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March 2022

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(as CD or FLAC or mp3 download)

Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El Amor Brujo (1915) [22:08]
Noches en los jardines de Espana (1916) [21:48]
Nan Merriman (mezzo); William Kapell (piano)
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. live, Carnegie Hall, New York, 21 March 1948 (Amor); 13 November 1949 (Noches). Mono. ADD
PRISTINE XR PASC 174 [44:44]
Experience Classicsonline

As far as I am aware this is the first time these live concert recordings have appeared on disc.

There are times in this version of the full ballet El Amor Brujo when one is almost certain the furies have taken possession of the conductor. Listen to the initial Introduction and Scene. Stokowski's vehemence there and elsewhere verges on the splenetic. Other sections are more romantic and relaxed. The Ritual Fire Dance is taut and has a whiplash sting. Nan Merriman assumes the raw, harsh and smoky manner of the Iberian singing tradition and does so to good effect. Stokowski makes something special of this score even if the product sometimes seems rushed. In Pantomime the great cello melody - a tune with long and shapely legs - is spun with wonderfully lissom tonal weight.

Nights in the Gardens of Spain is a luxury item with Kapell at the keyboard. However as a reading it strikes me as superficial overall with little of the poetry or depth to be experienced from say Haskil, Larrocha or Soriano. It's rather a contrast with the special El amor brujo not to mention the equally glorious Stokowski Tchaikovsky 5 (International Festival Youth Orchestra ) I have just heard on Cameo Classics. The latter is complete with a compulsive-listening extended rehearsal sequence.

These are taken from second generation tapes of radio broadcasts complete with a Spanish announcement at the end of El Amor and in English for Noches.

There are notes and a detailed track-list.

The Pristine processing leaves in place a bristling low-key bed of analogue background. At the same time Andrew Rose's restorative work preserves what sounds like an essentially healthy signal.

These are each in their way rather special performances and of great interest to both Stokowski collectors and de Falla enthusiasts.

Rob Barnett



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