Albeniz / Turina – Iberia / Danzas Fantasticas

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

  • A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find
  • Listen to the plucked basses – clear, not smeary, with no sacrifice in richness. Take it from us, the guys that play classical recordings by the score, this is hard for a record to do!
  • Ernst Ansermet conducted some of the best sounding records ever made — here are some of the ones we’ve reviewed

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

This vintage London pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for —this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Iberia/Danzas Fantasticas Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1960
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Victoria Hall

These sessions were recorded in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. Released in 1960, CS 6194 is yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, perhaps of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound that goes beyond all the other recordings we have played, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.

What We’re Listening For on Iberia/Danzas Fantasticas

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.


Side One


El Corpus En Sevilla
El Puerto
El Albiein

Side Two

Danzas Fantasticas



Description by “Blue” Gene Tyranny

As a piano series in four books, this suite is Albéniz’s outstanding accomplishment, featuring complex playing techniques, bright modern harmonies, and imitations of instruments such as the guitar and castanets. In this transcription of five of the 12 “impressions” for orchestra by E. Fernández Arbós, many fascinating timbral elements are added to and amplified from the piano score.

“Evocación” (Evocation, 1906) opens with a bright Spanish chord consisting of a guitar-like string pizzicato, timbales, triangle, and high winds. Transposed to the key of A minor from the original A flat minor (intonation and certain figures are considerably easier for the orchestra in A minor), a plaintive English horn delivers the sad, haunting triple meter melody before it is passed on to other woodwind instruments. The expansive high strings are supported by pulsing horns and rich arpeggios which completely realizes something at which the pianist can only hint. Arbós adds new Debussy-inspired textures with tremolo strings and fast runs.

“La Fête Dieu à Séville” (“El Corpus en Sevilla”/Corpus Christi in Seville, 1906) is a celebratory minor-key tune that builds to fiery emotion. Arbós brilliantly accomplishes the difficult transfer of the unique piano figures to the orchestra (for example, quick two-hand alterations are reinterpreted by repeated pedal point on the open A string, or by tremolos in the violins). This makes for some exciting, brightly sparkling impressionist textures. Calmer and slower English horn and flute melodies are then accompanied by softly undulating muted Debussyian string timbres. The final Vivo section re-ignites the energy in triple meter. The ending has bell-like sounds bringing back a religious aspect following the celebration.

“Triana” (1906) is a dance with a graceful, spirited, lilting rhythm with daring harmonic modulations and combinations which calls for an expanded percussion section including timbales, triangle, Basque drum (Pandereta), cymbals, small tambour, tubular bells, and celesta, and like the typical Debussy orchestra, calls for two harps and an expanded wind section.

“El Puerto” (The Port, 1906), in a joyous 6/8 meter, contrasts brusque punctuations with a happy folk dance melody and with “subtle and caressing” sighing figures. Arbós adds many glissandi, quick trills and turns, and mid-range wind and brass sustains (replacing some of the sustaining pedal and resonance capabilities of the piano).

“El Albaicín” (1907), the name of a gypsy quarter in Granada, unfolds in a lively angular dance rhythm with a melancholy sweetness and bold harmonies.

Danzas Fantásticas

Description by Joseph Stevenson

In contrast to his friend and fellow composer Manuel de Falla (six years older), Turina was less interested in mainstream European music and continued to write in the rich, colorful Andalusian style which most often is associated with Spanish music. Danzas fantásticas is a brilliant, wholly Spanish piece and Turina’s best-known work (there is also a piano version).

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