La Cupula Music
Eduard Toldrá: Seis Canciones (de Garcilaso, Anon., Jérica, Lope de Vega, Quevedo); Oscár Esplá; Canciones playeras (Rafael Alberti); Joaquín Reyes: Canciones para niños (Federico García Lorca and Antonio Machado); Ramón Medina: Se peinaba la niña (Pablo García Baena), La adelfa (Carlos Clementson)
La Cupula Music [1-CD, 8 433391 038970, 51:00]
It is always a pleasure to welcome new voices to the CD catalogue; and given the sad, recent departure of Enrique del Portal, it is especially good to welcome this debut disc from an 21st century heir to the tenor cómico tradition which Portal championed. The young, Cordovan singer Pablo García-López has been winning warm reviews throughout Europe for work in character roles, but his first solo album proves once again that outstanding voices are not easily pigeon-holed. In this fifty-minute collection from the Great Spanish Songbook, García-López’s crystalline diction, technical control of dynamics and lightly astringent tone – redolent of the fresh scent of lemon blossoms – announce a very particular musical personality. His airiness is nicely balanced by the earthier pianism of Aurelio Viribay, and by La Cupula Music’s rich recorded sound from Estudio Uno (in Colmenar Viejo, north of Madrid).
The collection is cannily chosen, backing tried-and-tested works by Eduard Toldrá and Oscár Esplá with unfamiliar – yet high-quality – songs by two more recent, Cordovan maestros. In Toldrá’s Seis Canciones, one of the greatest Spanish song cycles, we’re more used to hearing a female voice; but there’s no reason why a man shouldn’t be equally qualified to sing these warmly human character portraits from (mainly) Golden Age poetry. García-López brings confidence and seamless vocal security to bear, without always quarrying the full range of emotions which Teresa Berganza finds in her 1999 Claves recording – such as the intensity of the repeated ‘¡Ay, que me muero por ellos, Y ellos se burlan de mí!’ in the second song, ‘Madre, unos ojuelos ví’.
The more relaxed, pastel Canciones playeras by Esplá are an unqualified success. In these Mediterranean vignettes – not least the yearning ‘Rutas’ (Routes) which provides the album’s title – García-López’s citron sparkle is perfect, and he brings just the right level of lightly nuanced emotion to bear, modifying his mezzo voce huskily to suggest Esplá’s undercurrent of melancholy. Joaquín Reyes Cabrera (1914-2005) is a new name to me, but his Canciones para niños are most engaging: five Lorca settings, simple on the surface but with an underlying complexity often manifest in the piano part, are followed by a poignant one of Antonio Machado’s ‘Caballito soñado’, where we’re presented with the moving unity of past and present, sleep and waking, as an old man meditates on the horse who visited him in childhood dreams.
Nor did I know anything about Ramón Medina Hidalgo (1920-2012). According to the album’s programme note, some of his piano music was recorded by Rafael Orozco: I should like to hear that, because the two songs recorded here are spellbinding in their melodic quality – it’s no surprise to learn that Medina was closely associated with the music of his father, a popular Cordoban songwriter (also Ramón Medina), because his music communicates with strong immediacy. ‘Se peinaba la niña’ is a tone poem in miniature, of a girl combing her hair – an action brilliantly suggested in the glittering piano part, wonderfully painted by Viribay here – while the second, more muscular song ‘Adelfa’ shows García-López at his best, in shaping Medina’s quirky and unusually-contoured melodic line with flexibility and sure lightness of touch.
‘Quirky and unusual’ could equally well describe this clear-voiced young tenor, well complemented by the more classical virtues of his excellent pianist. Despite the booklet’s lack of song texts (maybe for copyright reasons) and failure to tell us much about the context of the songs themselves, I am delighted to have made Pablo García-López’s acquaintance, and greatly look forward to seeing him on stage – back at La Zarzuela, perhaps? – in the near future.
© Christopher Webber and zarzuela.net, 2020