Aureole etc.

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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Victoria de los Angeles sings:-
La vida breve
With Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) as Salud and Carlo Cossutta (tenor) as Paco
and Orfeón Donostiarrra and Orquesta Nacional de España
conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Recorded at Instituto Ramiro de Maeztu, Madrid, 26-31 January 1965.
Seven Popular Spanish Songs:
The Moorish Cloth; Seguidilla from Murcia; Asturian Song; Jota; Lullaby;
Song; Polo.
Victoria de los Angleles and Gonzalo Soriano (piano)
Recorded in Barcelona ,in December 1961 and January 1962
The Three Cornered Hat
Victoria de los Angeles
and the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Recorded in the Kingsway Hall, London, December 1963 and Abbey Road, Studio 1 April 1964
Love, The Magician
Victoria de los Angeles and
The Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini
Recorded in Kingsway Hall London, in October 1961
Soneto a Córdoba. Psyché
Victoria de los Angeles with Annie Challan (harp) Jean-Claude Gérard (flute)
and Trio à Cordes Français.
Recorded at Salle Wagram, Paris in November 1969
EMI CMS 5 67587 2 [2 CDs: 149:52]
Here is treasure indeed - a 2CD compilation of classic performances of all but three of de Falla’s acknowledged masterpieces (although he lived for nearly 70 years, his output was quite meagre) – plus the glorious singing of Victoria de los Angeles. Her interpretations of this, the music of her homeland, are definitive, natural and refined without recourse to over-emphasis or unnecessary distortion for extra colour or dramatic effect. In comparison to Conchita Supervia she was gentler, more graceful (but, it has to be said, Supervia was more effective in the more earthy and racy episodes.) The Spanish conductor, Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos provides the perfect idiomatic reading of La Vida Breve in support and of The Three Cornered Hat ballet music

The compilation balances well the brief opera, the Seven Popular Spanish Songs with piano, the two ballets (Giulini providing another colourful reading of Love the Magician), and the two songs with harp and chamber ensemble that completes CD 2.

La Vida Breve is about love and jealousy in Granada. Poor working class Salud (de los Angeles) is jilted by her lover Paco (a falsely ardent Carlo Cossutta) for a richer girl. Demented by grief, Salud bursts in on Paco’s wedding party and roundly accuses him of perfidy before dropping dead at his feet. The opera opens with a lusty chorus from the workmen in the smithy close to Salud’s home. They bemoan their fate "it’s hard to be born an anvil instead of the hammer". In a brilliant stroke of theatre, de Falla will put almost exactly these same words into Salud’s mouth when she bemoans her fate as a poor working class woman betrayed. Victoria de los Angeles colours her voice through the joy of loving, the anxiety at her lover’s lateness for their tryst, the intensity of her passion for him and the ultimate anger, hurt and desolation of her betrayal. Her control, contouring the sinuous lines, and through the demanding rhythmic and dynamic shifts of her arias, is exemplary. De Burgos’ accompaniment is splendidly vibrant especially through the atmospheric and colourful intermezzos and the familiar dances of the wedding party.

The Seven Popular Songs provide de los Angeles with further opportunity to demonstrate her versatility in expressive singing across the impressive range of her voice. She is rueful in expressing the spoilage of an expensive fabric in The Moorish Cloth; censoring of promiscuity in the Segudilla from Murcia; languid and mournful in the Asturian Song; assertive and confidant of her love in the Jota; comforting and caressing in the Lullaby; alternatively angry and beseeching in the Song of treacherous love; and cursing love defiantly in Polo.

CD2 concentrates on the ballet music. Both suites contain material for soprano although this is restricted to two short numbers in The Three-Cornered Hat which is about a farcical set of misunderstandings caused by the jealousies and flirtings of the miller and his young attractive wife and the magistrate’s unwelcome attentions to her. The ballet contains some of de Falla’s best known and colourful dances including: the miller’s wife’s Fandango; the neighbours’ Seguidilla; the miller’s dance (Farruca) and the lovely Nocturne – all excitingly and beguilingly played by the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Love the Magician has more material for de los Angeles in a smoky voice. She first has a ‘Song of Plaintive Love’ in which she complains, in exasperation, that the ghost of her faithless but now jealous dead lover will not let her have any peace or opportunity to enjoy love with a new boy friend. Coquettishly, she sings the ‘Song of the will-o’-the-wisp’ suggesting if you flee from love it will pursue you but if you call for it, it runs away. Then, in defiance and anger, she sings ‘The dance of the game of love’ as she lays the tormenting ghost; and, finally joyously celebrates her new love as a new day dawns to ‘Morning Bells’. Giulini’s reading is atmospheric and colourful enough although I would like to have heard more life in the popular ‘Pantomime’ number but the well-known Ritual Fire dance has spark.

Concluding the programme are the two songs. Sonnet to Córdoba, accompanied by harp, is an affectionate, almost sentimental homage to one of the major cities in de Falla’s home region and de los Angeles responds warmly. Psyché, with its pastel-shaded chamber ensemble accompaniment is altogether more interesting. It fuses de Falla’s sharp Spanish colours with the more muted tints of the French Impressionists. It begins in misty languor as Psyché opens her eyes to greet the dawn but the colours grow more vivid and her response more awakened as the morning sunshine intensifies.

A vibrant, colourful compilation representing a large proportion of de Falla’s masterpieces highlighted by the glorious voice of Victoria de los Angeles. Heartily recommended.

Ian Lace

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