It is hard not to feel some sympathy with composers whose output
is largely forgotten apart from a single work; even more so with
those whose output is wholly forgotten. It is therefore very welcome
that even in these straitened times Naxos continues to issue recordings
of the lesser known works of such composers.
have listened recently with great pleasure to their issue of
the Symphony by Ruperto
Chapí, Bretón’s great rival – they shared the composition
prize at the Madrid Conservatory in 1872. It is appropriate
that they should now provide an opportunity for us to compare
it with the orchestral music of Bretón.
is best known for a single work – the one Act zarzuela
“La Verbena de la Paloma” of 1894. Christopher
Webber in “The Zarzuela Companion” describes it as perhaps
the greatest zarzuela of all. I therefore approached
the present disc with considerable interest. I was not disappointed.
The first item – the “Escenas Andaluzas” (Andalusian Scenes)
– is described as popular, although I must admit to not having
heard it before, and previous recordings are not thick on the
ground. It is a suite in four movements – Bolero, Polo, Marcha
y saeta and Zapateado. Each is full of colour and the kind of
rhythms and textures that non-Spaniards at least associate with
Spain. It is in every way comparable to similar music by Massenet,
Bizet and others. Indeed it is arguable that their works sound
– again, to a non-Spaniard – more likely to have originated
in the country. At times the orchestration and working out here
has a heavier feel to it, although not to the music’s detriment.
The movements are all varied and colourful, and it would be
good to have the chance of hearing it in the concert hall one
day. In the meantime this well recorded and idiomatically played
disc is very welcome. The symphonic serenade En la Alhambra
is similar in character and also well worth hearing.
Preludes to four of Bretón’s operas are all interesting and
pleasurable works, even if what we hear does not seem to bear
much relation to the descriptions in the otherwise helpful notes
by Victor Sánchez Sánchez. The opera “Garin”, for instance,
apparently has a story very similar to that of Tannhäuser, and
“Los Amantes de Terurel” concerns a tragic love story and is
said to have a Prelude summarizing the musical tensions of that
story. The mixture of styles, from the kind of dramatic gesture
we might associate with, say, Litolff, Lortzing or Sullivan,
to Spanish-style textures and melodies not dissimilar to those
in the Suite, is nonetheless very winning.
in all, this is a very attractive disc that will suit anyone with
a taste for the more colourful music of this period or a more
general interest in the music of Spain. Fortunately we can enjoy
the music of both Chapí and Bretón without feeling any need to
take sides between them.