> Choral and Song
"Canciones & Conciertos"
With Duchonová; NDR Radio Philharmonic, Antunes. No texts or translations. Hänssler Classic CD 98.642
To honor the centenary of the birth of Xavier Montsalvatge, Hänssler Classic offers four of the Catalan composer's most popular pieces, with the NDR Radio Philharmonic led by Celso Antunes.
American violinist Rachel Barton Pine brings big bravura temperament and lyrical beauty to the Poema Concertante, and Jenny Lin colors the Concerto Breve for piano and orchestra with verve and flair. These pieces, along with A la Española, the atmospheric dance for string orchestra, show Montsalvatge's influences — Cuban, Caribbean, and French music in particular — and his masterful orchestrations.
It's a pity that mezzo-soprano Lucia Duchonova can't find any Latin flavor for the well-known 1945 song cycle Cinco Canciones Negras. Her dutiful, dry reading is at odds with the sultry half-phrases of "Cuba dentro de un piano" and the ornamented lines of "Chévere." The playful rhythms of "Punto de habanera" and the final "Canto negro" are squarely delivered. Only the lullaby "Canion de cuna para dormir a un negrito" succeeds, but this delicious song basically sings itself, as any recitalist knows. It's a pleasure to hear the cycle, so often performed with piano, with full orchestra, but Hänssler should have sought out a more colorful and imaginative vocalist.
Excellent program notes by Montsalvatge specialist Roger Evans explain the genesis of this cycle, the composer's first major success, and its covert Catalan connections, disguised during Franco's repressive regime as Cuban imports.
Send feedback to OPERA NEWS.