Mudarra, he of the famous fantasy in the style of Ludovico, here receives a more detailed examination. Hopkinson Smith produced two discs of Mudarra for Astrée, the first (E 8740) devoted to solo vihuela works, the second, with Montserrat Figueras (E8533) presenting 15 of the 24 songs in Mudarra's oeuvre. I reviewed the former in Fanfare 16,1; the latter seems to have been passed over in these pages.
I have enjoyed and praised Jacob Heringman's playing in previous ensemble recordings, so I am pleased to hear his work at greater length here. The focus of the collection is the vocal works, but Heringman intersperses them with Mudarra's tientos and fantasies, and there is an extended set of works for the guitar as well. Heringman displays a solid and effortless technique; the music flows beautifully, and has a natural shape that doesn't sound mannered. Heringman inclines toward the introspective, rather than the extroverted.
Mezzo Catherine King is new to me, though she has an extensive discography. Though she is described as a mezzo, she doesn't cultivate the ripe, fruity tones that term usually connotes, producing instead a direct, almost vibratoless sound which allows the text to come forth with clarity. Her diction is superb, and care has been taken to achieve the right period pronunciation for the Spanish texts, with a Spanish tinge given to the Latin as well. The famous “Coplas por la muerte de su padre” by Jorge Manrique, the leading Spanish poet of the late fifteenth century, are exemplary - King sings six of the original forty stanzas (close to eight minutes of music),and the listener is drawn into the telling of the poetry. One would welcome the whole poem, if King were reciting it. I find King's work clearly superior to that of Figueras. I don't particularly care for Figueras's sound, and her interpretations sound mannered, rushing and dragging, with uncalled-for emphases on unimportant words. ASV's sound is superb, and full translations are provided. Highly recommended.
Tom Moore, Fanfare, 1997