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Victoria de los Angeles - Spanish Songs
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano)
Gerald Moore (piano – tracks 1-19)
Renata Tarragó (guitar – tracks 20-36)
Digital recording transferred by Nimbus Records in 2007 from LP and 78rpm discs originally rec. 6 and 7 May 1949 (1, 4, 9, 10), 21 and 22 June 1950 (2, 3, 5, 6), 30 May 1953 (7, 8, 11, 12), 12 September 1951 (13–19), 12–14 September 1950 (20–36), ADD

Experience Classicsonline

  Enrique GRANADOS (1867–1916)
Colección de Tonadillas (1910): [8:18]
1. El mirar de la maja, No. 5 [3:06]
2. La maja dolorosa, No. 11 [3:38]
3. El majo discreto, No. 3 [1:34]
Joaquín VALVERDE (1846–1910)

4. Clavelitos [1:53]
Jesús GURIDI (1886–1961)

Canciones Castellanas (1943):
5. No. 4: No quiero tus avellanas [3:41]
6. No. 5: Cómo quieres que adivine [2:24]
Joaquín NIN (1879–1949)

7. El vito (possibly between 1920-1939) [1:58]
8. Paño Murciano (possibly between 1920-1939) [1:53]
Joaquín TURINA (1882–1949)

Triptico (1928?):
9. Farruca [3:21]
Ernesto FUSTÉ (1884–1972)

10. Háblame de amores (no date found) [2:57]
Amadeo VIVES (1871–1932)

11. El retrato de Isabela (no date found) [2:12]
12. El amor y los ojos (no date found) [2:13]
Manuel de FALLA (1876–1946)

Siete canciones populares Españolas (1914): [12:35]
13. I El paño moruno [1:12]
14. II Seguidilla murciana [1:20]
15. III Asturiana [2:33]
16. IV Jota [2:50]
17. V Nana [1:39]
18. VI Canción [1:10]
19. VII Polo [1:51]
Traditional Songs of Spain (arranged by Graciano Tarragó):
20. El Rossinyol (The Nightingale) (Catalonia) [2:18]
21. El Testament d’Amelia (Amelia’s Will) (Catalonia) [3:30]
22. Adiós meu homiño! (Goodbye, my dearest) (Galicia) [1:50]
23. Miña nay por me casare (The Dowry) (Galicia) [1:12]
24. Tengo que subir, subir (I must go to the mountain) (Asturias) [2:57]
25. Ahí tienes mi corazón (Here is my heart) (Castilian Fandango) [1:47]
26. La ví llorando (I saw her crying) (Old Castile-Santander) [1:32]
27. Ya se van los Pastores (The shepherds are singing) (Old Castile-Soria) [1:54]
28. Campanas de Belén (Bells of Bethlehem) (Andalusia) [1:06]
29. Jaeneras (Songs of Jaen) (Andalusia) [2:22]
30. A dormer ahora mesmo (Cradle Song) (Murcia) [2:54]
31. Granadinas (Songs of Granada) (Andalusia) [2:44]
32. Hincarse de rodillas (Prayer) (Andalusia) [3:18]
33. Canción de trilla (Song sung at haymaking) (Majorca) [1:40]
34. Parado de Vallemosa (Bolero) (Majorca) [1:40]
35. Nik Baditut (My possessions) (Basque Province) [2:03]
36. Andregaya (The betrothed) (Basque Province) [0:50]

Victoria de los Angeles (1923-2005) was a so-called "living legend" and as such nearly impossible to write about. Her career was amazing and immensely long. In 1939, approaching her 16th birthday, she auditioned for the then principal teacher of the Barcelona Conservatorio, Dolores Frau, and was enrolled on a six-year course, which she completed in three. In February 1940, she was entered for and won the Radio Barcelona Competition. Her operatic debut came on 13 January 1945 at the Grand Teatre del Liceo, in Barcelona, as the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. She never looked back and went on to have a fabulously distinguished career, performing in all the greatest opera houses, with a widely varied repertoire that included Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Strauss and even Wagner, as well as various popular and classic Spanish composers. Her last live performances were, in 1992, at the opening of the Barcelona Olympic Games where she sang one aria, and at Wigmore Hall, in London, the following year. She also recorded numerous recital and complete opera discs between 1948 and 1978.

Those who have heard Victoria de los Angeles sing live say her voice was not just beautiful but also had a lovely, warm and dark tone with an incredible range that distinguished her as one of the great sopranos of the post-war period, alongside such names as Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004) and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006). Her vocal and dramatic range was unusual, as she could convincingly sing operas as diverse as Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Die Meistersinger, La Traviata and Madama Butterfly. She was not only notable for her operatic roles but also for her concerts and recitals. Apart from the great opera arias, she always added Spanish music to her appearances, often accompanying herself on the guitar, especially during the encores.

