• Spanish by birth, drawn to the musical sensibilities of France, Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) combined diverse passions in his scores: from early church music to folk song, zarzuela and splashes of European avant garde. In Paris he encountered Debussy, Ravel, Diaghilev and Stravinsky. Steeped in these influences, he fled back to Madrid in 1914 at the start of war.
On a new album, the Orchestra of the Americas, conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto, performs Falla’s ballet The Three-Cornered Hat and his quasi piano concerto Nights in the Garden of Spain (Linn) with the mezzo-soprano Alejandra Gómez Ordaz and pianist Jorge Federico Osorio. This pan-American orchestra consists of musicians aged 18 to 30, from 25 different countries. The playing gleams and crackles, with Nights in the Garden at once sensuous and darkly dramatic in its depiction of the jasmine-infused gardens of Spanish-Arabian Andalusia. The live recording comes from their summer residency in Mexico City just a year ago, a different era. But these brilliant young players give us hope for an orchestral future.
• Falla died in Argentina in 1946, narrowly missing a chance to attend thedebut a seven-year-old Buenos Aires-born piano prodigy: Daniel Barenboim gave his first public concert in the city on 19 August 1950. His 70 years of concert life, first as pianist then conductor too, are marked this week at a modified Salzburg festival, in the year of its own centenary. Since we cannot be there, let’s pay tribute to Barenboim’s devotion to Elgar, long evident in performances and recordings, particularly his Decca series with the golden-toned Staatskapelle Berlin.
Resident at the Berlin State Opera, where Barenboim has been music director since 1992, this superb ensemble has a sound distinguished by rich strings and integrated virtuosity. Check out their accounts of Elgar’s symphonies. Sea Pictures and Falstaff (Decca) pairs the popular orchestral song cycle, here sung with warmth and stamina – tempos are broad but never too slow – by Elīna Garanča, and the less frequently heard symphonic study Falstaff: full of wistful humour and poignancy, characterfully played. The woodwind, especially, deserve individual naming, but in this orchestra, teamwork is the order of the day.
• Eavesdrop on opera from the inside with From the Producer’s Office. In this ever engaging podcast, Opera Holland Park’s director of opera, James Clutton, talks to top figures including singers Allan Clayton and Matthew Rose, director Barrie Kosky and lighting designer Paule Constable.