Friday 3 December 2021

Fiesta: the Autumn season of Dylan Perez' Re-Sung ends with an engaging evening of 20th-century Spanish song

Jesús Guridi in 1915
Jesús Guridi in 1915

- Falla, Turina, Guridi, Granados; Lucy Anderson, Dan D'Souza, Sofia Kirwan-Baez, Dylan Perez; Re-Sung at Church of St John the Divine, Kennington

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 1 December 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A group of young performers in an engaging recital, bringing the warmth of Spain into a cold Winter's evening and encouraging us to explore 20th century Spanish song

The Autumn season of Re-Sung, pianist Dylan Perez' song recital series at the Church of St John the Divine, Kennington, came to an end on Wednesday 1 December 2021 with Fiesta, a programme of Spanish songs by Manuel de Falla, Joaquin Turina, Jesus Guridi and Enrique Granados, sung by Lucy Anderson, Dan D'Souza and Sofia Kirwan-Baez, Dylan Perez accompanied, as well as providing engaging spoken introductions to the songs.

We began with perhaps one of the best known works in the relatively small group of Spanish songs that are widely performed internationally, Manuel de Falla's Siete canciones populares españolas, seven Spanish folksongs that Falla arranged for voice and piano in 1914. Usually sung by a female voice, here they were intriguingly sung by baritone Dan D'Souza. With a resonant masculine voice singing the songs, with little of the flirtatiousness that female performers often bring, the result was a surprising refocusing of the music. Throughout the cycle, I was far more conscious of the Spanish words and the phrases they made than is often the case. By turns sonorous, serious and insouciant, D'Souza brought a different feel to the music from the vividly vibrant tones of 'Seguidilla murciana' to the sculptural phrases of 'Nana' and the joyful swagger of 'Cancion'. Throughout, D'Souza was finely partnered by Perez whose rhythmically alert performance complemented D'Souza's admirably.

Joaquin Turina in 1914
Joaquin Turina in 1914
After Falla, music by his friend Joaquin Turina, another Spanish composer who spent time in Paris in the early years of the 20th century. Turina's music seems to be woefully neglected at the moment, and it was a great pleasure to encounter his scena, Corazón de mujer, written in 1926, performed by soprano Lucy Anderson. It was an intriguing, large-scale piece, with a text by Cristina de Arteaga about a woman after the ending of a relationship. Whilst the vocal line was often melodic yet quite serious and intense, Turina complemented this with a piano part which had strong echoes of popular music, as if we were overhearing the woman's thoughts as she listened to music. Anderson sang with strong, vibrant tone and brought a great sense of character to the piece, as the woman's various emotions played out. The piece ended where it began, with the piano perkily playing those fragments of popular melody, but the emotional atmosphere was changed.

Jesús Guridi was a Spanish Basque contemporary of Falla and Turina. He trained in Paris (at the Schola Cantorum with Vincent d'Indy), Brussels and Cologne, and as a composer found inspiration both in the music of Wagner and in Basque folklore. His Seis canciones castellanas are, however, based not on Basque melodies but on traditional songs from the region of Avila which were originally collected for a film for which Guridi wrote the music. The Civil War interrupted work on the film and Guridi's songs were premiered as a cycle in 1939. Much of Guridi's Basque-inspired music was supressed under the Franco regime, however these Castilian songs were published in 1941 by the state publishing company and helped establish Guridi's name.

Here they were sung by Sofia Kirwan-Baez with a wonderful sparkle in her eyes. A very engaging performer, Kirwan-Baez brought out the vivid character of each of the songs, whilst Perez performance of Guridi's rather French-inspired accompaniments, full of fascinating harmonies and textures, helped to move the songs from folkloric to art-song.

Enrique Granados wrote two books of piano pieces inspired by the work of the painter Goya in 1911 and 1914. The music became so popular that he adapted it into an opera, Goscoyescas which premiered in 1916. La maja y el ruiseñor comes from the opera, and is a delightful depiction of a woman listening to a nightingale and wondering what it is singing about. Love, she concludes. Here Lucy Anderson sang the woman with affecting character and style, whilst Dylan Perez did sterling duty as the nightingale, conjuring Granados' magical sounds in the piano. 

Whilst this recital brought Re-Sung's Autumn season to a most enjoyable end, it also highlighted the wealth of 20th century Spanish song that seems to be rather unaccountably neglected.

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