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Much of the best-known Spanish music was written by foreign hands – Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio, Ravel’s and Chabrier’s Rhapsodies, Debussy’s Ibéria – so it’s a good to come back to Spanish music by Spanish composers. Falla remains the Spanish composer par excellence and the tunes of his Seven Popular Spanish Songs (1914) are so well known from their various chamber and orchestral arrangements (there’s even one by Luciano Berio) that one sometimes forgets they originated for voice and piano. They remain an object lesson not only in how to integrate folk material into art song but in the much-overworked (and often overlooked) concept ‘less is more’. Falla’s accompaniments are enormously expressive, yet their subtlety comes from the pared-down lines and textures, features the great poet Federico García Lorca sought to emulate surprisingly effectively when he made his own set of Old Spanish Songs around 1930.

Javier Perianes proves a winning accompanist to flamenco singer Estrella Morentes, whose earthy, breathy, tones – sounding here like a nightclub Lieder singer – give the songs, including the wonderful ‘Cancion del fuego fatuo’ in the fourth movement of the El Amor Brujo suite (1925), a wonderful piquancy and authenticity. For those used to, say, Teresa Berganza’s beautifully refined renditions (there’s a marvellous account with Gerald Moore from 1960 on YouTube) these may come as a shock, albeit an invigorating one. Perianes makes for a virtuosic advocate in the suite. Tempi in some of the numbers may seem a little sedate at times, but the urgency is there when needed, for example in ‘Jota’, ‘Polo’ or the vibrant ‘Ritual Fire Dance’; so too is delicacy, as in ‘Nana’. Recommended.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing