I wrote about this recording of Manuel de Falla's ballet El Sombrero de tre picos ("The Three Cornered Hat") some while ago when FIM remastered it. Now, HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) have remastered it as well, and they provide it on a physical disc or a digital download in a variety of formats and price points. No matter which company or which format you choose, the remasterings provide clear improvements in sound over the original Decca product.
El Sombrero de tre picos is a lighthearted tale of attempted seduction, which the composer wrote in 1919 for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The music, based on a well-known Spanish folk tale and several popular Spanish folk tunes, is continuously rhythmic, colorful, and infectious.
Moreover, Ernest Ansermet's 1961 Decca recording of it contains one of the best all-around performances of the ballet you'll find, and the sound remains among the best as well. That the performance and sound are so good should not surprise anyone, though, considering that Ansermet premiered the work in 1919, and the folks at Decca in the early Sixties were at the peak of their recording prowess.
Anyway, Ansermet has a genuine feeling for this music, presenting it as well as any conductor could, the rhythms vibrant and the spirits high. Moreover, Ansermet provides all the wit, charm, beauty, and, yes, melodrama the score has to offer, making it a most-entertaining affair.
Oddly, after all the sparkle and vitality Ansermet offers up in the Falla piece, he seems rather casual in the coupling, Espana, by French composer Emmanuel Chabrier (18411-1894). In fact, you could say Ansermet actually gives us a fairly lackluster interpretation. Three years had gone by between the two performances; maybe the conductor was just getting older and slowing down. In any case, I couldn't recommend this recording of the Chabrier very high on my list; there are too many other, more lively accounts. Still, with so splendid a rendering of the Falla work at hand, I can certainly get behind the disc as a whole.
Of course, the Falla recording has been a favorite among audiophiles since the very beginning, but my trouble with it was that my first experience hearing it was on vinyl at a friend's house in the early Seventies, and I thought at the time it sounded hard, bright, edgy, and glassy. Now, remastered, I find splendid. It comes across sounding very dynamic, with excellent range and impact. In addition, the acoustic displays plenty of depth and air, as well a pleasingly natural hall ambience. You listen not just to the music but into it. The combination of dynamics and dimensionality makes the aural presentation as lifelike as one could want. Midrange definition is smooth and transparent, with no forwardness or edge. Highs extend out nicely and contribute to the sound's realism. Bass comes through strongly and deeply, further enhancing the you-are-there experience.
For further information on HDTT's various configurations, formats (CD, HQCD, FLAC, DSD, DVD-24, DVD-24, etc.), discs, downloads, and prices, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: