Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946)
El amor brujo (Love, the Magician)
1. Introduction … In the cave [2:25]
2. Song of suffering love [1:31]
3. The phantom … Dance of terror [2:17]
4. The magic circle … midnight [2:55]
5. Ritual fire dance [3:50]
6. Scene [1:36]
7. Song of the will-o’-the wisp [1:36]
8. Pantomime [4:41]
9. Dance of the game of love [2:47]
10. Finale: Morning bells [1:16]
El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat)
11. Introduction [1:31]
12. Afternoon [5:10]
13. Dance of the miller’s wife [3:34]
14. The grapes [4:01]
15. The neighbours’ dance [3:14]
16. The miller’s dance [6:29]
17. The corregidor’s dance [5:58]
18. Final dance [6:23]
from La vida breve
19. Danza Española, No. 1 [3:31]
Marina de Gabarain (mezzo) (El amor brujo); Suzanne Danco (soprano) (El sombrero de tres picos); L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet
rec. Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, May 1952 (El sombrero de tres picos); October 1955 (El amor brujo, Danza Española)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 0077 [64:33]

The Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet (1883–1969) was an avid champion for the contemporary music of his day and one of the first classical musicians to realize the potential of jazz. As early as 1919 he wrote an article praising Sidney Bechet. At that time (1915–1923) he was conductor of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and gave the premieres of several works by Stravinsky, including Pulcinella. He also conducted de Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat in Paris 1919, with Massine’s choreography and sets and costumes by Picasso. Stravinsky became a close friend and Ansermet recorded a great number of his works, many of them more than once. But his de Falla recordings also cover several pages in his discography and El sombrero de tres picos was set down twice: the present mono version was followed a decade later by a spectacular stereo remake with Teresa Berganza as soloist.

El amor brujo and the dance from La vida breve were recorded in stereo but sonically they are no match for what Decca’s technicians could achieve just a few years later. That said, they are not bad and listened to in their own right, without making comparisons, they have a great deal to offer. Today we do not expect the instrumental solos to be highlighted to such a degree as they are here, but this no doubt compensates for the lack of lustre in the recording. This is colourful music where details need to be heard. Listening to this recording it is a bit like watching parts of a painting with a magnifying glass: the colours are separated instead of integrated. Marina de Gagarain is a singer seemingly steeped in the flamenco tradition with powerful chest-notes. Authentic I would say though others might regard it as unsophisticated. The readings are hard to criticize – Ansermet knew this music inside-out. It is valuable to have this document where the conductor had a hotline to the composer. However, if I wanted a vintage reading of this work in still absolutely superb sound and conducted with a precision and intensity that is hard to beat anywhere, then it must be the RCA recording with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony.

El sombrero de tres picos, in early mono sound, is even more constricted, in fact this has such dated sound that it takes quite some time to adjust and to start listening properly. String tone is thin and wiry and dynamics are limited. Moreover is it distantly recorded. Suzanne Danco is even further away and makes little impact. Again the conducting is rhythmically alert and the music is sensible paced. The historical importance should not be overlooked. The disc sells at super-budged price and thus readers who like this music but feel unconvinced by my review could risk a purchase and still have bread and butter for the week to come. A better proposition is, however, Maximiano Valdès’ Naxos recording (see review), with exactly the same coupling.

Göran Forsling