FALLA: Nights in the Gardens of Spain; 3 Dances from The 3-Cornered Hat; Interlude and Dance from La Vida Breve – Robert Casadesus, piano/New York Philharmonic/Dimitri Mitropoulos – Pristine Audio

by | Sep 26, 2010 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

FALLA: Nights in the Gardens of Spain; 3 Dances from The 3-Cornered Hat; Interlude and Dance from La Vida Breve – Robert Casadesus, piano/ New York Philharmonic/Dimitri Mitropoulos

Pristine Audio PASC 244, 42:23 [avail. in different formats from www.pristineclassical.com] ****:

French piano virtuoso Robert Casadesus (1899-1972), despite having become the scion of an originally Catalan family, played little Spanish music in his long and distinguished career, recording (2 November 1956) only Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain with the volatile Greek conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960). While live concert recordings exist with Casadesus and Ansermet (from Geneva) and George Szell (from Cleveland), CBS (on ML 5172) offered the only commercial inscription, and this had its own problems, with a harp part that had to be added separately.

Typical of these two fine collaborators, the pungency and feverish articulation of the parts–the keyboard’s often imitating guitar effects–swells into a passionate evocation of the three sections, making the concerted piece a distant cousin of Debussy’s La Mer. The shimmering En el Generalife segues into the erotically swaying Distant Dance, Mitropoulos’ plastic delineation of the string, woodwind, and double-tongued brass parts ever scintillating. Casadesus approaches the broken chord sequences with the same detache he brings to Ravel and Scarlatti, a crisp series of rapid staccati and ostinati that never lose their sense of interior color. The Mitropoulos string line from the New York Philharmonic exploits its capacity for the tragic muse, an agonized pedal point that we know from the conductor’s forays into Mahler and Richard Strauss. The final movement, an evocation of the Gardens of the Sierre de Cordoba, pairs Casadesus against the symphony tympani and battery in splendid runs and explosive slides, a kaleidoscope of Spanish dramatic heat in a sizzling gypsy style. The latter pages often hint at the influence of Debussy and Ravel on Falla’s passionate style, made even more emotionally flexible by the selective rubato applied by these two artists who collaborated elsewhere in Mozart, Ravel, and Beethoven concertos.

The few solely orchestral pieces (3 June 1957) under Mitropoulos again combine his sweeping, even tragic humanity with his innate sensitivity for national colors. The Neighbors dance that opens The 3-Cornered Hat enjoys those florid roulades in the strings, winds, and horns and the rhythmic stops-and-starts that light up the score with heat lightning. The Miller’s Dance pulsates with cante-jondo expressivity, the Andalusian rhythm heavy with potent jealousies. When Falla likes, he can parody the skewed metric thrusts from Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. The Final Dance explodes with the panoply of a feria in exotic flight, a flamenco dance in apotheosis. The brief concert concludes with that warmly splendid and ingratiating Interlude and Dance from Life is Short, that latter half of which every gifted violinist knows from the Kreisler arrangement.
In his producer’s note, Andrew Rose mentions his search for more Falla by Mitropoulos: and there is a performance of Falla’s Homenajes from a live New York Philharmonic broadcast, if ever he and Mitropoulos devotees were interested.

— Gary Lemco

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