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July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
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CD: Columna Musica

Eduard TOLDRÀ (1895-1962)
Complete works for voice and piano
See the complete track listing after the review.
Assumpta Mateu (soprano), Lluís Vilamajó (tenor), Francisco Poyato (piano)
No recording details
Texts but no translations
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0190 [74:18 + 74:27]

Experience Classicsonline

Eminent singers such as Supervia and de los Angeles have essayed some of Toldrà’s songs in their recitals and indeed, in the case of both these singers, on disc, but a collection of the complete songs is very rare to find. The songs, and the collections from which they derive, are presented chronologically in this two disc set - with texts but no English or other language translations by the way - and thus begin with Menta i farigola of 1915 and end with his 1960 settings, though the real end is a kind of appendix of his popular Spanish song arrangements of 1941.

This allows us a broad sweep of the composer’s songs, though those looking for stylistic changeability will, by and large, look in vain. Toldrà was a consistent composer and at his best the artless simplicity of his settings, and their affirmative qualities, inevitably leave a happy impression.

It helps that the singers in this set, Assumpta Mateu (soprano) and Lluís Vilamajó (tenor), who either sing small batches or alternate within sets, have unfussy, well focused voices. They never try to inflate the ingratiating lyrics, always identified - Toldrà was particular about whom he set - and sing with warmth and discretion. If this sounds a little on the small-scale sound, then I would say that this approach suits the temper of many of these songs. Certainly Supervia could be relied on to sing with insinuating panache, but she never sang a complete recital of the composer’s music. Heard in bulk, these performances work very well.

The piano writing is invariably alive, not merely subservient. In Els obercocs i les petites collidores one can hear the debt Toldrà owed to Granados. Francisco Poyato plays with taste and imagination and the triumvirate certainly make a fine case for even the earliest of the music. I’d draw your attention to the ripely romantic Matinal - a brief two minute setting - or the ultra-rich Cancó d’un bell amor with its hints of Hahn. It’s not all clement weather. Canco de grumet, from the 1923 collection called L’ombra del lledoner, is turbulent, dramatic and unselfconsciously extrovert and unbuttoned.

Elsewhere we can find the occasional drifting, impressionist harmonies, and also guitar and harp evocations - these last in La vida de la galera from the 1923 collection already cited, an unusually (for Toldrà) old school style. Toldra’s own brand of Barcelonan populism included a kind of updated Neapolitan song, but this was a proudly Catalan affair with nobility and defiance as well as charm. Try Cororococ! for example. He was a witty composer too, as many a song attests, and clearly listened to Richard Strauss amongst other contemporaries - the late 20s setting of Cancó de l’oblit strongly suggests that influence.

The dual influence of Debussy and de Falla seems to have persisted in his songs into the late 1930s and probably beyond. The wartime settings are mellifluous and lyrical, the occasional teasing caesuri attesting to his still intact sense of wit. After the war there were only a few remaining songs, none memorable. The song arrangements set ends on a high with a duet of droll charm from the two singers.

Freshness and clarity are two of the qualities specifically noted by booklet writer Manuel Capdevila i Font as necessary to perform a song like El giravolt de maig, one of his best songs. These qualities actually infuse the singing of all of these songs, which is wholly admirable. The recording quality is also unproblematic.

Toldrà wrote 71 songs, of which 21 were harmonisations of popular songs. At his best his melodic gift raises him high, and indeed pre-eminent among Catalan composers. Heard in small groups, they still evoke a time and place with vivid immediacy.

Jonathan Woolf

CD 1
Menta i farigola (1915) [0:48]
El rei Lear (1915) [1:47]
Els obercocs i les petites collidores(1915) [1:40]
Romança sense paraules (1915) [1:00]
Festeig (1915) [2:25]
Matinal (1916) [1:54]
L'hort (1920) [2:30]
Cançó d'un bell amor (1920) [4:09]
Abril (1920) [1:45]
Maig (1920) [2:50]
Canticel (1923) [1:45]
El gessamí i la rosa [2:25]
L'ombra del lledoner (1924); A l’ombra dell lledoner [3:40]; Cançó de comiat [3:20]; Cançó de grumet [2:18]; Cançó de bressol [4:52]; La vida de la galera [3:35]
Romanç de Santa Llúcia (1924) [1:43]
Les garbes dormen al camp (1923) [2:00]
Vinyes verdes vora el mar (1924) [1:50]
Cançó de l'amor que passa (1925) [3:50]
El gessami I la rosa (1925) [1:20]
Recança (1926) [1:50]
A muntanya (1926) [2:02]
Camins de fada (1926) [1:35]
Cançó de vela (1926) [3:05]
Cocorococ! (1926) [1:50]
Garba (1927-29) Cançó incerta [3:05]: Anacreontica [2:18]:. Cançó de l'oblit [2:12]: La mar estava alegra [0:53]:Cançó de passar cantant [1:50]: Platxèria [1:23]
CD 2
Garba (cont.): Esplai [1:53]; Floreix l'ametller [1:55]; Divendres Sant [3:25]
La rosa als llavis (1936); Si anessis tan lluny [1:50]; Mocador d’olor [1:25]; I el seu esgaurd…[1:45]; I el vent deixava dintre la rosella…[1:45]; Seré a ta cambra amiga [2:25]; Visca l’amor [1:30]
Seis canciones (1940-41); La zagala alegre [2:45] Cantarcillo [3:30]; Madre, unos ojuelos vi [2:25]; Mañanita de San Juan [2:27]; Nadie puede ser dichoso [2:02]; Después que te conocí ]3:25]
Muntanya d'amor (1947) [3:00]
As floriñas dos toxos (1951) [2:20]
Aquarel·la del Montseny (1960) )2:35]
Harmonització de cançons populars - Nou cançons populars catalanes (1933); Matinet me'n llevo jo [1:06]; El pardal [3:55]; De Mataró vàrem venir [1:37]; Flor d'olivar [1:38]; El rei n'ha fetes fer crides [1:06]; Ai, minyons que aneu pel món [1:19]; Sota el pont d'or [1:26]; La quadrille [0:53] ; L'Alabau [1:04]
Doce canciones populares españolas (1941): Con el picotín [1:02]; La panaderita [1:25]; No llores, niña [1:34]; Els tres tambors [1:22]; La "bamba" (El columpio) [1:34]; La perrita chita (cançó de bressol) [1:52]; El pájaro era verde [0:44]; Nit de vetlla [2:14]; Lorenzo y Catalina [1:28]; Yoan nintzan merkatura [1:10]; Clo, clo [1:18]; Tengo un arbolito [1:34]




























































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