Fiesta a la Española – Eastman-Rochester Pops / Eastman-Rochester Orch.* / Frederick Fennell / Howard Hanson* – HDTT [various formats including hi-res PCM & DSD from www.highdeftapetransfers.com] 61:08 **** :
Largely light fare is on the menu of this compilation of two Mercury albums from the mid-1950s, opening on fine form with Mexican Rhapsody (1934) by the long-lived Robert McBride (1911-2007). Nice, tight playing by the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra under Howard Hanson produces the right atmosphere for this well-known toe-tapper. While the strings sound small in number, the shortage makes itself known on very few occasions.
Savannah River Holiday by Ron Nelson (1929) has that feeling of wide-open spaces and eternal optimism, successfully pointed and painted by Hanson and the orchestra. Just one movement of Lyndol Mitchell’s Kentucky Mountain Portraits, the third one – Shivaree – is presented, a vivacious, roistering dance with a slower, more contemplative central section. These three tracks originated from the reel-to-reel version of the album “Fiesta in Hi-Fi” [LP: SR90134] recorded during October and May 1956 and sound remarkably more youthful than their near-sixty years of age.
The remainder of the programme comes from a second album, Hi-fi a la española recorded during March 1957, and presented here in full. This time it’s the Eastman-Rochester Pops under Frederick Fennell, on equally fine form in a their well-known selection of pieces. Starting with Brazilian Sleigh Bells by Percy Faith (1908-1976) with tight rhythm and especially splendid trombones, followed by two pieces from Suite Andalucía by Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963), the guitar nicely captured at the start of Malagueña.
After a couple of extremely well-known pieces by Granados and Benjamin, comes Batuque by Oscar Fernández (1897-1948), founder of the conservatory of Brazil. Batuque is the oft-played movement from a three-movement suite, Reisado do pastoreio, written in 1930, using Brazilian folk-melodies, and is a very vigorous and rhythmic dance, making use of the orchestra’s kitchen department, and then some. Fennell and the Pops are on top form, as are Mercury’s engineers, Wilma Cozart and Robert Fine!
Amparito Roca by Jaime Texidor (1884-1957) with its well-caught castanets is a more light-hearted but just as energetic piece, unmistakeably Spanish in origin. Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance is followed by La Oración del torero by Joaquin Turina, changing the largely upbeat, extrovert mood so far to a more quietly contemplative one. The selection is completed by Danca Brasiliera by Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993), another piece most likely well-known to most if not all readers. A prolific composer, with six symphonies and six piano concertos to his name for a start, he is well-represented on the BIS label. Dança Brasileira is rather lighter than much of Guarnieri’s output, and provides a fitting, upbeat end to this mixture of music from Spain and the Americas.
Both albums are available on Mercury CDs, Fiesta in Hi-Fi coupled with pieces by Ginastera and William Grant Still on 434324, and Hi-fi a la española coupled with another Mercury album, Popovers. It’s a little disappointing that two of the Kentucky Mountain Portraits and Charles Vardell’s brief Joe Clark Steps Out couldn’t be included in this selection.
I streamed the CDs in the same way as HDTT’s files from their remastering from commercial 2- and 4-track reels, via an Oppo 105, and found the CDs’ sound smaller and thinner, the HDTT transfer warmer and fatter. In addition, I was able to compare the HDTT release in both PCM 24/96 and DSD 64 formats. Here the difference was rather less, the DSD sounding perhaps a trifle warmer. or I’m imagining it. Either way, the transfer seems to me very successful indeed. Interested readers will be able to download a sample at 24/96 from HDTT’s website and assess sound quality for themselves.
01 Robert McBride – Mexican Rhapsody*
02 Ron Nelson – Savannah River Holiday*
03 Lyndol Mitchell – Kentucky Mountain Portraits – 3. Shivaree*
04 Percy Faith – Brazilian Sleigh Bells
05 Ernesto Lecuona – Suite Andalucía – Andalucía
06 Ernesto Lecuona – Suite Andalucía – Malagueña
07 Enrique Granados – Goyescas – Intermezzo
08 Arthur Benjamin – Jamaican Rumba
09 Oscar Fernández – Batuque
10 Jaime Texidor – Amparito Roca
11 Manuel de Falla – El Amor Brujo – Ritual Fire Dance
12 Joaquin Turina – The Bullfighter’s Prayer – La Oración del torero, Op 34
13 Camargo Guarnieri – Dança Brasileira