Various: Tunes & Tales from Lost Lands

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Zenobia
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: A Tierras Ajenas
WORKS: Tunes & Tales from Lost Lands
PERFORMER: Clara Sanabras (voice, lutes), William Carter (lute, guitar), Abdul Salam Kheir (voice, oud), Rachel Podger (violin), Adrian Lee (oud), etc
CATALOGUE NO: ZEN 402 (distr. www.zenobiarecords.co.uk/zen)
Those in the know say that, just as recent music history has been dominated by the German, French and Italian repertoires, so the new century will turn its attention to Spain. And this delightful disc gives us a vivid glimpse of the astonishing variety to come – love songs, lullabies, dances and courtly conceits all swim together in a gloriously rich cultural sea swirling with Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Arabic and other exotic influences.

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Clara Sanabras has a fresh, natural voice nicely suited to pieces of touching directness such as the lullaby ‘Nanita, nana’, the Christmas carol ‘Dádme albrizias’ and the several Sephardic folksongs on the disc. By contrast, the courtly works by great Spanish composers such as Mudarra and Narváez here seem rather hurried and anonymous – a tendency relieved only by the alert account of ‘Van y vienen’. As for the ensemble pieces, these work well with voices and instruments conspiring to produce a great jamboree of sound, especially in ‘Pués que no puedo’. Finally, in the Arabic works, Sanabras and Abdul Salam Kheir brew up some wonderful chromatic incantations, the combined traditions of their voices standing as a powerful symbol for the cultural mêlée that was ancient Spain. Anthony Pryer