Coral Universitat de less Illes Balears
Coro Polifonico Universitario de la Laguna
Orfeon Navarra Reverter
Orfeon Universitario Simon Bolivar
Pequenos Cantores de Valencia
Joven Orquesta Nacional de España/Edmon Colomer
In common with Elgar's Third Symphony, Scriabin's Universe Symphony and Borodin's
Third Symphony, Manuel de Falla's Atlantida (or Atlantis) is a work completed
by someone else. All these works were left incomplete on the composer's death.
All required substantial work to bring them to a performable state.
The compulsion to 'complete' Atlantida was made all the stronger because
it was a work on which the composer had been labouring for the last twenty
years of his life. Half of that time was spent in Civil War-torn Spain and
the other half in exile from Franco's fascist regime in Argentina in his
unmarried sister's house in Alta Gracia.
'Atlantis', as Atlantida is translated in the 80 page booklet, is a musical
tapestry, part cantata and part oratorio. It is based on the poem by Jacint
Verdaguer and was to be illustrated with painted decorations by Josep Ma
Cert. Although performed in one of the world's great operatic houses (La
Scala, Milan, 1962, cond by Thomas Schippers and at the Berlin Opera, 1962,
Eugen Jochum and in 1963 at Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires) it was not intended
as an opera.
At the time of de Falla's death only 20 minutes of fully viable full score
existed. The rest comprised sections which were musically complete (without
instrumentation) and, by far the largest proportion, wisps of ideas, outlines,
sketches and fragments. Clearly Halffter had a great deal of work to do.
He was equipped to do this through being a pupil of de Falla. Accounts by
Ansermet (who directed performances in the USA and Switzerland), Igor Markevich
and others suggest that the end result is successful.
The work is dedicated to the cities in which de Falla enjoyed his greatest
contentments and successes: Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla and Cadiz.
The orchestral prologue might be subtitled 'centuries in the chasm'. The
massed choruses soon enter with a great shout. The gloom parts and the choirs
present a balmy bright theme with some exaltation. The choir sing of the
marvels of Atlantis and of its destruction. Then follows a brief Spanish
Hymn  sung with fierce devotion by the choir.
The justly renowned Simon Estes (whose Spanish pronunciation is not perfect),
in firm and basalt voice, matches the fiery fervour of the choir in the vision
of the Pyrenees in fire and volcanic confusion . A great dance of Holstian
abandonment rends the heavens.
Teresa Berganza's Song of the Pyrenees is sung delightfully and with hardly
a trace of squall or vibrato. She also acts the words - listen to the way
she colours the word 'Expiro' [track 4 4:01]. The spirit of choral high
achievement and lofty ideals returns for the ringingly confident and expansive
Hymn to Barcelona  This hymn brings Part 1 to an end.
The great fiesta drums last heard in The Three Cornered Hat inaugurate
Part 2 . The following choral writing in the Hymn of the Hesperides reminded
me very strongly of Holst's Choral Symphony. Falla returns to playfulness
in track 2 as well as reaching towards a Delian idiom.
In its impassoned devotion the singing on track 6 inevitably recalled the
Veruju from Janacek's Glagolytic Mass. The variety of the tapestry
is confirmed again by the reversion to archaic courtly dance music . Maria
Bayo's young-sounding voice has spring morning clarity emphasised by the
duet  with boy soprano and the resonant harp accompaniment. The Caravels
is a brief bustling sea-picture which has a bluff quality recalling similar
moments in Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony. The work ends  with
the choir singing in an atmosphere of recessed and fervent prayer
In the face of this fresh and vernal recording, the mid-price EMI Matrix
reissue of the 1976 EMI recording by Raphael Fruhbeck de Burgos does not
offer great competition. This is certainly the recording of choice. You need
have no reservations about the youth orchestra. Documentation is excellent.