Falla: Harpsichord Concerto; Suite populaire espagnole; Psyché

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COMPOSERS: Falla
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Harpsichord Concerto; Suite populaire espagnole; Psyché
PERFORMER: Schirmer Ensemble/Brett Kelly
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554366
Whole albums of Falla are rare enough to make even an unstructured ramble a pleasure to join. The main pieces emerge towards the end. Psyché sets a symbolist poem for a languid Ravellian line-up, inflected by Falla’s personal touch of formality – soprano Merlyn Quaife holds the balance adeptly. In the Harpsichord Concerto, designed for a monster Twenties-style instrument, Elizabeth Anderson and the ensemble enjoy the sonorous play with overtones as much as the vivacious wit.

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Otherwise the sequence displays the solo talents of a fine group, unfussily recorded. Prime oddity is Soneto a Córdoba, a stilted hymn to the city over big plain chords for harp. Three early piano pieces include the unusually fulsome Canción (imagine a Gymnopédie by Tchaikovsky), while the transcriptions of stage and vocal music vary in effectiveness.

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Most successful is the Corregidor’s Dance for harp, which plays up its Rococo pastiche. The Popular Spanish Suite, shorn of its human voice, becomes overwhelmed by Iberian clichés – however fetchingly played, the violin makes it Spain observed instead of lived. After this the extracts from El amor brujo for cello ought to sound redundant, but they lie beautifully for the instrument and inspire a warm, lyrical performance. Robert Maycock