'On the way - Two centuries of Galician song'
GeBé Music [1-CD, DL C 1779-2021, 49:52]
To begin with the singer rather than the song, Gabriel Alonso’s debut CD reveals a commanding bass-baritone voice of generous character. I’ve enjoyed hearing him in this compelling, Galician-language recital. Yet I feel there are moments where – despite Aurelio Viribay’s sympathetic support at the piano – the singer puts pressure on his tone, destabilising true legato. When an artist possesses such a distinctive cutting-edge, and the musicianship to exploit it, there is no need to force our attention. Alonso gives me the impression of a powerful talent whose technique is not yet perfectly honed, and I shall monitor his career with interest.
As for his repertoire, I urge anyone in love with Iberian song to hear this unusual programme, devoted to two centuries of Galician vocal music. Alonso and Viribay are strong advocates for such local gems as ‘Meus Amores’ (‘My loves’) and ‘Un adiós a Mariquiña’ (‘A farewell to Mariquiña’), cunningly mixed with work by contemporary composers including Fernando Buide and Juan Durán. The latter’s ‘Sós’ (‘Alone’) is a virile, existential monologue, dedicated to Alonso and well-suited to his forthright persona, and it opens proceedings with a bang. Later, the beautiful folksong ‘Adiós, meu meniño, adiós’ (‘Farewell my boy, farewell’) will make zarzueleros sit up, for it was used by Vives as the cello tune at the heart of the Intermedio from Maruxa, as well as – less tastefully – by Ravel, for his clichéd picture-postcard ‘Chanson Espagnole’.
In the middle sit some excellent 20th-century art songs, notably Antonio Iglesias’s ‘Ao lonxe’ (‘In the distance’, 1958), which features an adventurous introduction, dispatched delicately by Viribay. The disc closes with two ‘encores’ from Galician zarzuelas; and if neither Gustavo Freire’s romanza (from his 1943 zarzuela Non chores Sabeliña), nor José Fernández Vide’s song (from Miñatos de vran, possibly partially performed in Havana during 1929, but fully staged in Ourense in 1959) go much beyond the conventional run of baritone showpieces ‘ao estilo de Redondo’, I am glad to have heard them. Margarito Viso’s liner note – like the printed song texts, in Galician only – is richly informative as to the songs, composers and writers, not least Galicia’s beloved poet Rosalía de Castro (1837–85). Viso’s own ‘O mar’ (‘The Sea’) is yet another arresting highlight of a rewarding disc, which merits a wide hearing.
© Christopher Webber and zarzuela.net, 2022