ALBENIZ:  Iberia (Orch. Peter Breiner) (Evocación, El Puerto, El Corpus en Sevilla, Rondena, Almería, Triana, El Albaicín, El Polo, Lavapiťs, Málaga, Jerez, Eritana)
Moscow Symphony Orch/Igor Golovschin, cond.

NAXOS 8.553023 (B) (DDD) TT:  76:46

ALBENIZ:  Iberia (Orch. Arbós and Surinach) (Evocación, El Puerto, El Corpus en Sevilla, Rondena, Almeria, Triana, El Albaicín, El Polo, Lavapies, Málaga, Jerez, Eritaa)
Cincinnati Symphony Orch/Jesús López-Coboz, cond.

TELARC 2CD 80470 (2 CDs for the price of 1) (F) (DDD) TT:  82:16


ALBENIZ:  Iberia (Orch. Arbós and Surinach) (Evocación, El Puerto, El Corpus en Sevilla, Rondena, Almeria, Triana, El Albaicín, El Polo, Lavapies, Málaga, Jerez, Eritana)
Philadelphia Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond.
HAYDN HOUSE HH 1059 (MONO) (M) TT:  70:31

Iberia is a set of twelve piano pieces composed between 1906 and 1909 in four "books" of three pieces each.  Albeniz's friend, Enrique Fernandez Arbós, suggested the composer orchestrate the pieces but poor health prevented his doing so.  Arbós then took on the task but orchestrated only five movements;  Spanish composer-conductor Carlos Surinach transcribed the remaining seven. In 1956, just pre-stereo, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra made a stunning recording of the Arbós/Surinach version for Columbia (issued on LP: M2L 237), a twin-LP set I still treasure.  This has been issued in a superb transfer by Haydn House.  It's an example of Columbia's finest mono sound, clear, vivid, and well-balanced.  This can be obtained only from Haydn House - http://www.HaydnHouse.com There are no program notes, but the price is more than reasonable and it is well worth having, a fine example of the kind of superb music making going on in Philadelphia at the time. The orchestral Iberia has also been issued on Telarc, as well as on Naxos, the latter in new orchestrations by Peter Breiner.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Naxos issue of music of Granados, Spanish Dances arranged for guitar and orchestra by Breiner (see review).  His sensitivity to Spanish music also is evident in his arrangements of Iberia. The problem here is that Golovschin and the Russian orchestra are not well-suited for this music.  The lively dance movements are stodgy, the orchestra sounds under-sized and the recording, made in Moscow in 1996, is wide-range but unreverberant. Still there is interest in this recording—another insightful orchestration of Albeniz' evocative music, and at a budget price.

López-Cobos would seem to be a better choice for this repertory, but his tempi for the most part are slower; his total performance (82:16) cannot be accommodated on a single CD.  It takes two, sold for the cost of one full-price CD.  Telarc's recording boasts the label's usual wide-range, super clear sonic quality, which seems to emphasize thinness of the Cincinnati strings.  It is odd there are so few recordings of the orchestral Iberia. One of the best was the IMG issue with Enrique Bátiz and the London Symphony of the five Arbós transcriptions (CD 1607), unfortunately now deleted.  For the original piano version, any of the Alicia De Laroccha recordings can be recommended.

R.E.B. (Feb. 2001)