Sopra La Spagna

La Spagna, Alejandro Marías
Lukos records 5451CRE201665

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This celebration of the tune la spagna and its role throughout the history of music, opens paradoxically with a work which is not part of this tradition. The lament Triste España by Juan del Encina was composed to mark the death of Don Juan, the son of Ferdinand and Isabella, and I can’t hear it without recalling the searingly minimalist 1970s performance by Musica Reservata and the unrelenting voice of Jantina Noorman. In their instrumental rendition here, La Spagna manage a similar level of bleak integrity, appropriate perhaps for a project delayed by a global pandemic. What follows is a tour of la spagna-inspired music from throughout Europe, including a some newly conceived improvisations. There is some degree of variety amongst the historical la spagna settings, and the threat of turgidity is avoided, if occasionally only just. There is a certain degree of uniformity in the all-string rendition of much of this repertoire – perhaps a recorder might have lent a little textural variety? – but these are intense performances with integrity and considerable commitment. Particular highlights for me were the introduction of castanets into one of the modern improvisations, as well as the dynamic account of Tobias Hume’s Spanish Humor and the delightfully varied performance of Marin Marais’ Folies d’Espagne with which the programme concludes.

D. James Ross

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