This CD, a compilation of recordings she made between 1949 and 1953, is dedicated solely to Spanish Songs, as indicated by its title. Some songs are from well known popular and classic Spanish composers, such as Granados and Falla; others, the vast majority of the album, are traditional songs from the different regions of Spain.

From the historical point of view, this is a very interesting compilation, however, to my mind, it shows only one side of an artist who was extremely versatile and therefore it is not fully representative of her art. He voice sounds pure, beautiful and clear throughout. The digital transfer is of very good quality and it is obvious that great care went into producing it, to try to give the listener a realistic, colourful picture of the true sound of de los Angeles’ voice, at the peak of her powers. This is better achieved in the opening Tonadillas by Enrique Granados and then in Manuel de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares Españolas, to me, the best and most enjoyable part of the compilation. The accompaniment provided by Gerald Moore (1899-1987) is excellent throughout, giving us lively interpretations, suitably enhancing and supporting the singing.

The second part of this recital and what constitutes the bulk of the CD, is entirely dedicated to various traditional Spanish songs, collected from the different regions of the country and arranged by Graciano Tarragó (1892-1973), the father of Renata Tarragó (1927-2005), who provides the musical accompaniment on the guitar. I have to say that I am not a great fan of traditional Spanish music and that is possibly the reason why I did not enjoy this part very much. Victoria de los Angeles’ voice is beautiful throughout and, as in the other compositions, one can notice its warmth, beauty of tone and wide range. This is particularly impressive in its highest register where she avoids stridency; always singing the notes rather than just belting them out, approaching a screaming sound, which is sometimes the downside of many good soprano voices. I found however that she lacked vivacity and expressiveness in these songs though this could also be due to the fact that the originals were old recordings. Of the seventeen traditional songs on offer here, her voice is heard to best effect in El Rossinyol (The Nightingale from Catalonia), Granadinas (Songs from Granada in Andalusia), Canción de trilla (Song sang at haymaking from Majorca) and Andregaya (The Betrothed from the Basque Province), perhaps because they were closer to her heart or simply because she just happened to sing them better. Renata Tarragó’s guitar sounds wonderful throughout; her performance is virtuosic at times, demonstrating what a great guitarist she was. The warm sound of the instrument mixes harmoniously with her lovely voice, leaving one with a pleasing, optimistic feeling at the end of the CD.

The disc comes with a booklet with a detailed biography by Alan Bilgora. His article is long but very informative and interesting to read. There is a minor point though, which could be misleading. At the bottom of page 4, the author mentions that de Los Angeles "… studied guitar with Teresa Garcia and Graciano Tarragó, the mother of Renata, who later accompanied Victoria in recital." I am not sure who was Renata’s mother but Graciano Tarragó was most definitely her father. This however does not diminish the excellent information about Victoria de los Angeles’ life and work. The booklet also contains a synopsis in English of the traditional Spanish songs and refers the reader to a website where the full translation of the lyrics can be found.

As I have mentioned earlier, the digital transfer was done with great care in order to reproduce the voice and the sound of the music is as close to the real thing as possible. However, I always find that no matter how hard the sound engineers try, they can never give the quality of a digital recording to a digital transfer. The voice always sounds slightly muffled and a little distorted in its highest register and the instruments a little distant, almost as if the musicians were in a different room to the singer.

I know Victoria de los Angeles’ voice, as well as the voices of all the great singers of the time, only from their recordings. These never reproduce the true sound of a singer performing live in concert or in an opera and it often prejudices my appreciation of the voices of great singers of the past, of which hers is one. I often feel that singing has simply got better through the years; opera singers are nowadays fitter and approach their work in a more professional manner, both on their daily practise and their preparation for a new role or a recital. So, at the risk of being accused of sacrilege, I find myself thinking if such legendary singers as de los Angeles, Tebaldi, Caruso or even Callas, were really as good as the papers reported at the time or if audiences were less demanding than they are today. In any case she possessed a lovely, warm voice, clear and pure and it still sounded good when she sang at the opening of the Barcelona Olympics though the ten years younger Montserrat Caballé was more impressive.

Nevertheless, this compilation of Spanish Songs, taken from original recordings, in the early years of her career, is a good historical document of the more popular side of one of the greatest sopranos of the post-war period. Certainly a CD to have, if you are a lover of Spanish popular and traditional music or an undying fan of Victoria de los Angeles.

Margarida Mota-Bull

See also review by Goran Forsling






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