Albeniz: Iberia/Turina: Danzas Fantásticas – Ansermet OST – Decca Records SXL 2243 (1960)/Speakers Corner Records 180-gram stereo vinyl ****1/2:
Speakers Corner Records releases an excellent 180-gram vinyl of early 20th-Century Spanish classical music.
(Featuring L’Orchestre De La Suisse Romande: Conducted by Ernest Ansermet)
Isaac Albeniz was an influential figure of the Post–Romantic era. A virtuoso pianist, he composed for many genres, emphasizing the culture and folklore of Spain. He influenced a generation of Spanish composers including Joaquin Turina. Speakers Corner has released a re-mastered stereo 180-gram vinyl of two beloved Spanish works, Albeniz’s Iberia and Turina’s Danzas Fantasticas. Both are performed by L’Orchestre De La Suisse Romand, conducted by Ernest Ansermet. It is a veritable celebration of Spanish classical music with French influences.
Iberia is widely known for its rhythmic and stylistic complexity. The orchestra opens with the emotive strains of “Evocacion”. The strings enhance and complement the woodwinds. The graceful moods (with a soft flute) are expressive and utilize a subtle instrumental elocution. The hushed finale is dream-like and compelling. Precision and appealing counterpoint with soaring violins and a full orchestra impact enliven “El Corpus En Sevilla”. A transition to a woodwind-led interlude includes touches like a French horn and then morphs into a full instrumental flourish with dramatic accents and playful nuances. The last “movement” exudes somber melancholy. “Triana” is livelier and more sophisticated. Brass and woodwind accents (with the help of as kettle drum) give way to a sweeping motif that is moderated by cello. Its flamenco exuberance is captured by the arrangement. Side A closes with the swirling polo, “El Puerto”. With a balance of palpable buoyancy and and melodic gravitas, the music is hypnotic.
The last two tracks of Iberia are complex and unique translations. “El Albacin” engages in a buleria: to evoke the sprightly, intricate tapestry of Granada’s gypsy quarter. The music shifts from dynamic resonance to understated ambience with fluency. There is a “dialogue” in the musical execution and a pleasing mix of pizzicato strings and lower-register woodwinds. “Navarra” has a different feel, relentlessly jovial aided by trumpet. Turina’s Danzas Fantasticas is presented in three pieces. Like Iberia, it was originally composed for piano. This trio of “miniature: compositions reflect the spirit of Andalusia and local dances. “Exaltacion” is fully realized with harps, woodwinds, strings and brass. There is a shift on “Ensueno” as the horns are front and center in exchanges with the orchestra. Occasional crescendos and descending notes are mixed in a unique blend of processional and folksy imagery. There is brightness and heart-warming aesthetics throughout “Orgia”. With tango elegance and populist attitude, Turina’s passion is articulated with bursts of energy and mellower harmonization.
Albeniz: Iberia/Turina:Danzas Fantasticas is a fine example of early 20th-Century classical populism. The fuller orchestration of these pianos works is accessible and coherent. Speakers Corner Records has given this album a significant vinyl upgrade. The stunning impressionistic cover painting and Decca 60’s stereophonic notes on the sleeve will bring a smile to hi-fi enthusiasts. More importantly, this music will appeal to listeners with limited classical exposure.
Side A: Iberia: Evocación; El Corpus En Sevilla; Triana; El Puerto
Side B: Iberia: El Albalcin; Navarra; Danzas Fantásticas: Exaltación; Ensueño; Orgia.