One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El Amor Brujo (1924) [24.23]
Alicia Nafé, soprano
El Sombrero de Tres Picos (1917) [39.48]
María José Martos, soprano
La Vida Breve: Danza (1905) [3.31]
Asturias Symphony Orchestra/Maximiano Valdés
Recorded in 48/16 5.1 sound in Auditorio Príncipe Felipe, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain, 14 October 2002. Remastered to DSD for the SACD.
Notes in English, Deutsch, Castellano. Spanish texts with English translations.
DVD Audio + dts + Dolby Surround tracks
NAXOS 5.110018 [67.50]
Hybrid SACD 5.1, 2.0, 2.0.
NAXOS 6.110018 [68.00]

Comparison recordings:
El Amor Brujo, Stokowski, Nan Merriman, Hollywood Bowl SO [ADD mono] Pearl GEMM CD9276
El Amor Brujo; El Sombrero de Tres Picos, Enrique Bátiz, Mexican State SO IMP Classics PCD2028
El Amor Brujo; La Vida Breve: Danza, Fritz Reiner, Leontyne Price, [ADD] CSO RCA 09026-62586-2

El Amor Brujo and Sombrero de Tres Picos are opera/ballet/pantomimes, that is, ballet with sung selections where the singers are in the orchestra and the dancers do not sing, a form not too different from the Restoration masque of Purcellís time. Vida Breve was an actual opera, or perhaps a zarzuela. The plot of Amor Brujo deals with an Andalusian widow placating by magic the jealous ghost of her dead husband before she can pursue a new lover. Like Ravelís LíHeure Espagnole, the plot of Tres Picos deals with the cuckoldís clever revenge, and the music occasionally descends to parody.

In their performance of Amor Brujo the Asturians have a little too much dignity and are too much a ballet orchestra. Strict beat and a balanced European perspective tone things down. It has been said that the Spanish know nothing about Spanish music, and, while thatís obviously an exaggeration, listening to this recording one can see where the idea came from. Clear sound doesnít help; the orchestra is somewhat distant, balances are not optimal, colourful orchestral accents are subdued. Or maybe the Asturians are so tired of hearing foreigners parody this music that they have lost respect for it, or at least are trying to set a dignified example? Whatever.

The Stokowski Brujo is remarkable, particularly for soloist Merriman. The legendary Dorabella, sometimes paired with Schwarzkopf, here adopts an authentic Spanish gypsy persona; one can almost see her throwing her head back, chewing the rose in her teeth, and stamping her foot with the best of them. Unfortunately itís in 1950s monophonic sound and even the Stokey magic has difficulty overcoming that handicap, otherwise this recording would be the undisputed greatest ever made. Reiner and Price also give us a fine, spirited, idiomatic reading of Brujo in brilliant sound. The CD issue is currently out of print and bringing up to £70 from collectors; however, it may soon appear as a Living Stereo SACD - and if it does, grab it quick before it sells out. Hungarian Reinerís Danza is also one of his most famous recordings.

Enrique Bátiz and La Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de México play with a sense of wild risk and passion and more energy than you thought possible, and they include more of the vocal cues. Last week Amazon listed this recording as currently out of stock, but things come and go so quickly these days that means nothing; this week they sold me a copy. This disk is an experience not to be missed. Persons over sixty should consult their physicians. Before pressing "play" take your heart medicine and get a grip on something very solid.

For the Brujo the Pole from London* and the girl from Pittsburgh** get both ears and the tail. The Hungarian from Chicago*** and the girl from Mississippi**** get both ears, and the Asturians get the tail. The Mexicans are having too much fun to care, but you canít get there from here anyway.

El Sombrero de Tres Picos is a completely different matter. The title refers to the magistrateís hat, his badge of authority. Stokowski doesnít do it at all and Reiner does only a couple of the famous dances. This music is more conservatively structured and a conservative approach works much better. Here we want and we get subtlety and wit. Here the Asturians shine and since the Tres Picos makes up most of the disk, you get your moneyís worth after all.

On my player I am unable to detect any sound whatever from the rear channels on this disk during DVD-Audio alleged 5.1 surround play. This problem does not occur during Dolby Surround play, nor in SACD nor dts play where the surround perspective is normal, if front channel weighted. Therefore, the sound quality ranking, in order from best to least, is: (1) SACD, (2) dts, (3) DVD-Audio, (4) Dolby Stereo and (5) Hybrid CD tracks.

* Stokowski

** Merriman

*** Reiner

**** Price

Paul Shoemaker

Reviews of the CD version Rob Barnett Goran Forsling


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

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.