I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Fritz Reiner in Spain

Manuel de Falla: El amor brujo; The Three-Cornered Hat / Dances; La vida breve / Interlude and Dances;
Isaac Albeniz (trans. Enrique Arbós): Iberia / Triana; Fête-dieu à Séville, Navarra;
Enrique Granados: Goyescas / Intermezzo.

Leontyne Price, soprano
Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Recorded in the Chicago Orchestra Hall, April 26, 1958 and March 4, 1963 (El amor brujo)
RCA 88697-04607-2

Spain RCA Living Stereo

Fritz Reiner in Spain

True, the odds couldn’t have been bigger: Fritz Reiner, the icy disciplinarian from Hungary, venturing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra into sunny and unbridledly passionate Spain. Yet, Reiner’s sense of clarity, orchestral balance and rhythmic vitality, the virtuosic brilliance and polish of the Chicago, Leontyne Price’s gripping dark-throated vocals (all accurately rendered by the spectacular RCA Living Stereo sonics from 1963), transform De Falla’s ballet “El amor brujo” into a hard-to-top exploration of Iberian desire, color and atmosphere.

The regrettably short survey of “The Three-Cornered Hat”, recorded in 1958, including the irresistibly lilting final dance, boasts the same qualities. Two excerpts from De Falla’s opera “La Vida breve”, the interlude and the well-known dance, are also played with tremendous zest and brilliance. The remainder of the program from 1958 consists of orchestral transcriptions by Enrique Arbós of three fragments from Isaac Albeniz’ “Iberia”. The Intermezzo from Enrique Granados’ “Goyescas” is offered as a final bonus.

These vintage RCA Living Stereo three-track recordings from 1958 and 1963 have never sounded better in their SACD format. The re-release of the Living Stereo discs on SACD has sadly been discontinued, which is little surprising when for the majority mp3 is considered the standard. Get it while it’s still available.

Copyright © 2013 Marc Haegeman. All Rights Reserved.


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Dazzling Rollercoaster

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39/4-6; Elegy, Op. 3/1
Gabriel Fauré: Ballade, Op. 19
Alexander Scriabin: Sonata #5
Johannes Brahms: 7 Fantasies, Op. 116
Isaac Albéniz: Triana (from Iberia)
Claude Debussy: La soirée dans Grenade (from Estampes)
Vladimir Horowitz: Variations on a Theme from G. Bizet’s “Carmen”

Yuja Wang, piano
Brussels Conservatory, 20 March 2012

The acclaimed Chinese pianist Yuja Wang made her debut in Belgium with the kind of disparate program that would have made giants like Sviatoslav Richter think twice, yet which seems designed primarily to demonstrate how dazzling a virtuoso she is. (Richter played what he felt like playing at a particular moment, but that’s another story.) Wang’s Brussels recital was largely culled from her coinciding new CD-release, imponderably titled “Fantasia” and sounded in spite of the hyped promise of “a poetic evening” for the most part like a no-brainer, rollercoaster collection of miniatures and bravura transcriptions by Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Albeniz and Horowitz, wherein the difference between the official program and the encores eventually went completely adrift. The bits of late Brahms and Fauré thrown in for weight couldn’t dispel the frustrating feeling that this evening we only heard part of her talent. Or didn’t we?
Read the full review on Classical Net