Los de Aragón (Serrano)

Toñy Rosado, Carlos Munguía. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataulfo Argenta
Novoson Z-532

Alfredo Kraus, Dolores Pérez, Enrique del Portal. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Manuel de Falla, c. Enrique García Asensio
Carillon (Tiempo 11)

Delfín Pulido, Josefina Chafer. Orquesta Odeón, c. José Serrano
Blue Moon BMCD 7546 [highlights]

Serrano's ability to produce simple scores that go straight to the heart without sentimental triviality is unrivalled, and Los de Aragón is one of the very best. All three performances are moved by the right spirit, but the extracts on Blue Moon have a special quality, conducted as they are by the composer himself with a fine tenor in Pulido and more than decent Gloria in Chafer. Serrano's subtle use of rubato transmutes his romanzas into living and breathing entities, deeply moving in their simplicity. The couplings (Las hilanderas and La reina mora) are almost as marvellous, and this is a CD which any zarzuelero will enjoy.

The two ex-LP performances have their points, too. Argenta makes some cuts, and Munguía's characterful tenor won't be to all tastes. He sings his two superb romanzas well enough, though not without a sense of strain; and judging his straightforward readings by the standards of earlier singers such as Tino Folgar (available on Aria SL 1029) reveals a lack of pathos and poetic imagination. Rosado's "Palomica aragonesa" does evoke the sense of a mature woman of the world returning to her roots and knowing the place for the first time most effectively. Argenta allows the music the right degree of expansiveness.

The Carillon LP with Kraus is now once again generally available - although at top medium price, which hardly represents time-value for money. Asensio misses Argenta's subtler insights, but Kraus is predictably finer than his rival, though even he does not erase memories of Pulido on the early recording, let alone Folgar. Pérez makes "Palomica aragonesa" involving without quite touching the heart as Victoria de los Angeles did in her old HMV LP recital. On balance the Carillon version is the one to have - though Argenta's set does come coupled with a desirable rarity in the shape of Luna & Bru's La chula de Pontevedra, and will not disappoint.