Molinos de viento (Luna)

Pilar Lorengar, Manuel Ausensi, Carlos Munguía, Arturo Diaz Martos. Coros Cantores de Madrid, Gran Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataulfo Argenta
Novoson Z-541

Teresa Tourné, Renato Cesari, Segundo García, Luis Frutos. Coros Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, c. Pablo Sorozábal
EMI 5 74226 2

Marcos Redondo, Lolita Torrento, Cayetano Renom, Oscar Pol. Coro general, Orquesta Sinfónica Española, c. Rafael Ferrer
EMI Angel 65012 [LP, nla]

Luis Sagi-Vela, Dolores Pérez (as Lily Berchmann), Santiago Ramallé, Pascual Bloise. Cantores Líricos de Madrid, Orquesta de Camara de Madrid, c. Daniel Montorio, Ricardo Estevarena, Enrique Navarro
Zafiro ZOR 181 [LP nla. Available as an MP3 download from classicsonline.com]

Conchita Panadés, Marcos Redondo, Augusto Gonzalo, Anibal Vela. Gran Orquesta y Coro, c. Antonio Capdevila
Blue Moon BMCD 7523 [extended highlights]

Felisa Herrero, Marcos Redondo, Delfín Pulido, Manuel Hernández, c. ?
Homokord HOM10359 [extended highlights]

Mary Isaura, Tino Folgar, Enrique Parra, Pedro Vidal. Orquesta del gran Teatro del Liceo, c. Concordio Gelabert
Blue Moon BMCD 7535 [extended highlights]

Luna's featherweight Dutch operetta has been well served on record. It needs lightness of touch if it's to avoid frivolity, and all these recordings manage this to a large extent. The famous Argenta set boasts a charming Margarita in the sweet-toned Lorengar, a firmly sympathetic Cabo Stock in the underrated Diaz Martos, and the conductor himself is affectionate without being over-indulgent. Against this, Ausensi is a hefty Alberto and Munguía constrained by the light tenor role of Romo.

Sorozábal's team for EMI are sensitive, but less individual than their Novoson counterparts, and the direction is comparatively unsmiling. The Viennese lilt to this set is not out of place, but in the last analysis it is not so winning as Argenta's. Neither has a coupling, which given that the music only runs for just over 40' is a pity.

The old EMI LP is not currently available, although copies may be spotted in Madrid's junk shops and on the internet. It is well worth tracking down for Redondo's only complete Alberto, one of his "calling card" roles. Although the early 1950's were his twilight years, vocally he is still firm, with dynamic control as impressive as ever. Add in pointed, flexible conducting from Ferrer and a good supporting cast - the Catalan light tenor Renom is very well-cast as Romo - and you have something well worth searching for.

Zafiro's LP has been reasonably well transferred and is now available as a download from classicsonline.com. Sagi-Vela's well-nigh ideal Alberto is the main reason to acquire this slightly truncated version. His English prince has an apt sense of emotional containment, though his warm tone expands generously at the big romantic moments. Pérez can't convey Margarita's ingenue charm so fully as some lighter-voiced rivals, but her firm, full beauty of tone makes this one of her best records. Ramallé's Romo is more comedic bumpkin than plausible suitor, and Bloise is a thin-voiced, wooden Stok. Estevarena's deference to the stars' vocal phrasing is sensitive, though the recorded balance favours them unduly.

The 28' or so recorded in 1931 under Capdevila are a loving reminder of a vanished world. The much-loved Panadés delivers her gift of a Margarita wrapped in universal smiles, and her sophisticated musical wit is a joy. The younger, virile Redondo is also in a class by himself, and neither of the supporting singers falls short of their standards. Appropriately coupled with some equally treasurable extracts from La generala, this would make a delightful supplement to any of the modern(ish) sets.

The second Blue Moon issue - another 1931 recording - is fuller, and temptingly coupled with substantial extracts from Luna's masterpiece La picara molinera. Folgar's tenor Alberto is the great draw here, and he is at his most seductively winsome in the serenata. Otherwise, the earlier Blue Moon issue has the edge as far as Molinos de viento is concerned - but choice depends as much on coupling preference as anything.

Homokord present yet another performance, under an unnamed conductor (the composer himself?) and featuring something like a dream cast. Redondo's Alberto is even more impressive here than in the later, slightly shorter Capdevila set. His Margarita is Herrero, surprisingly dextrous in a role which might have been thought a shade light for her strong lyric soprano. Her dúo with the equally focussed Romo of Pulido has serious wit to equal any rival, if less sheer charm than Panadés. The recording is well balanced for its age (presumably early 1930's - we're not told), the transfer is comfortable if lacking in sap, and this is altogether an absorbing classic performance, well worthy of the name.