One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

absolutely thrilling

immediacy and spontaneity

Schumann Lieder

24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs

‘Box of Delights.’

J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue

a most welcome issue

I enjoyed it tremendously

the finest traditions of the house

music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message

ground-breaking, winning release

screams quality

Surprise of the month

English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
La Vida Breve
Salud - Nancy Fabiola Herrera (mezzo-soprano)
La Abuela - Cristina Faus (mezzo-soprano)
Paco - Aquiles Machado (tenor)
Tío Sarvaor - José Antonio López (baritone)
Carmela, the bride - Raquel Lojendio (soprano)
Manuel, the bride’s brother - Josep Miquel Ramón (baritone)
El Cantaor - Segundo Falcón (flamenco)
Una voz en la fragua - Gustavo Peña (tenor)
RTVE Symphony Chorus
BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena
rec. 2018, Media City UK, Salford, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20032 [62:08]

This studio recording came off the back of some concert performances that marked Juanjo Mena’s farewell to the BBC Philharmonic as their Chief Conductor. He has finished with a work that’s close to his heart, as he writes at length in the CD’s booklet notes. La Vida Breve is the most famous opera written by a Spaniard, and Mena writes quite movingly about how important it is to him and the lengths that he went to in making this recording. It’s a labour of love, and that shows in the love with which he shapes every paragraph.

Chandos and the BBC went to great lengths, too, shipping to Manchester not only an all-Spanish cast of soloists but even the whole RTVE Symphony Chorus, the oldest professional chorus in Spain. That was a shrewd move, because it makes the disc a little more competitive than it would otherwise have been. This is one of those “national operas” where it would be pretty hard to imagine it done by a non-Spanish cast. It’s hard enough to imagine it played by a British orchestra.

In the event, though, the orchestra are, perhaps, the finest thing about this performance, surprisingly so. Mena’s enthusiasm for the work must have rubbed off on them, because they are instrumental in creating the work’s all-important atmosphere. Those dark, sinuous strings of the opening are hair-raisingly good, as are the sparkling Act 2 dances and the bright winds of the Intermezzo. The Chandos recording helps, too: I loved the brooding soundscape of the opening scene with the offstage voices and the clanging of the forge. It works extremely well, and comes to life brilliantly in the stereo picture: who needs SACD?!

The singers are all very good, too. That chorus were worth the air fare, because they enliven everything they do. They are careworn and downtrodden as the workers in the opening scene, but then they set the scene alight in the wedding, stamping their feet and Olé!-ing convincingly.

The soloists are very good, too. Nancy Fabiola Herrera is sympathetic if a trifle disengaged as Salud, the gypsy who is cast aside by her lover. That lothario lover is sung with ardour by Aquiles Machado, and the baritone richness of José Antonio López is a welcome contrast as the avenging uncle. Raquel Lojendio is a bit of a cypher as the bride, and Cristina Faus doesn’t sound remotely aged as the grandmother, but Segundo Falcón deserves a special mention as the flamenco singer, engulfing the scene with the smoke from his wonderful voice.

So they’re all very good in their own right; but I can’t recommend this as a first choice Vida Breve. The competition for this opera has soloists that are even better and even more engaged. Nobody who has heard Victoria de los Angeles singing Salud for Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos can forget the indelible poignancy of her interpretation, and Teresa Berganza for García Navarro brings a different sort of intensity that’s very compelling.

Still, as a testament to Mena’s work in Manchester, this disc is worthwhile, particularly as proof that a British orchestra can play Spanish music like the best of them.

Simon Thompson



We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger