ALBÉNIZ-FRÜBECK DE BURGOS: Suite Española – New Philharmonia Orchestra/ Rafael Frübeck de Burgos – Decca/London/Original Recordings Group 45 rpm (2 discs) audiophile vinyl 180-gram ORG 100 *****:
The Suite Española is one of the most successful orchestral transcriptions of piano music ever created, on a par with Pictures at an Exhibition. Isaac Albéniz was not Spanish, but Catalonian, and like many French composers was highly attracted to Spanish music. His eight short piano pieces are not really evocations of the different places in Spain but more examples of the type of music one would hear in those locations. Though thoroughly pianistic, the piano pieces work gorgeously in their orchestral garb.
Albéniz had a short life, dying at only 49, but he started very early: giving his first public performance in Paris at age 7 and running away from home to Costa Rica to support himself performing on the piano at age 13. The music of this suite is also familiar to many from its guitar transcription, but De Burgos’ orchestrations make it spectacular. The sections for Cadiz and Cordoba do sort of describe the atmosphere there on a warm afternoon, but most of the pieces represent Spanish folk-based forms such as the Seguidilla, Leyenda, Sevillana, and Serenata. The music for Cataluna is a Corranda, close to a Spanish waltz.
The challenge is to preserve the complex transcriptions in stellar performances in an excellent recording, and this 1967 effort conducted by the transcriber of the music, and in the rich acoustics of London’s Kingsway Hall certainly meets the challenge. A local NW conductor said he has had few “you are there” experiences with recordings that truly transport one to the concert hall – and this is one of them.
The original Decca/London stereodisc of the Suite Española was CS 6581, and if you still have the Decca original (probably superior to the London) you have a gem of vinyl. But this 45 rpm reissue has to top that, as they have all other formats I have compared – with the possible exception of some direct-discs – especially those few cut at 45 rpm! Original Recordings Group was launched in 2006 to produce the highest quality vinyl records for the music industry. They are following in the footsteps of Analogue Productions, Pure Pleasure and a few others, in reissuing classic albums via a pair of 45 rpm 12-inch vinyl discs. This means $55-$65 cost, and often only eight or nine minutes per side, since the grooves are cut at the outside of the disc to avoid getting near the label area. Is it worth it? Yes, if you have a high-quality analog turntable setup.
The Decca original wasn’t among the Decca and London original LPs I had, but I did have the F.I.M. XRCD24 068 made from the same original master tapes.
The pitch, volume and general sonics of the two sources were almost identical. After long listening, I found the 45 rpm vinyl very slightly richer with more bass end and with more pleasant orchestral climaxes. The xrcd24 was excellent, primarily a bit harsher in the high treble. Both sources had fantastic detail and similar soundstaging. The strings were perhaps a shade richer-sounding on the vinyl. All of this would not be noticed on initial hearing. Perhaps if I had a $3000 MC cartridge in my SME-V arm instead of a $1200 MM the contrasts between the two sources would have been more pronounced. (The xrcd24 played on my Oppo BDP-95.) No matter the format, this is one of the finest two-channel orchestral recordings ever made. Either way, bravo to both ORG and F.I.M.!
— John Sunier
Vince Mendoza & Metropole Orkest -Orchestral jazz at its best…