Ernest Ansermet / Teresa Berganza

Falla: Three Cornered Hat

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Audiophile reissues presenting the best efforts of post-World War II sound engineers have also in several cases preserved performances that would simply be hard to improve upon. RCA's Living Stereo series has revivified several top-notch albums, and now comes this 1961 recording of Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat with Ernest Ansermet conducting l'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and the soprano passages from Teresa Berganza. The handsome packaging preserves much of the original liner text and also evokes that era in another way -- there is a discussion of the technology involved in the remastering, complete with wiring diagrams and the like. Sound nerds will be delighted. But so will ordinary listeners -- this is one of those period sonic extravaganzas that can still stand up to the best recordings made today. And The Three-Cornered Hat, with its kaleidoscopic sequence of instrumental colors, interspersed with a large battery of Spanish percussion, is one of the best palettes ever devised for the sound engineer. Ansermet conducted the ballet's premiere in 1919, with sets by Picasso and dancers from the celebrated Ballets Russes. He knew the work better than any other conductor, and what emerged onto vinyl was a riot of color -- brass, winds, percussion, and vocal "olé!" exclamations. Some unique effects of the original recording -- Berganza and a few of the instrumentalists are placed at some distance from the microphones in order to create a spacious, quasi-live effect -- come through in full color on this remarkable reissue. The famed "Interlude" and "Dance" from La vida breve make for a rousing finale. Thoroughly enjoyable for audiophiles and owners of ordinary equipment.

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