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Ataúlfo Argenta – Zarzuela and Spanish Orchestral Music
Ruperto CHAPI (1851-1909)
“La Revoltosa” Preludio* [4:54]
Reveriano SOUTULLO (1884-1932)
“La leyanda del beso” Preludio [5:42]
Federico CHUECA (1846-1908)
“La Gran Via” Introduction [5:02]
Pablo LUNA (1879-1942)
“El Niño judio” [3:58]
Tomás BRETÓN (1850-1923)
En la Alhambra – Serenata* [6:58]; Bolero de concierto* [4:35]
Jesús GURIDÍ (1886-1961)
Dies melodies vascas [19:33]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
“Goyescas” Intermezzo [4:28]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909) Navarra [5:50]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
La procesion del Rocio [8:48]; La oración del torero [8:08]

Orquesta Nacional de España/Ataúlfo Argenta; *Gran Orquesta Sinfónica/Ataúlfo Argenta
rec. Madrid, 1953-1956
MEDICI ARTS MM034-2 [78:43] 


Experience Classicsonline

Right from the start – Chapi’s Prelude to “La Revoltosa” – we hear the tangy, even raw, orchestral sounds and idiomatic rhythms that are typical of this disc. One after another - although best not heard that way - come a chain of picturesque and tuneful pieces, all worth hearing and none outstaying their welcome. The first five tracks are all from zarzuelas. Apart from the Chapi they are perhaps not the most subtly composed of music, but they each make their point succinctly and set up an expectation for the opera that is to come. Once again they raise the question as to why zarzuela is not generally popular in Anglo-Saxon countries. I could imagine any of these examples working splendidly at, say, the Buxton Festival or one of the many country-house operas now common in England. In the meantime this disc has to be yet another substitute, and it does that very well.

The other pieces are more serious and perhaps better known. The two short pieces by Bretón are particularly delightful and I was pleased to hear them again soon after the recent Naxos disc of orchestral music by the composer. That also includes these pieces in similarly idiomatic performances but more recently and more clearly recorded. The present versions do however perhaps have slightly more rhythmic verve although both are very worth hearing. The Guridí is a suite of Basque dances; essentially similar in style but not manner to, say, William Alwyn’s Scottish and English Dances. A pleasant work with some delightful harmonic and orchestral touches if not one I expect to listen to often. The music by Granados, Albéniz and Turina is better known and is played here for all it is worth. The recording is somewhat raw at times but in this music I did not find that it bothered me greatly. 

I have been writing about the music rather than the conductor in whose honour the disc has presumably been issued, not because there is anything wrong with the latter but because one of Argenta’s great qualities is that of not obtruding himself between the listener and the music. He simply (!) seems to ensure that the music is played in an idiomatic and characterful way so as to let it speak to its best advantage. Of course there is much more to it than that, and this kind of rhythmic dash and affectionate phrasing is not achieved without a good understanding between the conductor and the orchestras and much hard work. For the listener, however, it is the result that matters and, for this one at least, that is pure delight all the way through. Whatever limitations there may be in the recording this is a very worthwhile reissue which deserves to be followed by more from this source.

John Sheppard


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