El caserío (Guridi)

Dolores Pérez, Luis Sagi-Vela, Carlo del Monte. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Lírica Española, c. Federico Moreno Torroba
EMI 7243 5 74156 2 0

Pilar Lorengar, Manuel Ausensi, Carlos Munguia. Coro de camera de Orfeón Donostiarra, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataulfo Argenta
Novoson Z-535

Pepe Romeu, Felisa Herrero, Pablo Gorgé, Orquesta sinfónica de Madrid c. Enrique Fernández Arbós, Sr. Ocaña
Blue Moon BMCD 7555 [highlights]

The EMI recording started life as the soundtrack to a 1969 TV film, so the sound - noticeably improved in the new transfer - is two-dimensional, with voices very much up front. Torroba disciplines chorus and orchestra to passionate effect, though there is no lack of lyric charm. Pérez and del Monte sing well throughout, but the real star is Sagi-Vela, in one of his last recorded performances. His sensitive musicality and subtle dramatic understatement is most moving, but though Torroba includes the catchy Espatadantza unaccountably cut by Argenta, he introduces some unhappy mutilations of his own, making choice between two imperfect but attractive issues finely balanced.

Argenta's recording of Guridi's moving masterwork is successful enough to warrant a recommendation, despite cuts, murky sound and some less than endearing orchestral and choral contributions. Lorengar and Ausensi are both on good form, and Munguia's voice, though perhaps not the most beautiful ever to grace the lyric stage, is distinctive and musically persuasive. Argenta paces the score well, moulding Guridi's heartfelt phrases with a nobility that shines through some lacklustre playing.

Blue Moon's brief selection forms part of a valuable all-Guridi vintage compilation. Romeu is exciting but rushes his rhythmic fences, and original Ana-Mari Herrero's contribution is all too brief. The highlight is Arbós' spacious, noble reading of the famous Act 2 Intermedio, and the CD is equally worth acquiring for the rare couplings.