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Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Rapsodia Sinfónica, Op.66* (1931) [9:01]
Danzas Fantásticas, Op.22** (1920) [17:00]
Sinfonía Sevillana, Op.23*** (1920) [24:14]
La Procesión del Rocio, Op.9+  (1912) [14:21]
La Oración del Torero, Op.34+ [6:28]
*Frank Wibaut (piano); ***David Nolan (violin); *** Geoffrey Brown (cor anglais);
*/**/***London Philharmonic Orchestra; +Mexico City Philharmonic/Enrique Bátiz
rec. St Peter’s Morden, London, 1983 (LPO); Sala Nezahualcoyoti, Mexico City. DDD
REGIS RRC1299 [71:52] 
Experience Classicsonline

This very inexpensive Regis reissue joins a number of recommendable bargain recordings of Spanish music on the label.  The present recordings were originally made by Brian Culverhouse, from whom they have been licensed, as noted in the booklet.  What the notes don’t make clear is that they have all been round the block several times, though none the worse for that; the Sinfonía Sevillana appeared on EMI CDC7 49542-2 and the two items performed by the Mexican orchestra were released by ASV on CDDCA735.  The other items also originally appeared on EMI, on LP, and the whole collection was last issued by IMG (IMGCD1608), much too long ago for it to have been reviewed here on MusicWeb.

If you like the music of Albeniz and de Falla, you’ll probably respond favourably to their slightly younger contemporary, Turina, though you should be prepared for a rather less talented and more up-front composer.  The Concise Grove refers to Turina’s grace and wit, not exactly qualities which I would associate with this programme.  I lean rather to the reference to colour and atmosphere in the article in the Oxford Companion to Music.  This is not music that I would play to be charmed; rather it’s music that would serve to cheer you up. 

The opening of the first piece, the Rapsodia, is a case in point – Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain are clearly a distant model, but the opening of this music is more in your face, especially in this close recording.  I immediately reduced the volume by 3dB from my normal listening position, which improved matters considerably.  The Rapsodia may not begin very rhapsodically, but it does quickly become more placid, more pensive – and more likeable. 

The performance matches the mood of the music at every point – Wibaut’s playing of the solo piano part is especially praiseworthy.  There is an alternative performance with the wonderful Alicia de la Larrocha as soloist, available as a Decca 2-CD set at lower mid price or as a super-bargain on Australian Eloquence; you may prefer her coupling, especially at the low Eloquence price, in the same lowest range as this Regis CD, as her version puts Turina in the context of other Spanish composers, Albéniz, Montsalvatge and Surinach (476 2971).  Paul Shoemaker recommended this recording, though he had reservations about the CD’s compatibility with all his players – see review. 

The Danzas Fantásticas are probably Turina’s best-known work, colourful music which receives an appropriately colourful performance.  Though originally written for the piano, it’s difficult to imagine this music, like Pictures from an Exhibition, in other than orchestral guise.  If you want the piano originals, however, Patrick Waller was reasonably pleased with the versions by Masó on Naxos, coupled with some of Turina’s other dance music for piano (8.557150 – see review.)  Steve Arloff was rather less impressed – see review: his comment that Turina emerges as a first-rate tenth-rate composer is perhaps a little harsh, but it’s not a million miles from my own position; I take his point that there are several other Spanish composers whose music I’d rate somewhat higher.

The Sinfonía Sevillana was composed as a tribute to that city.  Again, it’s attractive music; very appealing in parts, but it could hardly be described as top-rank, and it receives a sympathetic performance.  The three movements carry descriptive titles relating to aspects of the city – Panorama, Por el rio Guadalquivir - the river which runs through the city, oddly spelled Quadalquivir twice in the track listing - and Fiesta en San Juan de Aznalfarache – all very evocative, but this isn’t programme music in the manner of Strauss’s Alpine Symphony. 

The performances of all these pieces by the LPO are excellent – they play as if to the manner born, prepared to let their hair down but also to stress the more delicate aspects of the music where appropriate.  The remaining items are performed by the City of Mexico Philharmonic, a slightly more rough-and-ready body of musicians, whose style suits the two movements of la Procesión, a colourful early work, well.  The booklet quotes Sir Henry Wood’s comment that this music always went down well and the performance here shows why. 

The disc ends with the Bullfighter’s Prayer, a work more normally performed in its original chamber guise.  It sounds a little overblown in full orchestral dress here, but it remains effective in this form and it rounds off the programme well.  The City of Mexico Philharmonic are as well attuned to its mood as they were to la Procesión – this is the gracious side of Turina, to which Grove refers, but which is mostly lacking in the rest of the programme; it’s affective without being unduly so. 

I’ve already described the recording as close and benefiting from a volume reduction.  It came perilously close to sounding distorted at normal volume on a system that is fairly tolerant of high volumes, but I don’t want to give the impression that it’s other than appropriate for the music – brash where brashness is appropriate and delicate where delicacy is called for.  If the playing of the Mexican orchestra is a little more rough-and-ready than that of the LPO, the recording is, if anything, slightly less brash here.  Some original reviews of the ASV release of these works suggested problems which seem to have been smoothed out in the re-mastering. 

The notes in the booklet are more than adequate – something which can’t always be taken for granted in this price-range – and the booklet itself is attractively presented.  The compositor didn’t seem to be able to decide whether sinfonía needed an accent, as in the body of the notes, or not, as on the rear cover and insert. My dictionary says that it does. 

There’s no reason not to go for this reissued CD, especially at the price, which I liked much better the second time round.  If, however, for any reason, you’re looking for an alternative in the same price-bracket, the Sinfonía, Danzas and Procesión are coupled with Ritmos on a Naxos CD (8.555955) which Jonathan Woolf recommended some time ago – see review. 

Brian Wilson


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