Falla: El Amor Brujo (HQCD review)

Also, Nights in the Gardens of Spain. Amarito Peris de Pruliere, mezzo-soprano; Yvonne Loriod, piano; Manuel Rosenthal, Orchestre du Theatre National de L’opera de Paris. High Definition Tape Transfers.

Whenever I see or hear the name of French composer and conductor Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003), I Gaîté Parisienne Rosenthal put together in 1938 from bits and pieces of Offenbach’s works. I also think of the several recordings Rosenthal made of the ballet, especially the one he did for EMI late in his life. But I don’t think of things like El Amor Brujo or Nights in the Gardens of Spain by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), the two numbers we get on this remastered HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) HQCD. Rosenthal recorded the music in the late 1950’s for Westminster, and HDTT took the present copy from a Westminster 4-track tape. I had never heard the recording before, and I don’t believe Westminster or anybody else ever released it on CD until HDTT came along. Since both the performances and sound are worth hearing, one might view the HDTT disc as something of a godsend.
think immediately of Jacque Offenbach and the celebrated ballet score

First up is El Amor Brujo (“Love, the Magician”), the rather grim tale of a dead, unfaithful husband haunting his former wife and her new lover. The woman’s gypsy friends help her get rid of the ghost through a “Ritual Fire Dance.” Falla presents the story as a pantomime divided into three major parts for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, thirteen sections in all, each with its own track on the disc.

Rosenthal had a good feeling for the idiom, catching most of the color, excitement, and romanticism of the music. He maintains a strong rhythmic pulse throughout, yet never pushes the tempos or contrasts too far in any direction. He also brings out the rich textures in Falla’s tunes as well as almost anybody. There were times, it’s true, when I thought Carlo Maria Giulini in his justly praised EMI recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra sounded a touch warmer and more loving, but Rosenthal seems a degree more thrilling, making Giulini appear a little too refined. Regardless, it’s close.

If anything, Rosenthal’s way with Nights in the Gardens of Spain is even more compelling, or maybe I just like the music more. Here, Falla created a set of three nocturnes for piano and orchestra, each of them depicting a Spanish garden, the music characterizing the type of flora found there. This is some of the most descriptive, evocative music ever written, taking its cue from Debussy as much as anyone. Falla wrote a sumptuous score, and Rosenthal and Westminster did it full justice.

Westminster originally released the recording in 1959, and HDTT remastered it, as I said, from a 4-track tape. It sounds quite fine in its newly minted form, as we expect from this source. Burning the recording to an HQCD no doubt helps to retain most of the remastering’s luster. The highs are a tad brighter than I expected but quite realistic in their definition and transient response. The midrange is smooth, natural, and transparent. Bass shows up commendably taut and no doubt represents what Westminster initially captured. Orchestral depth is moderate, and Ms. De Pruliere’s voice seems appropriately lifelike. Although the miking places the piano in Nights a bit forward, it’s OK because it sounds so brilliantly crisp. Most of all, though, the dynamic range is wide, and the impact is impressive. I liked it a lot.

To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

For further information about the various formats, configurations, and prices of HDTT products, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/storefront.php.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa