Falla: El Sombrero de Tres Picos (SACD review)

Also, El Amor Brujo; Danza from La Vida Breve. Alicia Nafe and Maria Jose Martos, mezzo-sopranos; Maximiano Valdes, Asturias Symphony Orchestra. Naxos SACD 6.110018.

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) was one of Spain's most important composers of the twentieth century, and this disc brings together two of his most popular pieces of music, the ballets El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician) and El Sombrero de Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat); plus "Danza" from La Vida Breve.

Maestro Maximiano Valdes and his Spanish orchestra, the Asturias Symphony, present the music well enough, and the Naxos engineers do a reasonably good job capturing most of it realistically. The first piece on the disc, El Amor Brujo, is a rather grim work, about twenty-four minutes long depicting a jealous dead lover haunting his former girlfriend. Valdes performs it in an appropriately dark and foreboding manner. Conversely, El Sombrero de Tres Pico is a lighthearted tale of attempted seduction, the music lasting almost forty minutes. Together, we get quite an ample amount of music, when for a fill-up we have the "Danza."

I would not say, however, that Valdes is more colorful in his music making than Charles Dutoit or Ernest Ansermet were in this repertoire (both on Decca). Indeed, by comparison it is still Dutoit and Ansermet who offer up more vitality, especially evident in The Three-Cornered Hat. Yet listeners may find themselves divided on the merits of the sound of the discs, the newer Naxos issue being a bit more subdued, the Deccas brighter or more natural, depending, and definitely more sparkling. It's hardly a moot point, either, as one can find the original Deccas in various configurations on regular CD's and even remastered on audiophile (albeit costly) discs from LIM.

Anyway, the folks at Naxos offer the recordings on both a regular compact disc at mid price and a Super Audio Compact Disc at regular, full price. The SACD offers not only the standard stereo layer but a two-channel DSD layer and a 5.1 surround layer. The Naxos sound, particularly in SACD, is wide, deep, and extended, a tad fat in the upper bass, but fairly lifelike. While this may not be absolute audiophile sound even in its SACD format, it is more than adequate for the occasion.


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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa