Falla: El amor brujo; El retablo de Maese Pedro. © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Very Colourful

GEOFF PEARCE recommends
music by Manuel de Falla

'... superb performances by all concerned.'


I had not heard the original version of El amor bruho before, only having heard the ballet and seen the excellent Carlos Saura movie, so I was most excited to hear this disc. This work, originally written in 1915, was scored for a small theatre orchestra, and later revised twice to become the full orchestral ballet that we know today.

This original version has a lot going for it, especially if it receives such a polished and committed performance as it does here. I will not say that one version is better than the other, but simply that the overall effects are quite different, and that this original version lacks nothing.

I find this version a bit more intimate, and the textures are clarified. There remains plenty of fire and bite in this quite remarkable work. The ensemble is beautifully tight, and the direction of conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez is assured. I love the Cantaora part, here sung by the amazing flamenco singer Esperanza Fernández, who really adds dimension to this work. She is both singer and narrator and has a fiery throatiness to her voice.

Listen — Falla: Canción del amor dolido (El amor bruho original version)
(track 2, 0:00-0:30) © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The Ritual Firedance, perhaps the best known section, has plenty of colour and menace, in spite of the smaller forces, and the oboist's performance is one that I envy. He has the right amount of bite, and the sound quality I like, to really make this effective. One cannot fault the fine Perspectives Ensemble.

Listen — Falla: Danza ritual del fuego (El amor bruho original version)
(track 4, 1:36-2:36) © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

I really love the little scene that comes next, 'El Amor Vulgar'. It is innocent and a little sentimental, and it takes the heat out of the previous movement. This leads on to the lovely 'Romance de Pescador' in which the soloist is a narrator.

This work is remarkable in its forty minutes and is well worth listening to.

The second work here is El Retablo de Maese Pedro (1923). I had not heard this 'pocket opera' before. It is an adaptation of a scene from Cervantes' Don Quixote de la Mancha depicting a puppet show. The orchestral forces are a little larger than in the preceding work, and there are three vocal soloists. The scoring reflects an earlier age. Again I am very impressed with this ensemble and conductor. There is quite a change of atmosphere from the previous work, which is more inspired by gypsy music.

Listen — Falla: La Corte de Carlo Magno (El Retablo de Maese Pedro)
(track 19, 0:00-0:41) © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The work opens with an introduction and then the Maese Peter, tenor soloist Jorge Garza, invites the crowd to partake of the performance. The prominent part is given to 'The Boy Narrator', here sung by soprano Jennifer Zetlan. The story deals with the escape of a noble woman who had been held captive by the Moors. Both she and her rescuer are recaptured, but then Don Quixote - baritone Alfredo Garcia - intervenes, failing to realise that this is a story, and the players are but cardboard cutouts. The music is very colourful and goes through many changes of character, according to the scene, some of it distinctly to recreate Moorish music, some of it courtly and rather reminiscent of the later music of Rodrigo, such as Fantasia para un gentilhombre. At times the music is reflective and meditative, and at other times celebratory, or depicting flight or fight. Certainly a lot is packed into a mere twenty-one minutes.

Listen — Falla: La fuga (El Retablo de Maese Pedro)
(track 24, 0:42-1:16) © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

For lovers of Manuel de Falla's music, this is a must. He did not write a great deal of music, but what exists reveals what a fine and imaginative composer he was. This is one of those discs I wholeheartedly recommend, not just for the fine music, but also the superb performances by all concerned. The supplied booklet is informative and also contains the text and translation.

Copyright © 21 August 2019 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia




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