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Canciones Españolas
see end of review for track listing
Sylvia Schwartz (soprano); Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. All Saints’ Church, East Finchley, London, 26-28 February 2012
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
HYPERION CDA67954 [67:58]

My first LP many years ago was a Montserrat Caballé collection of songs by Granados, so the first third of this disc evokes agreeable memories. So does the last part of the disc: Montsalvatge’s Cinco canciones negras was also a fairly early acquaintance when Teresa Berganza sang them at a concert at Cirkus in Stockholm - this was long before the Berwald Hall was built. At the same concert, incidentally, I also heard Janáček’s Sinfonietta for the first time. Both these works have been great favourites ever since. The songs in between have come to my knowledge mainly in later years - at least some of them. Conchita Supervia before the war and Victoria de los Angeles afterwards did a lot to establish this repertoire outside Spain. Here now we have a Spanish soprano of the present generation, who seems well equipped to carry the tradition further. Like de los Angeles she is particularly good at expressing intimacy and lyrical emotion. This is at once obvious in the very first number, La maja y el ruiseñor, the aria from the opera Goyescas, where her lovely pianissimo is truly enticing. El majo discreto, one of my personal favourites; it’s elegant without being haughty. Then again, just listen to Amor y odio (tr. 4): her soft singing here is exquisite. I bet you will be won over by this song alone. All the Granados songs are shimmering gems and even though you may have three or four versions in your collection it will be a treat to add Sylvia Schwartz to that company. I have returned to several of the songs already: La maja de Goya (tr. 5) with its long prelude, the humoristic El tra-la-la y el punteado (tr. 7), the harmonically bold and deeply serious¡Oh, muerte cruel! (tr. 8) and De aquel majo amante (tr. 10).
 
The six Castilian songs that follow are traditional examples harmonized by Guridi. As it happens they enjoy expressive and sometimes rather advanced accompaniments. Theirs is a very special flavour. Much the same applies to Turina’s more seriousThree poems, settings of texts by Gustavo Adolfo Béquer (1836 - 1870). Eduardo Toldrá’s two spring songs April andMay are more run-of-the-mill but utterly pleasant and rather conservative considering that they were written in 1920.
 
The only works by Xavier Montsalvatge that are more generally known are his Five Negro songs from 1945-46. Their popularity is well deserved. There is such haunting beauty in them, in particular the well known Lullaby (tr. 25), here sung so softly and with such innocence. The only reservation I have concerning the whole recital is the swinging final Negro song. Malcolm Martineau, who is excellent throughout the programme, has the right drive but the singing is too reticent. I would have liked it more down-to-earth with Carmen-like chest-tones, like for instance the Swedish mezzo-soprano Annika Skoglund, whose album Duende with Spanish songs I reviewed some three years ago. She also included the six Guridi songs, which then were new to me (review).
 
Overall, Sylvia Schwartz’s debut Hyperion is utterly satisfying.
 
Göran Forsling
 
Track listing
Enrique GRANADOS (1867 - 1916)
1. La maja y el ruiseñor (from the opera Goyescas) [6:32]
2. El majo discreto [1:35]
3. El majo timido [1:01]
4. Amor y odio [2:17]
5. La maja de Goya [3:22]
6. Callejeo [0:52]
7. El tra-la-la y el punteado [1:09]
8. La maja dolorosa 1: ¡Oh, muerte cruel! [2:23]
9. La maja dolorosa 2: ¡Ay majo de via vida! [2:20]
10. La maja dolorosa 3: De aquel majo amante [2:52]
Jesús GURIDI (1886 - 1961)
Seis canciones castellanas [17:38]
11. Allá arriba, en aquella montaña [2:43]
12. ¡Sereno! [2:43]
13. Llámale con el pañuelo [2:15]
14. No quiero tus avellanas [3:36]
15. ¡Cómo quieres que adivine! [2:44]
16. Mañanita de San Juan [3:37]
Joaquín TURINA (1882 - 1949)
Tres poemas, Op. 81 [8:16]
17. Olas gigantes [3:29]
18. Tu pupila es azul [2:15]
19. Besa el aura [2:32]
Eduardo TOLDRÁ (1895 - 1962)
20. Abril [1:54]
21. Maig [2:55]
Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912 - 2002)
Cinco canciones negras
22. Cuba dentro de un piano [4:53]
23. Punto de habanera [2:05]
24. Chévere [2:01]
25. Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito [2:40]
26. Canto negro [1:12]

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