Los Mosqueteros del rey - zarzuela en 2 actos: Duetto cómico, Pasacalle, Salida del Capitán Marcial, Canción de la espada, Romnza de Diana, Ronda Serenata, Dúo Acto 1, Dúo Acto 2 (Amparo Saus, Cayetana Lluró, Rafael Díaz, Federico Caballé, c. composer); La campana rota - zarzuela en 2 actos: Escena Acto 1, Brindis, Duetto cómico, Canción, Romanza de Yanko, Brindis del Cosaco (Filomena Suriñach, Enriqueta Torres, Emilio Sagi-Barba, Rafael Díaz, Luís Fabregat, c. composer [?]); Canciones clásicas españolas: Dos cantores populares, El vito, El molondrón (Lidia Ibarrondo, ac. Miguel Sandoval, New York 1953); Coplas de curro dulce (Hina Spani, orquesta de cámara, c. Gino Nastrucci, Milan 1931); Tirana del zarandillo, El molondrón (Sofía Noël, ac. composer, Barcelona 1941); Consejo (Lucrezia Bori, ac. George Copeland, New York 1937)
Fernando J. Obradors (1896-1945) is a name familiar to most people with even a passing interest in the Western art song. Its a rare Spanish recital which fails to include at least one of his beautifully harmonised arrangements, collected in four volumes between 1921 and 1941; or one of his original settings, of which La casada infiel (1955, to his friend Lorcas poem) is perhaps most haunting. Few will know much beyond that about this Barcelona-born composer, so Antonio Massisimos very full biographical liner note is a welcome guide to Obradors career as pianist-conductor-composer and champion of the Catalan musical establishment. That J. by the way stands for his fathers name Jaumendreu, which young Fernando dropped early on.
Obradors wrote regularly for the theatre, but none of his 20 or so stage works made a splash big enough to allow him to join contemporaries Millán, Guerrero, Moreno Torroba or Sorozábal at zarzuelas top table. Los mosqueteros del rey (The Kings Musketeers, 1923) and La campana rota (The Broken Bell, 1929) both received decent first productions in Barcelona with major stars, but though they did well enough at first neither merited later revival. Listening to these original cast recordings its easy to hear why: so many martial pasacalles, canciones and romanzas trickle through the head like water through a sieve. Some are partially redeemed by graceful harmonic twists, others by splendid performances from legendary baritones Emilio Sagi-Barba and Federico Caballé, not to mention a name new to me - tenor cómico Rafael Díaz, who graces both scores with his outrageously stratospheric passage work. Alas, the music itself is bland, vapid and uninspired. Perhaps Obradors was not fired by what appear to be conventional scenarios and texts.
Its with relief that we turn to an intriguing selection of those familiar Canciones clásicas españolas. The sole disappointment amongst the four singers is the most famous - Lucrezia Bori, too matronly, too unwieldly this late in her career (1937) to tackle the Consejo pavane with the necessary poise, making up most of the deficit in smiling character. by contrast, Argentine soprano Hina Spanis perfect roulades dazzle in the Andalusian Coplas. Lidia Ibarrondo is well-nigh forgotten, but in her day she was a significant diva on both sides of the Atlantic. Had her career not been compromised by scandal its easy to believe that the warm, ample, characterful mezzo-soprano we hear in Dos cantores populares and El vito (a tune very familiar from Giménezs El baile de Luis Alonso intermedio) could have been a household name.
Last comes the Belgian polymath Sofía Noël, accompanied sensitively by the composer himself in 1941. A noted folklorist and writer whos still very much with us at the age of 90, Noël brings her piquant light soprano to bear on a Tirana taken from a melody by Esteve; and the cheeky El melondrón, characterised with extraordinary left-field, peasant chutzpah. Ibarrondos full-voiced, mainstream version of this same folksong makes an instructive contrast to close proceedings. So if the zarzuela component of this Obradors CD turns out to be of disappointingly academic interest, the same cant be said of the 15 minutes or so devoted to his Canciones. They, like Blue Moons exceptionally full biographical notes, texts and graphics, are pure gold.
© Christopher Webber 2006