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Elīna Garanča (mezzo-soprano)
Soly y Vida
José Maria Gallardo del Rey (guitar)
Orquestra Filarmónica de Gran Canaria/Karel Mark Chichon
rec. 2018, Sala Sinfonica del Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Texts and translations not included
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 483 6217 [65:37]

This is not a new release, but it seems not to have had any previous attention on these pages, and since it certainly merits discussion, I have chosen to review it a little belatedly. The Latvian mezzo Elīna Garanča already has behind her some outstanding performances in recordings of operas by Bizet, Rossini, Donizetti and others, as well as a number of recital discs such as Aria Cantilena, Romantique, Meditation, Bel Canto and Revive, all on Deutsche Grammophon. Though she has starred as Carmen, Sol y Vida marks a new departure for Garanča, consisting, as it largely does, of ‘popular’ songs of the Mediterranean and Latin America, including more than a few songs associated with voice types other than the mezzo soprano, many of them male.

The album is not without its blemishes. There are times when the orchestral playing places too much emphasis on rhythmic accents and a number of the arrangements are excessively lush. I could have done with a few more tracks - there are just two, tracks 2 and 4 - where Garanča is accompanied only by the guitar of José Maria Gallardo del Rey. The extremes of passion (desired or fulfilled) and of love (lost or betrayed), between which poles most of the tracks alternate, make for a heady diet, so that Piazzola’s ‘Yo soy Maria’, which comes from his 1968 ‘tango operita’ Maria de Buenos Aires and has the edgily assertive arrogance of a Carmenesque woman from the slums of Buenos Aires, comes as a real change. There are thus some issues here, but each time I have inserted the disc, intending to play just one or two tracks, I have found myself seduced into listening right through, rather in the way that having promised myself a single glass of Ribera del Duero (my favourite Spanish Red) as a reward at the end of a long session of work, I find that ‘one glass’ turns into several.

The range of Garanča’s rich voice is decidedly impressive. There are times when she sounds more like a soprano rather than a mezzo, as in parts of Hermida’s ‘Lela’, yet the lower end of her voice is deeply (no pun intended) exciting too (as, indeed, in Sorozábal’s ‘No puede ser’ the track immediately following ‘Lela’). Garanča generally finds a satisfying idiom for each track – though she comes across as a little too operatic in Parra’s ‘Gracias a la vida’. On the whole, however, she isn’t tempted to over-inflate the material, even if, as suggested above, some of the arrangements do. She brings to pretty well all of the tracks, a beguiling elegance which complements and controls her fully committed passion.

Readers who scan the track list below will spot one unexpected item amongst all this sunlit, hot-house passion from Italy, Spain and South America. The cuckoo in the nest is the piece listed as ‘T’estimo’ by Edvard Grieg which, as you may already have guessed, is a version of ‘Jeg elsker dig’ (I Love You), Grieg’s setting of a poem by Hans Christian Andersen – here sung in Catalan. The author of the Catalan text is left uncredited. This is by no means the only omission when it comes to presentation and documentation. No sung texts or translations are provided. Many listeners will be familiar with a good few of these pieces but not, I suspect, with all of them. Lyrics can, of course, be chased up on the internet – but this is a time-consuming distraction. Nor are there details of the composers, beyond their birth and death dates. As far as notes and commentary go, we get a charming page by Ms. Garanča, telling us that, for her, this music “harbours the very essence of life, of élan vital, that finds such inimitable expression in these melodies, these words and, above all else, this style of delivery”. Then we have three pages of would-be poetic-prose by Dorothea Walchshäusl, which, insofar as I can judge, works slightly better in the original German than in the English translation by J. Bradford Robinson, offering a fantasy about a woman she calls Maria (perhaps she is, somewhat improbably, meant to be Piazzola’s Maria?) into which the titles of many of the tracks are woven. The result is of very limited interest, and I cannot believe that it will do anything to enhance anyone’s pleasure in, or understanding of, the music.

Elīna Garanča’s singing is full of warmth, brightness and vitality, as promised in the album’s title, and for me this outweighs the weaknesses elsewhere in some of the arrangements and in matters of documentation and presentation.

Glyn Pursglove

Agustin LARA (1897-1970)
1.Granada (arr. K.M. Chichon [3:55]
2. La Llorona (arr. José Maria Gallardo del Rey) [5:39]
3. Vai lavar a cara (arr. Juan Durán) [2:45]
Violeta PARRA (1917-1967)
4. Gracias a la vida (arr. José Maria Gallardo del Rey) [4:04]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
5. T’estimo (arr. John Langley) [2:30]
Salvatore CARDILLO (1874-1947)
6. Core ’ngrato (arr. John Langley) [3:26]
Ernesto de CURTIS (1875-1937)
7. Torna a Surriento (arr. Langley) [3:28]
8. Non ti scordar di me (arr. Langley [3;47]
Stanislao GASTALDON (1861-1939)
9. Musica proibita (arr. Langley) [3:56]
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)
10. Non t’amo più (arr. K.M. Chichon) [5:23]
Ernesto de CURTIS
11.Voce ’e note (arr. Langley) [3:09]
Francesco Paolo TOSTI
12. Marechiare (arr. Langley) [3:19]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
13. Yo soy María, from María de Buenos Aires
(arr. José Maria Gallardo del Rey) [3:19]
Rosendo Mato HERMIDA (1914-1994)
14. Lela (arr. Juan Durán) [5:33]
Paolo SOROZÁBAL (1897-1988)
15. No puedo ser, from La tabernera del puerto [2:57]
Carlos GARDEL (1890-1935)
16. El día que me quieras [4:38]
Ary BARROSO (1903-1964)
17. Brazil (arr K.M. Chichon) [3:53]



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