WORKS: Canciones negras
PERFORMER: Teresa Berganza; Narcisco Yepes (guitar); Félix Lavilla (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 435 848-2 ADD
For anyone still unaware, 1992 has been the Year of Spain. In recognition of this, the record companies have plundered back catalogues and produced numerous compilations, in these cases, of the history of Spanish song. The most comprehensive survey is DG’s Canciones Espanolas.
Beginning with unaccompanied monody from the 13th-century Cantigas de Santa Maria and culminating with the Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge’s haunting Canciones negras, written in the Forties and based on West Indian songs. Teresa Berganza is a peerless interpreter of this repertoire. Vocally, she is sweet and assured, and dramatically she is as capable of sublime gentleness as she is of melancholy and even horror. Decca’s equivalent survey covers much the same ground. What it lacks historically is made up for by the inclusion of five Obradors songs and Guridi’s Seis canciones castellanas.
The disc features four soloists, and orchestral as well as piano accompaniment, the effect of which is altogether grander and more operatic. Marilyn Home’s rendering of Falla’s Siete canciones, probably the best-known songs in this repertory, receive a dramatic, almost overblown treatment, striking in its way, but at odds with Berganza’s exquisitely subtle, low-key performance on DG. Unexpectedly, the highlight of the Decca set is Te Kanawa’s interpretation of five of Obradors’s Canciones clásicas españolas, categorically belying any thoughts that Spanish is a language best sung by native speakers. This is not the case, however, with Patricia Rozario’s recital. She sings with clarity and sweet sensitivity, but one is constantly aware of the effort involved in pronouncing each word correctly and the effect is studied.
The advantage of this disc, however, is its programme — by confining the anthology to a single CD, and with the addition of Rodrigo’s enchanting Villancicos (not found on either of the above sets), it makes for a particularly attractive collection. Claire Wrathall