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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Rhapsodie Espagnole (1907) [15:41]
Isaac Manuel Francesco ALBENIZ (1860-1909)
Iberia (Evocacion; El corpus en Sevilla; Triana; El Puerto; El Albaicin) (orch. Enrique Fernandez Arbos) (1907) [30:51]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El sombrero de tres picos (1919) [32:32]
Dresdner Philharmonie/Jörg-Peter Weigle
rec. April 1989, Lukaskirche, Dresden. ADD

Fine German recordings of Spanish atmosphere pieces are not unknown. I think of several Universal anthologies including Margrit Weber's DG Nights in the Gardens of Spain. However, the present disc is very good – outstanding, in fact.
In the case of the Ravel you have probably already opted for Monteux or Paray or Ozawa and you cannot go far wrong there. Weigle's approach, aided by a simply magnificent recording is just perfect. Listen to the slurs in the Habanera and to an atmosphere that you can cut with a Toledo blade at the start of the Prélude à la nuit. Examples of this sultry and volatile music-making abound but the cresting orgasmic wave of the end of Feria is notably magnificent; such a pity that Weigle was not moved to record Chabrier's España.  For the next piece we are led yet further into the Peninsula with Iberia. The gentle Evocación contrasts with the pinnacles, spires and clamour of bells that seem to throng El Corpus. Triana dances in gaudy colour but with delicacy to the fore. El Puerto pictures the harbourside, hectic, noisy, bombastic, confident - predictive of Ibert's Escales. El Albaicin is a portrait of Granada's gypsy quarter - busy and tense, explosive and dangerous. This thirty minute suite deserves far more attention. It is more of the twentieth century than of the nineteenth - just in case you were wondering. Arbos's colourful orchestration makes a fine case for this little heard music.
De Falla's El Sombrero de tres picos is the most successful of his ballets. It has the impressionistic refulgence of the Ravel but a denser and even more muscular capacity for climactic explosion. Weigle is once again the master of texture, dynamic and rhythm - hear him as he accelerates the orchestra out of La Tarde and into the Dance of the Miller's Wife. Has El Corregidor ever sounded as self-importantly pompous yet affable than in the hands of Weigle's bassoonist? The harp-spun and tight-twisted rhythmic work in Las uvas (The Grapes) is a delight. Dynamic is just so pleasingly and deliberately gripped by Weigle in The Miller's Dance. The Danza finale is just as eruptive as it should be and then as rushingly urgent as if the whole village boisterously bursts onto the Spanish countryside with an unstoppable energy. Bass-drum thuds, flashing woodwind, brusque scudding strings, heaving and smashing tuttis. Extremely impressive and perfectly judged.
Superb music-making. A tonic for jaded palates.
Rob Barnett


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