beautiful melodies of Eduardo Toldra with their warmly colourful orchestral settings I couldnít help wondering why Canteloubeís Songs of the Auvergne have travelled round the world and these have not. Maybe it is another story if you donít have Caballé to sing them for in this, her first professional studio recording, her voice is caught in all the miraculous freshness of its first flowering, perfectly produced without a scratch on the surface. As well as making a divinely beautiful sound, she can be heard shading her tone and caressing her words, which brings me to the principal drawback. While the music and performances can be recommended to all who enjoy the Songs of the Auvergne, the CD as it stands can only be recommended to those who are happy to lap such things up without having the faintest idea what they are actually about (or who understand Spanish) since no texts, translations or synopses are provided.

This is a greater drawback still in the Mompou songs. Not, maybe, in the first where the composerís gently lulling accompaniment, warmly recorded, and the beauty of the voice carry the day, but in many of the songs austerity is the order of the day, the idea presumably being that the song is basically a vehicle for the words. An Internet search produced texts of eight of the fifteen songs, with an English translation of just one. A great pity, since the performances have obvious documentary value and Mompou was clearly a fine pianist. He produces a consistently warm, well-rounded sound from his instrument, and in the few cases where technical dexterity is called for he is well up to it. I hope I shall have the opportunity to study these performances, text in hand, in due course.

Texts and translations of the Granados are easier to find, of course. We are not told who the orchestrations are by, but I frankly doubt that they are by Granados himself since they seem to be the work of someone who knows his mid-period Stravinsky and have a Thirties feeling with their sepia tints and prominent guitar writing. Itís all rather engaging and inventive, but when I go to the piano version and hear it played magically by Alicia de Larrocha I know where my heart lies. The trouble is, in order to hear the piano part magically played by Alicia de Larrocha I have to put up with the squally, vibrato-ridden singing which is the best Pilar Lorengar could manage at that late stage in her career, and my heart cannot lie otherwise than with Caballéís steady stream of perfectly emitted sound. If she ever returned to these pieces on disc with a good pianist to partner her, that would surely be the ideal solution, especially if such a disc gave her a less abrasively upfront recording Ė there is also distortion on the high notes here. Perfect singing of this music then, but rather a lot of imperfect things come with it.

More perfect singing in the Zarzuela extracts, where Caballé brings out the full power of her operatic voice, and very effectively too. The trouble is that, as with the Zarzuela duets on the companion album En Duo, weíre not allowed to have the slightest idea what itís all about so it does become a disc for vocal fanciers rather than those wanting to know more about the Zarzuela. A pity, for the arias themselves are attractive and can surely never have been sung better than here, though again I was surprised at how little Spanish they sound, excepting the piece from "El nin judio" Ė a matter of rhythm, not just the persistent use of castanets in the orchestra.

Connoisseurs of great singing will need this album and they will know how to deal with the odd drawbacks. Other had better consider first how far the absence of texts and translations in little-known music is going to worry them. In a period when the major companies lament declining sales, it would be interesting to know how many sales they are losing by this policy.

Christopher Howell


MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ: Grandes héroïnes lyriques

Montserrat CABALLÉ en récital: Recital "Los Encores"

Montserrat CABALLÉ EN DUO - Duos de Amor

Montserrat CABALLÉ: Récital espagnol




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