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Victoria de los Angeles
Spanish Songs

Enrique GRANADOS (1867–1916)

Colección de Tonadillas: [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]
Joaquin VALVERDE (1846–1910)

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

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

7. El vito [1:58]
8. Paño Murciano [1:53]
Joaquin TURINA (1882–1949)

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

10. Háblame de amores [2:57]
Amadeo VIVES (1871–1932)

11. El retrato de Isabela [2:12]
12. El amor y los ojos [2:13]
Manuel de FALLA (1876–1946)

Siete canciones populares Españolas: [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 Graciana 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 (soprano)
Gerald Moore (piano)(1–19), Renata Tarragó (guitar) (20–36)
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)

Having been enormously fond of Victoria de los Angeles from the earliest years of my record collecting, it was something of a slap in the face to receive, a couple of months ago, two discs with late recordings by her. The sound quality on one of them was atrocious, the other was only awful and their qualities were the greatest hindrance to enjoy her singing. It also seemed that the singing per se was less than consistently good with poor intonation in places and some strain on higher-lying passages. What was never in question was the warmth of the voice, the musical phrasing and the care for words.

These are also the qualities that immediately catch the ear on these early recordings; of drawbacks there are none. The purity and beauty of the voice, the intonation and the sheer love of what she is singing are all one could wish for and the recorded sound, excellent for its time, leaves nothing to be desired.

Skimming through my notes I see two words recurring. One is ‘lovely’, the other is ‘delicate’. They both appear in connection with the first three delectable songs from Granados’ Tonadillas and oh how I wished more of them had been included! These are among the finest songs, not only in Spanish but in the total oeuvre of songs, and no one – a personal view of course – has ever sung them better. Not even Montserrat Caballé on her all-Granados RCA recording from the mid-1960s – but she is on the same level. She sings them with orchestra though and Victoria de los Angeles is even more intimate when being accompanied by Gerald Moore’s ‘guitar’. Guitar? Yes, the accompaniment to, especially, La maja dolorosa, is so ‘guitaristic’ and Moore avoids any tendency to percussiveness, stroking the ivory so gently as though caressing nylon strings.

There is so much to admire in this recital and I can only touch upon some personal favourites.

Clavelitos, for instance, light and bouncy and with a little chuckle of pleasure in the voice. Jesús Guridi, a composer I have ‘discovered’ lately, has produced a couple of gems that are sung with both brilliance and warmth – not a self-evident combination. Nin, with some bolder harmonies, is also fascinating and the little known Fusté’s Háblame de amores is a – yes – lovely song. Vives is better known but still no household name and the two songs here are just as attractive.

The title of de Falla’s famous song cycle has sometimes been translated "Seven Popular Spanish Songs" which is a misinterpretation, since "populares" means "of the people". They are folksongs and as such they could do with a degree of ‘earthiness’: they come from the Spanish soil. This is perhaps the only characteristic that was missing in Victoria de los Angeles’ armoury. Her Carmen, to which she came late in life on stage, was arguably too civilized a woman. She need not be portrayed as a snarling tigress but she needs some soil under her nails. Concerning de Falla’s song cycle one could, with some justification, raise the objection that it is, after all, a collection of art songs, ‘based on’ songs of the people and I believe that there is room for more than one attitude. Victoria de los Angeles’ great predecessor, Conchita Supervia, was a little more down to earth in her legendary recording (once available – at least in Sweden – on Parlophone PO 153/55), but she was a mezzo-soprano. On the other hand the greatest Spanish mezzo-soprano of the second half of the 20th century, Teresa Berganza, recorded the songs with guitar accompaniment – Narciso Yepes no less – and this also automatically lends a more intimate atmosphere to the readings. True, she applies some meaty chest-notes to the concluding Polo but in the main hers is also a civilized interpretation. They have long been my favourites, even though I have a, possibly, perverse affection for José Carreras’s Philips recording – the only one I know of with a male singer.

For the remainder of the disc there is absolutely no reason for objections. These seventeen traditional songs from all over Spain form a cornucopia of beautiful melodies, of rhythms and flavour that is irresistible. The careful arrangements, the discreet accompaniments and – once again – the lovely singing make this a collection to return to over and over again, to get inspiration from and to spend endless hours of fruitful comparison of regional styles. Victoria de los Angeles singing is so pure, so natural and there is nothing of the artificiality one can sometimes feel when classically schooled singers take on traditional material. Most of all one feels that she sings from the depth of her heart. Just listen to El Rossinyol and I bet no one – except those few who have hearts of stone – can avoid being trapped. The simple innocence of Ya son van los Pastores is another, and Campanas de Belén (Bells of Bethlehem) also goes direct to the heart. A couple of the songs have long introductions by the guitar, where Renata Tarragó shows what a fine player she is and this also reminds me that Victoria de los Angeles used to accompany herself on the guitar in the encores. The marching bolero Parado de Vallemosa, from Majorca, is a true vitamin injection and the short and lively Basque song Andregaya is a perfect encore.

The booklet has a long and comprehensive biography by Alan Bilgora, there is a bibliography and also synopses for the traditional songs, while there is a reference to a website for the texts and translations of the other songs.

Summary: Lovely!

Göran Forsling


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