Classical Reissue Reviews
“Espana” = RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio Espagnol; GRANADOS: Andaluza, Danza Espanola No. 5; CHABRIER: Espana; MOSZKOWSKI: Spanish Dances, Book 1 – London Symphony Orchestra/ Ataulfo Argenta – Decca/First Impression Music
Published on January 26, 2007
Another great Decca analog recording licensed by F.I.M. for their classy reissue series on xrcd, which requires no special player or decoding (it’s a standard 44.1K/16-bit CD). The original taping took place in famed Kingsway Hall, London in 1956 and 57 with recording engineer Kenneth Wilkinson. This is one of those Golden Age recordings which just seemed to capture everything vital to giving a realistic impression of a symphony orchestra – or at least as realistic as could be accomplished with two channels. There’s no special name for these Decca classics, but they fully equal the best of the Living Stereo, Mercury Living Presence and Everest recordings of the same period. You’ll notice the triangular design in the corner of the original Decca LP cover reproduced on the package. It may remind those in the know that the "Decca Tree" mike arrangement of a center channel mike positioned ahead of the two main stereo mikes, is responsible for these recordings having excellent center fill (as do the RCA and Mercury 3-mike recordings) even when the original recorder was two-channel rather than three.
Lionel Salter’s program notes from the original LP are included in the lavish F.I.M. package, and they deal with the many classical composers over the centuries who have been fascinated by the rhythms, color and excitement of Spanish folk music. He begins with Domenico Scarlatti and Boccherini, moving on to Liszt and Glinka. It is interesting that the two big works which seemed in the public’s mind to best capture the Spanish idiom were both by French composers: Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole and Bizet’s opera Carmen.
Both the Capriccio Espagnol and Chabrier’s Espana have been used as audiophile demo pieces since the early mono days of the LP, and continue to be frequent pop concert favorites. The dazzling orchestral color of both works is a surefire hit with listeners, and critics praised Chabrier’s 1882 effort as capturing the authentic Spanish flavor better than any composer had to date. Moszkoski’s five dances were originally for piano duo and may be picturesque, but sound just as German as they do Spanish.
- John Sunier