Replay

Robert Cowan makes his pick of the latest reissues
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Falla: Atlntida; The Three-Cornered Hat

Victoria de los Angeles (soprano)

Spanish National Chorus and Orchestra

Philharmonia Orchestra / Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos

(Recorded: 1963-1977)

(EMI Matrix CMs5 65997 2, two discs)

Falla's unfinished scenic cantata is as wondrous as the sunken city that inspired it. Over one-and-a-half hours in length, Atlntida was almost 40 years in the making; and although Falla himself left the score in relative disarray, his pupil Ernesto Halffter did a highly creditable "mopping up job", which the late Thomas Schippers premiered at La Scala in 1962. Stylistically, Atlntida ranges from full-throated choruses (the Prologue's "Behold this sea ..." suggests obvious parallels with Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony), through exquisite tone painting ("The Garden of the Hesperides", reminiscent of Korngold or Strauss) and Prokofiev- style assertiveness ("The Straits of Gibraltar") to arias with palpable "hit" potential ("Isabella's Dream"). The libretto - based on a Catalan poem by Jacinto Verdaguer - concerns the salvation of Spain by Hercules, the submerged island of Atlantis and the voyage of Columbus.

Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos conducts a hugely compelling performance, rougher in complexion and less technically accomplished than its coupling, a complete performance of The Three-Cornered Hat ballet. Here the Philharmonia plays with admirable precision and there's a good 20 minutes' worth of highly coloured music that's virtually unknown away from the theatre. Documentation is comprehensive, texts and translations are included and the tapes have been very well refurbished. Amelita Galli-Curci: the Victor Recordings

Various singers and accompanists

(Recorded: 1925-1928)

(Romophone 81020-2, two discs)

First, a confession: this is not my kind of repertory. However, in the case of Amelita Galli-Curci, artistry triumphs and I find myself attending to the "Shadow Song" from Dinorah and Proch's Air and Variations as if they were firm favourites. The reason for this "change of heart" is that Galli-Curci's delivery is so effortless, so smooth, so incredibly pretty and yet imbued with such remarkable musical intelligence that her artistry becomes a desirable end in itself. What's more, she had, since the early 1920s, suffered the effects of a throat tumour that was only removed in 1935. A miracle, or what? True, there are occasional imperfections, but most tracks relate a remarkable purity of style, delicacy of timbre and vocal agility. And I've never heard them sound better than they do here - La Traviata with de Luca or Schipa, Don Pasquale with Schipa and then two of the most famous concerted recordings ever made, the Rigoletto Quartet with Gigli, Homer and de Luca, and the Lucia Sextet with Gigli, Homer, de Luca, Pinza and Bada.

It's like hearing a celestial chamber ensemble, and it's certainly no surprise that in a charming interview on a companion CD (81021-2), Galli- Curci recommends that aspiring singers take up a musical instrument, "for musicianship and phrasing". Modern-day canaries, please take note.

Comments