Falla: The Three Cornered Hat (XRCD review)

Also La Vida Breve: Introduction and Dance.  Ernest Ansermet, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. LIM XR24 014.

Manuel Maria de Falla y Matheu's ballet The Three Cornered Hat, a lighthearted tale of attempted seduction, contains some of the most colorful music you'll find coming out of Spain, and Ernest Ansermet's 1961 Decca recording of it contains one of the best all-around performances and some of the best sound the music has ever received. This is not surprising, though, as Ansermet premiered the work in 1919, and Decca was in 1961 at the peak of its recording prowess.

The recording has been an audiophile favorite since the very beginning, but my trouble was, I hadn't heard it in many years, my one and only experience with it being on vinyl at a friend's house, where I thought it sounded hard and glassy. Now I discover it was most likely more the stereo system's fault than the recording's, because this new LIM XRCD/24 remastering shows it to be splendid.

From the very opening notes, you'll find yourself amazed at how well such an old recording can sound.  This should come as no surprise, though, as I say. Audiophiles have known it for years. The dynamics, frequency range, and stereo spread are wide and the sonic impact is strong, yet the sound retains a realistic sense of warmth and balance as well. By comparison, the equally good Dutoit Montreal performance on a Decca digital sounds lighter, less substantial, and, yes, harder and glassier. Go figure. Certainly, the LIM remastering by engineer Paul Stubblebine and producer Winston Ma is meticulous enough to maintain all of the master tape's most subtle as well as more overt qualities, and the result, though fairly expensive, is enough to make one look forward to all such remasters from this source.

In the meantime, enjoy The Three-Cornered Hat and its companion piece, the brief "Interlude and Dance" from La Vida Breve.  They are both of them the best you can get.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa