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Victoria de los Ángeles - Tokyo Recitals 1988–1990
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)

1. Aus den östlichen Rosen (Myrten Op. 25) [1:47]
2. Intermezzo (Liederkreis Op. 39) [2:16]
3. Aus den hebräischen Gesängen (Myrten Op. 25) [4:57]
4. Der Nussbaum (Myrten Op. 25) [3:36]
5. Die Lotusblume (Myrten Op. 25) [1:56]
6. Frühlingsnacht (Liederkreis Op. 39) [1:11]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)

7. Der Tod und das Mädchen D531 [2:22]
8. Die Forelle D550 [2:13]
9. Ave Maria D839 [4:08]
10. Erlkönig D328 [4:25]
Maurice RAVEL (1875–1937)

5 Mélodies populaires grecques:
11. Chanson de la mariée [1:30]
12. Là-bas, vers l’église [1:30]
13. Quel galant m’est comparable [1:00]
14. Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques [2:51]
15. Tout gai! [1:00]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874–1947)

16. A Chloris [3:14]
17. Fleur fanée [3:52]
18. Quand je fus pris au pavillon [1:06]
Manuel Garcia MORANTE (b. 1937)

Cinc Cançons Tradicionals Catalanes:
19. La Mare de Déu [2:31]
20. Marigneta [2:51]
21. Els fadrins de Sant Boi [1:20]
22. Caterina d’Alió [2:51]
23. Margarideta [1:24]
Joaquin NIN (1879–1950)

24. El paño murciano [1:43]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867–1916)

25. El Majo timido [1:01]
Joaquin NIN

26. El Vito [1:45]
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano)
Manuel Garcia Morante (piano)
rec. live, Tokyo, 25, 31 December 1988, Sala Camerata; 10, 13 May 1990, Symphony Hall
Texts included
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0161 [67:21]

The recording from Barcelona 1987 on the same label had very little to recommend it [see below]. The recording was badly balanced and the singing gave little pleasure. This disc with excerpts from four recitals in Tokyo 1988 and 1990 is a better suggestion for those who want a late recording with Victoria de los Angeles. To begin with the recording balance is much better and the recording is very bright and not as bass heavy as in Barcelona. The singing is also generally on a different level, even though there are ups and downs. There is some unsteadiness and she produces some hooting sounds, her portamenti contributes to a feeling of out-of-tune singing in places and sometimes the intonation is wayward, which afflicts the Hahn songs – a pity since she was always so good with this composer.

Several songs and groups of songs are quite successful, however. The booklet gives no information on which songs were recorded when, so it is difficult to judge if she was in various shape on various days. The Schumann songs are in the main good with a very slow but concentrated Intermezzo standing out. Der Nussbaum is also among the best. Die Forelle was one of the better songs in Barcelona and it is also very good here. I have heard better readings of Ave Maria but it is still a good listen and Erlkönig is well characterized, but maybe her voice isn’t dramatic enough.

The Ravel cycle is marred by too much portamento, but the last song, Tout gai! is more than acceptable. She doesn’t seem in best shape in the Catalan songs either, apart from the spirited Margariteda. Just as in Barcelona she is at her best in the encores, where Nin’s El paño murciano is well sung and she is as charming as in the good old days in Granados’ El majo timido. Warmth, elegance and constantly magical shaping of the musical phrases are characteristics that have always been associated with Victoria de los Angeles, and they are part and parcel of these performances, which however are less than ideally vocalized.

The Japanese audiences are models of exemplary behaviour. One doesn’t hear a cough, or any other sign of people being there – until at the end of each group of songs where there are disciplined but enthusiastic applause. The booklet has biographies and full sung texts but no translations into English. For anyone wanting a disc from the last period of Victoria de los Angeles long career this is a safer proposition than the Barcelona recital.

Göran Forsling

Victoria de los Ángeles - Concert inaugural de Catalunya Música

1. Applause [0:42]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)

2. An Sylvia, D891 [2:38]
3. Wiegenlied, D498 [2:33]
4. An die Musik, D547 [2:48]
5. Die Forelle, D550 [2:10]
6. Litanei auf das Fest Aller Seelen, D343 [3:17]
7. Seligkeit, D433 [1:53]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)

8. Dein blaues Auge halt so still, Op. 59 No. 8 [1:55]
9. Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op. 105 No. 1 [2:32]
10. Vergebliches Ständchen, Op. 84 No. 4 [1:32]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810–1849)

