The reissue game continues. All of this material has been available more or less continuously in recent years, with the exception of Frühbeck's Three-Cornered Hat, which only resurfaced quite recently on an EMI twofer accompanied by Atlántida. The reason it reappears here, evidently, stems from the fact that this two-disc set contains all of Victoria de Los Angeles' stereo Falla recordings; and despite the fact that she sings for about 60 seconds in total in "Hat", it's always a pleasure to hear Frühbeck's big-hearted, expansively Romantic but always exciting way with the music.
Of the remaining items, La Vida Breve, the Seven Popular Spanish Songs, and the two additional vocal works Soneto a Córdoba and Psyché, are all classics, the finest versions available. Los Angeles always disappointed those who view authentic Spanish music as the expression of screaming hysteria and passionate pain, forgetting the sheer beauty of the language and its almost courtly modes of expression (so sensitively echoed by Falla's text setting), but the great soprano makes the big moments all the more impressive by saving the explosions of emotion for the real climaxes. In La Vida Breve, aided by Frühbeck's exactly similar approach (how he cuts loose in the big ensembles!), the result offers pathos without making the admittedly slender story ridiculous or overly sentimental.
The only reservation concerns El amor brujo, whose songs really do seem to require a bit more blood and guts than either Los Angeles or Giulini seem able to provide, for all the lovely playing in the purely orchestral Pantomime. Mind you, Frühbeck led the Ritual Fire Dance with similar deliberation (maybe even more so), but then he had Nati Mistral's incomparable singing of the vocal part to add the necessary touch of emphasis where needed, as well as a harder-edged orchestral sonority and more sharply focused sonics. Next to Mistral, Los Angeles sounds a bit tame, and the playing of the Philharmonia somewhat soft-edged. Still, musically speaking there's little here to quibble about; it's all very beautiful indeed, and given this set's other attractions I'm not going to complain (particularly regarding the rating for Artistic Quality). The remastering, unlike the unsuccessful Samson et Dalila in this same series, manages to freshen up the sound without harm to the voices. [9/19/2001]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com