Spanish Music of the Golden Age
When I reviewed this recording for Early Music, I singled out the performance of one of the dances, the Tarantela, as being ''simply a lot of fun''. On hearing it again, I think this could be said to describe the disc as a whole: it's huge fun. And that description is not intended to belittle the achievements of the Extempore String Ensemble under the direction of George Weigand, for technical brilliance and an unusually captivating sense of flair are the order of the day here.
The improvised realizations of the basic dances—many of which follow simple harmonic patterns as in modern jazz—the best known of which is the folia, naturally involve an awful lot of notes, but the overall effect is always full of fizz. I still find that the sound of the spinet tends to dominate a little too much, but otherwise the assorted plucked instruments are played with such zest that these dances, with their foot-tapping rhythms are impossible to resist. Many of the shorter items are gathered together in small-scale suites which lends an air of coherence. These are interspersed with songs by Juan Hidalgo and Jose Martin, of which Martin's Filis no cantes is perhaps the most delightful. This recording was enterprising, too, for introducing a young Spanish singer to the unsuspecting listener, Maria Del Mar Fernandez Doval. She has the light, clear voice that suits this repertory so well (a Spanish Emily Van Evera, let's say). But having a native Spanish-speaker makes all the difference in this music, not just in the authenticity of pronunciation, but in all kinds of minute details of inflexion and tone colour. Fernandez Doval is a most persuasive advocate for early Spanish song, and this recording serves as a timely reminder of the benefits of seeking out native singers in a country where early music is on the crest of a wave.'