hijas del Zebedeo Carceleras; Luna: El niño judío
Canción española; Giménez: La tempranica Sierras
de Granada; Giménez: La torre del oro Preludio;
Fernández Caballero: Château Margaux Romanza de Angelita;
Asenjo Barbieri: El barberillo de Lavapiés Canción de
Paloma; Fernández Caballero: El Señor Joaquín
Balada y alborada; Luna: La pícara molinera Intermedio;
Guridi: Mirentxu Romanza de Mirentxu; Nieto/Giménez: El
barbero de Sevilla Polonesa; Chapí: La patria chica
Canción de Pastora; Chapí: La patria chica
It’s a rare pleasure to hear a zarzuela recording produced entirely outside Spain, without Spanish personnel. Zarzuela belongs to the whole world just as surely as Italian opera or Shakespeare, and the idea that non-Hispanics can’t do it is as crazy as thinking that only Germans can perform Der Freischütz, or only Russians Three Sisters. So three cheers for Thomas Herzog and his initiative in putting together an intelligently conceived album of music he clearly loves and understands. Leipzig producers GENUIN are famed for this sort of cross-cultural lateral thinking, having recently put together a Vaughan Williams album (of all things) with a German orchestra and conductor turning in the most moving performance of the 5th Symphony that I’ve ever heard.
Zarzuela – Spanish Arias isn’t in that league. The problem lies with the choice of soloist and language. If you were doing Three Sisters with Meryl Streep I don’t suppose you’d do it in Russian; and though Swiss soprano Noëmi Nadelmann is a magnetic performer, as reviews around the globe for roles such as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow confirm, her Spanish is occluded and uncommunicative to a fault. Indeed she is most convincing in the sustained line of Guridi’s ethereal aria from Mirentxu – in Basque! Elsewhere, without visual aids it sounds as if her silver-plated vocal charms are worn to the perilous metal, at least in the upper register. The Carceleras proves a bumpy ride, Angelita’s Château Margaux tastes corked ; and though Nadelmann fares better in the dramatic “Sierras de Granada” and Caballero’s haunting Balada y alborada her brooding tends to be generalised rather than character-specific. Nor do GENUIN provide Spanish texts or translations to help us out, though Eckhard Weber’s notes try hard to put us in the picture.
Great satisfaction is to be had from the orchestral items, and the recording itself which is full and revealing. Herzog’s rhythms are sprung and natural in the three orchestral items, tempi and rubato well-judged throughout. The horns bray dangerously in La pícara molinera’s Intermedio, the trumpets sound distant magic to usher in the Preludio from La patria chica: it’s good to have these great showpieces so well performed in outstanding modern sound. Even more valuable is the world premiere recording of the composer’s own concert version of the Preludio from La torre del oro, which contains two short but significant additions to the familiar theatre score, notably a delicate woodwind interlude in zapateado rhythm. If the Wuerttemberg Philharmonic Reutlingen’s cor anglais is over-cautious in the sinuous cante jondo solo at its heart, the German players display plenty of flamenco swagger elsewhere in the course of Giménez’s Andalusian panorama and the climax is breathtakingly done. This above all is a Torre del oro which zarzueleros around the world ought to hear, and will want to have.
© Christopher Webber 2007