Spanish Love Songs
The programme, devised by New York’s Festival of Song accompanist/directors Blier and Barrett, looks at 19th- and 20th-century Spanish song from various national and stylistic viewpoints. There are the native earlier 20th-century composers, both Catalan and Castilian, from the second golden age of Spanish music. Outstanding here are “Farruca” – Turina was no radical but he was able, not unlike his contemporary Arnold Bax, to fit the fieriest of folk mythology and rhythm into a classical or “art” framework – and “El lagarto está llorando”, Montsalvatge’s dancey setting of a resonant Lorca poem about a lizard.
French composers were always peeping over the Pyrenees for atmospheric hints. Here are some byways of that tradition: a festival arrangement (by Blier/Barrett) of Chabrier’s tone-poem España for twin voices and pianos, a Ravel vocalise that instantly recalls L’heure espagnole and a Roussel setting of a Façade-like tale of sexual frustration. German visitors to Spain provide the next group – self-consciously classical but including a contrasted quartet of Wolf, two in Tristan mode, two (like “Auf dem grünen Balkon”) more literally “Spanish”. And after these art songs, a laterally thought-through choice of lighter material: two zarzuela excerpts, “La paloma” (one of those Spanish songs you’ll know, even if title and composer mean little) and, to end, “Barcelona” from Company, Sondheim’s sardonic take on the Boeing-Boeing phenomenon.
This (very) “live” programme was slated for a studio recording that could not be realised due to Lieberson’s early demise. Here she’s continually finding that extra gear of emotion that makes a song a three-dimensional staging rather than a platform recital. Her partner, absolutely not in her shadow, is the fresh, versatile tenor of Joseph Kaiser, not quite then the rising stage star of today. Tight, well worked accompaniments (and booklet-notes) from the festival directors complete a little gem of an issue.