Falla: La vida breve

COMPOSERS: Falla
LABELS: Somm
ALBUM TITLE: Falla
WORKS: La vida breve
PERFORMER: Vicoria de los Angeles, Pablo Civil, Rosario Gomez, Emilio Paya, Josefina Puigsech; Symphonic Opera Orchestra of Barcelona/Ernesto Halffter
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 059 Reissue (1954)
There was a symbiotic relationship between Falla’s vivid short opera and Barcelona’s most famous musical daughter. It was Victoria de los Angeles’s performances as Salud that brought her stardom, while La vida breve itself attained a new international profile, including its first full recording which is now making its CD debut.

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In 1954, a decade before the los Angeles/Frühbeck version generally regarded as definitive, the soprano was 31 and her voice in its full fresh glory. Her singing leaps out of a tonally undernourished recorded sound with a bright, passionate and forward personality and a focused flexibility that will thrill anybody who might only have heard her in later years. Rarely does a love duet sound so one-sided, for all the manful efforts of Pablo Civil.

This brilliant achievement is the main interest, though the overall performance is characterful. Some other roles are splendidly taken, especially Rosario Gomez as the grandmother Abuela, and Ernest Halffer – a Falla pupil, conducting just eight years after the composer’s death – follows the vocal ardour with panache and spaciousnes. But while the orchestral winds have engagingly south European timbres, the strings are quite poor and the chorus enthusiastically raw, while the sound itself is very restricted, however well the transfer has been done.

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Fruhbeck it remains, then, for a rounded experience, although the Naxos bargain version with Ana María Sánchez runs it close. Robert Maycock