Zoryana Kushpler and her twin sister Olena were born in the Ukraine and studied in L’viv. Today Zoryana is a member of the Vienna State Opera while Olena pursues a successful solo career, living in Hamburg. The sisters also appear at festivals and concert venues in song recitals.
One would think there is little connection between song traditions in Ukraine and Spain but music is very often an international language where national borders are no hindrance to the understanding of national idioms. Zoryana Kushpler’s darkish, full and vibrant mezzo-soprano seems cut out for fiery Spanish songs. She is strongly expressive and rhythmically vital - in fact she sounds decidedly Spanish.
There is no dearth of recordings of Spanish songs in the current catalogues – regularly featuring de Falla’s Seven Spanish Folk Songs and/or Montsalvatge’s Cinco canciones negras. I have reviewed, within the last few years the following five: Daniele Talamantes (review), Sylvia Schwartz (review), Sivan Rotem (review), Victoria de los Angeles (review) and Annika Skoglund (review) – all of them highly recommendable – and a couple of others as well, less immediately attractive. Los Angeles’ recordings are historical, set down some 65 years ago, but the others are recent, so one can wonder whether there is room for still another disc in such a crowded field. My answer is, without reservation, yes. I hope my characterization of Zoryana Kushpler’s vocal credentials in the first paragraph may give a hint as to what to expect. All that is at once apparent in the seven de Falla songs. You only need to play Asturiana (tr. 3) to hear her impeccable legato and sensitive phrasing and at the same time admire the flexible accompaniment. It is indeed tempting to write 'twin-souls'. That is something that you will notice time and again throughout the programme. Listen also to the intensity of delivery in, say, Polo (tr. 7).
The Tonadillas of Granados are among his most attractive creations and the three La maja dolorosa (The sorrowful maja) are possibly the very best of him. They have for many years belonged among my favourites, ever since a mid-1960s recording with Montserrat Caballé, which I still keep within arm's-reach in my listening room. Zoryana Kushpler comes very close – though with a voice that is distinctly different from Caballé’s. She has caught the idiom to perfection and her phrasing is to the manner born. It’s hardly surprising to learn that she has attended master-classes with Teresa Berganza – one of the greatest exponents of the Spanish song tradition.
I’m happy that Mompou’s songs are attracting more singers. They deserve to be heard and during the last year or so there have been several recordings. Andaluza is sung here vibrantly but deeply emotional and with thoroughly sensitive phrasing. Damunt de tu només les flors, one of my favourite Mompou songs is lovingly performed.
There is a medieval atmosphere about Rodrigo’s madrigals, but at the same time they clearly belong to the 20th century. The most immediately captivating is No. 4 – and it is genuinely Spanish ... but why did they leave out No. 3?
Montsalvatge’s Cinco canciones negras have become immensely popular – melodious, enticing and never bland thanks to the ingenious spicing of the accompaniments. The marvellously good singing of the lullaby (No. 4) and Canto negro seldom disappoints.
The three concluding piano pieces by Mompou are for some reason not mentioned in the liner-notes. Olena Kushpler has previously released a CD with piano works by Mompou and is well attuned to his personal tonal language. These three short pieces are certainly truly idiomatically played and the recording is spotless. As a whole these are very attractive readings that should be heard by anyone with an interest in Spanish songs.
Track listing Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946)
Siete canciones populares españolas
1. No. 1 El paño moruno [1:18]
2. No. 2 Seguidilla murciana [1:25]
3. No. 3 Asturias [2:45]
4. No. 4 Jota [3:04]
5. No. 5 Nana [1:29]
6. No. 6 Canción [1:12]
7. No. 7 Polo [1:30] Enrique GRANADOS (1867 – 1916)
Colección de tonadillas
8. No. 10 La maja dolorosa No. 1 [3:03]
9. No. 11 La maja dolorosa No. 2 [2:08]
10. No. 12 La maja dolorosa No. 3 [2:42] Federico MOMPOU [1893 – 1987)
11. Andaluza [3:58]
12. Cantar del alma [4:37]
13. Damunt de tu només les flors [3:30] Joaquin RODRIGO (1901 – 1999)
Cuatro madrigales amatorios
14. No. 1 Con qué la lavaré? [2:06]
15. No. 2 Vos me matásteis [2:26]
16. No. 4 De los álamos vengo, madre [2:18] Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912 – 2002)
Cinco canciones negras
17. No. 1 Cuba dentro de un piano [4:50]
18. No. 2 Punto de habanera [2:16]
19. No. 3 Chévere [1:57]
20. No. 4 Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito [2:44]
21. No. 5 Canto negro [1:16] Federico MOMPOU
22. Montseny [1:44]
23. Il-lusió [1:14]
24. Oració d’ermita [1:34]