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GRAMOPHONE (07/2017)
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Alia Vox  

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Reviewer: Tim Ashley

‘A symbolic celebration of the 140th anniversary of the birth of Manuel de Falla’ is how Jordi Savall, in a booklet note, describes this curious disc, issued by his own label, though the performers are a rather fine Basque ensemble, whose work, effectively crossing disciplines, is reminiscent of Christina Pluhar’s L’Arpeggiata. Its aim is to contextualise Falla by presenting us with an arrangement, by the group’s guitaristdirector Enrike Solinís, of El Amor brujo, its numbers interspersed with works by composers who influenced him (Tárrega, the Baroque Cantemir with his Oriental flourishes) and whom he influenced in turn (Rodrigo). Two of Domenico Scarlatti’s sonatas are included as a nod to Falla’s admiration for Wanda Landowska, for whom his Harpsichord Concerto was written. Central to the project is the flamenco singer María José Pérez, for whom much of the music is recomposed, and the whole has been provided with a new text, based on El Amor brujo’s original narrative, by the writer María Lejárraga.

You either like it or you don’t. There’s no doubting the enthusiasm of the performers or the frequent brilliance of the playing. The sound, dominated by guitars, sackbut and an almost guttural low flute can in itself be attractive, above all in Cantemir’s Bestengiar, new to me and utterly beguiling. Solinís himself is a real virtuoso, and Pérez delivers the vocals with a sexy, earthy tone and tremendous flamboyance. Whether it serves the music, however, is a different matter. Rewritten for a small ensemble, The ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ loses its clout when placed beside the familiar orchestration or Falla’s own piano version. The sinister enchantment of the ‘Círculo mágico’ is dampened by the lengthy narration that Pérez speaks over it. You may find the vocal revamping of the central movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez downright strange. It’s all an acquired taste – not mine, it has to be said, though you may think differently.


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