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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian accompanies Manuel de Falla in latest Zenph ghost recording

By John Terauds on December 11, 2011

Zuill Bailey with Manuel de Falla’s ghost last summer, making a recording. Zenph Photo.

Zenph Sound Innovations in the United States have perfected the art of translating old recordings into electronic instructions for player pianos, which are then used to make nice, new recordings.

The latest permutation has brought Spanish composer Manuel de Falla back to life, so that he can accompany soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and cellist Zuill Bailey in his Seven Popular Spanish Songs.

The disc also contains some pretty exciting piano solo work: Three improvisations Isaac Albéniz recorded for Thomas Edison in 1903, and the 12 Spanish Dances by Enrique Granados. There is also a live recording of Albéniz’s original version of La Vega.

Solo piano is one thing, as the same performance is being translated for the purposes of full, clear sound.

But having a ghost accompany a live singer or cellist is another matter altogether, one that fundamentally changes the dynamic of the performance.

Normally, an accompanist, even if he or she is the composer, will tailor their work to the soloist’s interpretation. But here, the soloist is tailoring their interpretation to what the accompanist is doing.

As Bayrakdarian asks in the video below, “How do you express and create your own lines with a piano accompaniment that is fixed?… How do I sing over these structured pillars and make it sound like he is accompanying me?”

Complicating matters further is the fact that de Fall and his original soloist in 1928, soprano Isabel Barrientos, took a lot of liberties with the score.

Check out the full details here.

What do you think about this marriage of living and ghostly?

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Music written in monody — a single melodic line underpinned with a straightforward accompaniment — adapts easily to all kinds of permutations. Here’s a nice example of “Nana,” one of Falla’s songs, performed on guitar (William Riley) and erhu (Jing Wang) in the Cape Cod town of New Bedford last month:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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