Falla / El Amor Brujo & El Retablo de Maese Pedro / Argenta – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

El Amor Brujo & El Retablo de Maese Pedro / Argenta

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The famous Ansermet recording of El Retablo de Maese Pedro (Master Peter’s Puppet Show) has been mastered on this London Stereo Treasury Import LP to near PERFECTION. This is High Fidelity Audiophile Demo Disc Quality Gold, with bells, drums, voices, trumpets, strings, woodwinds and more, all sounding so real it will take your breath away. This Golden Age tape has been mastered brilliantly with “modern” mastering equipment (from the mid-’60s, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.  

On side one Argenta’s El Amor Brujo never sounds as good — what does? — but at least on this copy it’s quite respectable and enjoyable, earning a sonic grade of A+ to A++. With access to one of the best recording halls in the world, side two is where the true Falla magic can be found.

You can be pretty sure of two things when you hear a record of this quality: one, the original won’t sound as good, having been cut on much cruder equipment.

And two, no modern recutting of the tapes by the likes of Speakers Corner for example could begin to capture this kind of naturalistic sound. I have never heard a Heavy Vinyl pressing begin to do what this record is doing. This STS may be a London budget reissue pressing, but it was mastered by Decca, pressed in England on high quality vinyl, using fairly fresh tapes, and mastered about as well as a record can be mastered. The sound is REAL and BELIEVABLE.

When have you ever heard a modern remastering with this kind of depth and width to the soundstage? I have yet to have the pleasure and I’ve played scores of them, close to a hundred I would guess. We used to carry all that Heavy Vinyl back in the day and I played them and reviewed them as they came out, rejecting a good 80% right from the get go. None, not one, ever sounded like this.

$175 for a reissue might seem to be a stretch, but we know an amazing record when we hear one, and we know that the next copy that comes along is very unlikely to sound as good as this one does. That’s simply “regression toward the mean”, a reality we have learned to respect. We don’t sell our records based on their reputations. We sell them based on the sound inscribed in their grooves, and these are some mighty fine grooves on side two. A+++ White Hot Stamper Can’t Be Beat grooves!

Side Two

A+++, even more open than the copy we thought was White Hot, with fuller vocals and more 3-D sound than we had any right to expect!

A True Demo Disc, that’s for sure.

Side One

A+ to A++, big, open and rich, and above all, natural sounding. It has some dryness, some smear and some shrillness compared to side two, but what record won’t? Side two here is just too good.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

El Amor Brujo

“El amor brujo (Love, the Magician, rarely translated as Wedded by Witchcraft) is a piece of music originally composed by Manuel de Falla for a chamber group, then re-scored as a symphonic suite, and eventually as a ballet. The texts were by Gregorio Martínez Sierra.

“The work is distinctively Andalusian in character with the songs in the Andalusian Spanish dialect of the Gypsies. The music contains moments of remarkable beauty and originality; it includes the celebrated Ritual Fire Dance, Cancion del Fuego Fatuo (Will-o’-the-Wisp) and the Dance of Terror.” Wikipedia

Side Two

El Retablo de Maese Pedro

“Falla’s witty and ironic 25-minute opera, loosely based on Don Quixote, comes across as a Spanish-flavoured equivalent of Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale.”