Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic’s disc of Manuel de Falla’s “La Vida Breve” has been released on the Chandos label. Featuring a stellar cast of Spanish soloists and the RTVE Chorus, it was recorded last June following a performance of the work at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall to mark Maestro Mena’s last concert in Manchester as Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic.
“…A characteristic of Mena’s musical approach is a strongly lyrical, poetic style. He has a gift for bringing out the gentler aspects of any piece he conducts. That is very much the case here, in a profoundly beautiful, even devout, performance of this classic of Spanish music. This beauty of sound is matched in a characteristically warm Chandos recording, admirably suited to a performance such as this. Throughout one is conscious of the love thrown over the whole work, as well as the meticulous preparation of all involved. A great deal of thought has gone into the recording, with all-Spanish forces, apart from the ever-admirable BBC Philharmonic. The RTVE Symphony Chorus obviously flew to Manchester for the occasion. This opera, despite its brevity, depends very much on the quality of the chorus, and the authenticity pays dividends…” (Michael Wilkinson, musicweb-international.com)
“… Mena prises open textures and sonorities with great subtlety and attention to detail, so that we’re fully able to appreciate the shifting colours of Falla’s writing for strings and woodwind, much indebited to Dukas and Debussy, and his refined yet telling use of brass and percussion. The playing immaculately blends clarity with sensuousness, while the Coro de la Radio y Televisión Española sing with admirable warmth of tone…” (Tim Ashley, Gramophone Magazine)
“I admired Mena’s previous release of Falla’s masterworks so his refined ear and idiomatic flair pays dividends here, aided and abetted by superb recorded sound – the haunting opening with offstage men’s chorus ideally balanced and the anvils for once sound convincing.” (Warwick Arnold, Limelightmagazine.com.au)
“…This Chandos recording really gains in having been captured in an extraordinarily clear, spacious but not over-resonant acoustic. This allows much of the brilliance of the orchestration to register as never before. Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic have worked hard to get these aspects dynamically balanced…” (Alexander Campbell, classicalsource.com)
“… Mena’s enthusiasm for the work must have rubbed off on [the orchestra], because they are instrumental in creating the work’s all-important atmosphere. Those dark, sinuous strings of the opening are hair-raisingly good, as are the sparkling Act 2 dances and the bright winds of the Intermezzo…. This disc is worthwhile, particularly as proof that a British orchestra can play Spanish music like the best of them.” (Simon Thompson, musicweb-international.com)
You can purchase the disc, download the audio and see full track listings here.