11. Pierscien, Op. 74 No. 14 [1:48]
12. Zyczenie, Op. 74 No. 1 [1:45]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)

13. Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, Op. 34 No. 2 [2:54]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845–1924)

14. Clair de lune, Op. 46 No. 2 [2:54]
15. Chanson d’amour, Op. 27 No. 1[2:11]
16. Tristesse, Op. 6 No. 2 [2:46]
17. Mandoline, Op. 58 No. 1 [1:36]
Cançons Traditionals Catalanes (arr: Manuel García Morante (b. 1937):
18. El Noi de la Mare [1:59]
19. La Mare de Déu [2:12]
20. Els fadrins de Sant Boi [1:12]
21. El rossinyol [1:42]
22. Margarideta [1:18]
23. Caterina d’Alió [2:34]
24. La dama d’Aragó [2:05]
25. El testament d’Amèlia [3:11]
26. La filadora [1:24]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867–1916)

27. Maja de Goya [3:10]
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)

28. Seguidilla from Carmen [1:56]
Tradicional Catalana (arr: Manuel Garcia Morante):
29. El cant dels ocells [2:20]
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano), Manuel Garcia Morante (piano)
rec. live, Palan de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, 10 May 1987
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0175 [77:17]

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When Victoria de los Angeles entered the stage in Barcelona to give the inaugural concert for the radio station Catalunyia Música in May 1987, she had behind her a career of more than 45 years, having made her operatic debut at the age of 18 in 1941. And she continued for several years more. I heard her at Wigmore Hall in April 1990, giving an all-French recital and in 1992 she sang at the Olympic Games in Barcelona – a recording of Montsalvatge’s Madrigal, based on the folk song El cant dels ocells, from that occasion was included in the GROC disc The Maiden and the Nightingale, released about a year ago (review). Her singing is lovely on that recording as it was at that Wigmore Hall recital. I seem to remember that she gave two recitals the same week and the one I didn’t attend was recorded and issued by Collins Classics. It would be interesting to see that disc reissued (Naxos, please note!).

Considering the present disc from Barcelona 1987 I am afraid that even die-hard los Angeles fans need a substantial helping of indulgence to overlook the shortcomings. First of all there is a very lop-sided recording balance with the piano very close and the singer seemingly several yards away. To hear the pianissimo singing you need to turn up the volume several notches and then the piano hits you right in solar plexus. The singing in itself is also very compromised. Voice production is uneven, the tone often shallow and unsteady and intonation tends to be suspect. She employs portamento generously (portamento is the technique to join adjacent notes by sliding from one note to the next), which also gives the impression of her singing out of tune.

The reverse side of the coin is that her girlish timbre is easily recognizable, that there is no loosening of vibrato and that her handling of the texts and her phrasing are as delicate as they were during her heydays. This is, however, not enough to compensate for the deficiencies. Some songs are better than others and in general it is the livelier songs that fare best. Die Forelle is as light and bouncy as it should be but unfortunately the poor fish is all but drenched by the piano. Schubert’s Wiegenlied has moments of great beauty while Brahms’ beautiful Wie Melodien zieht as mir is a near-catastrophe. Mendelssohn’s Auf Flügeln des Gesanges was included in the A World of Song recital, issued more than twenty years before this concert and even by then there were moments of unsteadiness, but not as pronounced as here. The phrasing is just as exquisite but the actual sounds are much more approximate.

Some of the Catalan songs are quite acceptable, especially Margarideta, which is lively and humoristic, but it is only in the first two encores that she is anywhere near success. Maja de Goya is excellent and the Seguidilla from Carmen, one of her regular extras, is also good.

The audience is enthusiastic and of course a live occasion is something quite different from a recording where the microphone mercilessly catches every little defect but nothing of the atmosphere. Moreover the ovations are also a tribute to the singer as a person, much loved by the people of her native city and just to show the warm reception before she had even opened her mouth the full applause at her first entrance is included and separately banded, lasting 42 seconds. After that every single number is followed by long applause and ovations which, I believe, could be nice the first time but for repeated hearing they should have been edited out.

The lyrics can be found on the record company’s website but the booklet has biographies on both Victoria de los Angeles and her pianist Manuel Garcia Morante who, due to the recording balance, becomes the leading character. He plays well but the recording is too bass heavy.

I don’t think it was a good idea to release this disc, which adds little to the overall picture of one of the loveliest sopranos from the last century. The inclusion of two Chopin songs is of course good – they should be heard more often – and the readings are among the better but that is not enough to make the disc worth the outlay.

Göran Forsling


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