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Las golondrinas (Usandizaga)

Josefina Cubeiro, Isabel Rivas, Vicente Sardinero, Ramón Alonso. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Lírica Española, c. Federico Moreno Torroba
EMI 5 74215 2

Pilar Lorengar, Ana María Iriarte, Raimundo Torres, Carlos Munguía, Nicolás Aldanondo. Coro de Cámara del Orféon Donostiarra, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataúlfo Argenta
BMG Alhambra WD 75126 (2) / or / Novoson Z-565

Carlo Galeffi, Fidela Campiña, Mercedes Plantada, Augusto Gonzalo. Coros y Orquesta del Gran Teatro del Liceo de Barcelona, c. Antonio Capdevila
Homokord HOM10217 (2) / or / Blue Moon BMCD 7529

The post-war choice here is between a cut version from a film soundtrack on EMI, and BMG Alhambra's 1972 issue of the 'operaticised' score put together after the composer's death by his brother, Ramón. The uninflated original version is preferable, especially when Argenta's sensitive direction is scuppered by a bathroom acoustic, at least in BMG's poor CD transfer.

His hectoring vocalists, with the exception of Lorengar's soaring Lina, do little to modify lingering disappointment. Torres' rugged, noble bass baritone could often be powerfully moving - as witness his Quijote in Argenta's classic version of de Falla's El retablo de Maese Pedro - but he is perhaps miscast as the high-lying baritone Puck, vocally strained and over-reliant on ancient dignity. Iriarte is in full squall mode; and although some might argue that this is appropriate for such an unstable temptress as the wicked actress Cecilia, her technical insecurity does not make for comfortable listening.

Fortunately, the EMI version is a winner. If you want to hear the delightful comedy number "Juanito, Juanito" you'll have to find Orduña's highly watchable 1969 film (currently available on Suevia DVD DT0044), but otherwise everything significant is included on the CD. Torroba's fiery conducting is matched by near-ideal performances from all three protagonists - Sardinero's manically intense Puck is thrilling - and coming on one bargain price disc compared with BMG's two, this is unquestionably the version to have.

Two complete transfers of the epoch-making 1929 electric recording of Ramon Usandizaga's full-dress operatic score from Blue Moon and the difficult to find Homokord revealed a performance which is of major historical but perhaps minor musical importance. Slight disappointment with the pallid good taste of Italian star Galeffi turns to something more negative in consideration of Campiña's Lina, heavy and effortful compared against her modern rivals. The less-heralded Plantada makes a good fist of the sultry Cecilia, and Capdevila's conducting is incandescent. Blue Moon's notes are better, Homokord's transfer - if you can track it down - slightly superior.

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