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Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946)
El Amor Brujo* (Love, the Magician) Second version, (1924);
El Sombrero de Tres Picos **(The Three-Cornered Hat) Ballet in two acts (1917 – 19);
Danza from La Vida Breve (1914)
María José Martos (soprano)**, Alicia Nafé (mezzo-soprano)*,
Asturias Symphony Orchestra (OSPA)/Maximiano Valdés
rec. Auditorio Principe Felipe, Oviedo, Asturias, 13–15 Feb, 12–14 Oct (Vida Breve), 2002
NAXOS 8.557800 [68:00]


An overpowering bass emphasis occasionally clouds the otherwise fine focus of this classic coupling. However it has strengths and these are further cemented by the Spanish artists and location.

Amor Brujo is here given in the 1924 version of the suite. Aside from the bass dominance the music is volatile and temperamental to perfection though Alicia Nafé sounds both imposing as well as fallibly tremulous. The Spanish trumpets are not perhaps as spot-on in the sharply accented fanfares of tr.7 but are nevertheless very enjoyable. The Magic Circle sounds deeply indebted to Ravel and specifically to Ma mère l'oye and it is done with real poetry. The pizzicato figures in Midnight are done with more tang than I have previously heard as are the stabbing violins in The Song of the Will o' the Wisp. This is clearly a most thoughtful interpretation. Pantomime is one of the most tender and beautiful moments in all music. Here however it is given a rather pushed and dry-eyed steer. The white minarets are suggested in Dance of the Game of Love. In the finale Bells of Dawn Nafé is outstanding with the emotion breaking through in her voice and that gift of a naturally-breathing melody nicely weighed and released by Valdes. A mixed series of impressions then but the Suite ends well.

El Sombrero has the brass recessed but the massed castanets and the men's shouts of ‘Oy! Oy! Oy! Oy!’ resound ringingly in our ears. Also the vernal mezzo of Maria Jose Martos is like a breath of fresh air. I hope to hear more of her singing in the future. The glinting dance of The Grapes is well brought off. The light-as-air feyness of The Neighbours' Dance is also very well done. The crowd-scene triumphalism of the final Jota also works brilliantly. It is alive with the raucous textures of so many instruments and with the percussion providing glittering highlights.

Tracking is bounteously generous: thirteen for El Amor and eight for El Sombrero.

The CD is rounded out with a mobile and eager, indeed ultimately breathless, Danza from La Vida Breve.

Supportive liner notes by Graham Wade round out this, the latest in Naxos's adventurous ‘Spanish Classics’ series.

Good versions though not the very best. For that you need to seek out the recordings made by Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos in the 1960s.

Rob Barnett

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