Classical Reissue Reviews

GRANADOS: Tonadillas & Amatorias – Conxita Badia, sop./ Alicia De Larocch a, p. – LMG

A true Iberian evening of love lyrics, realized by two authentic interpreters of the Catalan art-song, Badia and De Larrocha.

Published on July 3, 2013

GRANADOS: Tonadillas & Amatorias – Conxita Badia, sop./ Alicia De Larocch     a, p. – LMG

GRANADOS: Tonadillas & Amatorias – Conxita Badia, soprano/ Alicia De Laroccha, piano – LMG 2117, 40:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Culled from various studio recitals given by legendary soprano Conxita Badia (1897-1975) and pianist Alicia De Larrocha (1923-2009), mostly from the Everest label and from another session in 1960, this document of seventeen songs captures two authentic artists in their most persuasive milieu. Badia performed as both a Spanish soprano and pianist. Admired for her spontaneity, expressiveness, and clear diction, she was considered one the greatest interpreters of 20th century Catalan, Spanish and Latin American art song. She premiered many works in that genre, including those by Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla, Frederic Mompou, Alberto Ginastera, and Enric Morera, several of which had been specially written for her voice. The main part of the collection of Badia’s sound recordings, scores, letters and pictures is preserved in the Biblioteca de Catalunya. In one of the letters, Pau Casals wrote: “Everything I’ve written for a soprano voice has been thinking about you. Therefore, every one is yours.”

Another composer-admirer, Roberto Gerhard wrote:

She feels such an intense joy when she sings – joy in the music,  joy in her own voice – that it is impossible not to share it when you listen to her.

Badia is in strong voice and clear diction, from the opening “El tra la la. . .” and its immediate successor, “Amor y odio” (Love and Hate), both from the set of twelve Tonadillas. The rhythms Granados provides sway and lilt with zarzuela and dance-hall influences. “Las currucatas modestas” was conceived as a duet, but Badia performs it solo with a flamboyant nonchalance. “La mirrar de la maja” embraces distinctly Catalan energies, mainly erotic. The lovers converse but with a dire warning, “not to look at me with your eyes of ardent passion that will be my death.” Whimsical and flirtatious, “Callejeo” (Through Back-alleys) conveys the ambitions of a rake who would pursue all the lovelies of Spain. Much in the manner of his famed “Intermezzo” from Goyescas, “La maja de Goya” makes a simple point of finding requited love.

Deeply nostalgic, rife with sweet regret, “El majo olvidado” plays out like a tragic aria in miniature: “Que duro sufrir, sufrir, sufrir!” The remaining five songs, alternating on the “majo” and the “maja” personae, explore with subtle nuance and degrees of humor, aspects of flirtation, modesty, and the pains of rejection, using a trilogy of “La maja dolorosa” songs to illuminate the conceit. Badia’s voice descends into low mezzo for the first of these, the lyrics having begun with thoughts of death and ending with no hope of renewal. The second of these becomes even more dire, the lover having died, and the delirious dreams of his kisses providing no comfort. The third embraces the spiritual memory of the beloved, enshrined in flowers that celebrate lover’s martyrdom.

The first of the Canciones amatorias opens with a keyboard riff reminiscent of Bach’s C Major Prelude now become Iberian. The entire “Mananica era” basks in olfactory sensations of flowers and jasmine, all to color the San Juan morning in precious stones of memory. Love and death interplay in “Mira que soy nina,” the dangers of love at first sight and the temptation to die simply to prove one’s faith in love. “Serranas de Cuenca” suggests that dancing invokes the god of love into the pine grove. The faithless lover serves as the subject of  “Llorad, corazon” (Weep, heart), an all-too-familiar plaint of one seduced and abandoned. Finally, “Gracia mia,” a quasi-waltz that invokes various conceits uttered by a flattering lover to win the heart of an infatuated girl. “The very roots of Heaven are born of our love.” Sound familiar?  But when sung by Badia and realized by De Larrocha’s keyboard, we could believe in True Love all over again. In excellent restored sound, by the way.

—Gary Lemco

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