Zuill Bailey / Isabel Bayrakdarian

The Spanish Masters

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AllMusic Review by

If only great masters of the past were to perform their own works today, one might have a deepened sense of the way in which the music should be interpreted. Fortunately, this desire has become a reality, thanks to the Zenph sound technique of digitally analyzing composers' own recordings, measuring them minutely on a number of parameters -- such as the relative speed and loudness of each note -- and using those to reproduce the performance on a modern, programmable instrument such as a Yamaha Disklavier. Cellist Zuill Bailey, pianist Milton Rubén Laufer, and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian share the privilege of performing thusly with the accompaniment of Manuel de Falla and Enriqué Granados. These composers, along with Isaac Albéniz, also take a turn "playing" on this wonderful album that brings their music to life. The first set of pieces on the album, by de Falla (which are revisited later with the voice), are quite fantastically engaging. "El Paño Moruno" gallops with vivacity, and even the long lines in the cello are full of energy, with supple tension. Bailey plays with fire, precision, and most importantly, emotion throughout the cycle: he simply does what a good cellist should. The result is a performance both old and new that is marvelous for the listener. Laufer is a different kind of artist on this album, but no less fantastic. In La Vega, his piano playing sparkles with sensitivity, elegance, and delicacy, and maintains those qualities even when playing with great passion. Unfortunately, this is his only contribution to the album. Albéniz's Improvisaciones are dark, emotional, and lush with their perfect rhythms and fire. Composer Granados also "solos" on the album, in four different pieces. His Piano Sonata is densely textured and perfectly played, with cascades of perpetual motion falling upon the ear. The Improvisación recalls Chopin with its ornate, lavish frills and trills, while the Danza Española No. 7 has exciting syncopations. The artist who seems to suffer the most on this album is the warm, rich-voiced Bayrakdarian, for the particular style of recording renders her usual sound somewhat flat, with no reverb or echo, and, at the worst moments, slightly shrill or reedy. (One might argue that her placement, which on occasion tends to run quite bright and frontal, could also contribute to this problem.) The resonance is what is probably lost, but what is unmistakable is the beauty of her voice quality and her gift of conveying emotion. "Polo" is a fine example of her wonderful technique and artistry entwined together. This repertoire is particularly well suited to her; unfortunately, the technology is probably not. This excepted, the album is quite a unique gem to be able to hear the best performers of today with the best performer/composers of the past.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Siete Canciones Populares Españolas
1 1:23
2 2:33
3 3:13
4 1:37
5 1:18
6 1:35
7 9:37
Improvisations (3)
8 2:11
9 2:08
10 2:06
Sonatas (24)
11 2:00
12 3:01
Spanish Dances (12)
13 3:04
14 3:07
Siete Canciones Populares Españolas
15 1:21
16 1:23
17 2:33
18 3:13
19 1:35
20 1:17
21 1:34
El Amor Brujo
22 1:35
23 3:10
blue highlight denotes track pick