The New York Festival of Song, which gives concerts several times a year under the ingenious direction (and expressive piano-playing) of Steven Blier and Michael Barrett at Manhattan's cozy Merkin Hall, devoted its March, 2011 concert to Spanish song.
Titled Spanish Gold: Songs of the Iberian Peninsula, it followed a programme from an earlier season with Spanish music. This time, four singers devoted themselves to early nineteenth-century parlor ballads and tonadillas, songs from Castile, the Basque country, Catalonia, Galicia, and, of course, zarzuela.
Of the zarzuela extracts, the most fascinating, if familiar, duet was "Caballero del alto plumero" from Moreno Torroba's Luisa Fernanda, touchingly rendered by soprano Corinne Winters and tenor Andrew Owens. Ms. Winters joined with mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta for a lovely "Todas las mañanitas" from Penella's Don Gil de Alcalá (even if I would rather have heard the flores duet from Barbieri's Los diamantes de la corona). "Despierta, negro" that "Ol' Man River" of Spain, from Sorozábal's La tabernera del puerto was entrancingly intoned by baritone Carlton Ford, and Mr Owens also soloed with "Paxarín tú que vuelas" from Luna's La pícara molinera.
Of the many other numbers, I was most taken by the Sephardically derived numbers, "Tres hijas tiene el buen rey" by Alberto Hemsi, and the moving melody of "Adió querida", arranged by Manuel García Morante. Other items included Mompou's "Damunt de tu només les flors", written during the second world war, "El majo olvidado" by Granados, and two Turina songs drawn from Lope de Vega, finely sung by Ms Winters and Mr Owens.
Mr Ford further regaled us with two very lively numbers, one a sevillanas from the eighteenth century, and the other a fairly ludicrous "Canto negro" by Xavier Montsalvatge. Other composers not normally heard around New York included José Melchor Gomis, Joaquín Nin, Graciano Tarragó, and Eduard Toldrá.
The last number, sung by the company, was "El arreglito" by Yradier, which, it seems, furnished the main strain for Bizet's entrance song for Carmen. And the encore, which brought down the house, was a Moïses Simons Cuban ensemble. (His operetta, Toi c'est moi (1934) was recently revived with success in Paris.)
All in all, very lively and enjoyable evening, and a masterpiece of score-searching!
© Richard Traubner 2011
19 March 2011