Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Christine Moore Vassallo's Andalusian Journey in Song

Christine Moore Vassallo.

REVIEW: Christine Moore Vassallo's new CD


In her CD on the Meridian label to be released on June 28, 2024, “From Al Andalus to the Americas—an Odyssey of Spanish Song,” California-born soprano Christine Moore Vassallo evokes as much as 800 years of poetry and history in one unique vocal journey. Not only does she explore a fascinating variety of eras, but she also includes a cornucopia of unique works ranging from the early Arabic “muwashshahat” and “vihuela” to Sephardic, early and modern Spanish, and Latin American art song. The entire presentation is superbly done.

Pablo Gimenéz Hecht.
With the able collaboration of Jorge Robaina Pons (piano), Pablo Giménez Hecht (guitar), Anthony Robb (flute), Rachel Beckles Willson (oud), and Philip Arditti (darbuka), the effect makes for delightful listening from beginning to end.

To the Spanish the word duende represents a spirit that invokes emotion and authenticity, more effectively felt than described. In this superb album, an absolute treat for the mind and ear, Vassallo succeeds exceptionally in embodying this term, vocally and with great emotion and love for the music.

One could hardly ask for more variety, but Vassallo’s sweet sound and seductive passion add to the overall pleasure in listening to her interpret the exotic melodies of these far-off places. Her own Middle Eastern Arabic ancestry makes her uniquely qualified to perform the works in an authentic way.

A prime example is Nana de Sevilla, an anonymous 15th-17th century song from the collection Canciones antiguas españoles, transcribed and arranged by renowned Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca. Vassallo’s haunting rendition conjures the sultry atmosphere of an evening in the charming Andalusian city.

By contrast, Lamma bada yatathanna, an anonymous song that derives from the Arabic-language poetic genre called “muwashshah,” is redolent of 10th century Moorish Spain: lyrical, with an intoxicating Turkish/Ottoman flavor. Vassallo’s lilting voice subtly portrays the romantic flirtation between a man and a woman.

Jorge Robaina Pons.

The 20th/21st century Spanish composer Antón García Abril (right) personally coached Vassallo in the original voice and piano setting of his rarely performed Canciones del Jardin Secreto, based on Arabic-language texts of the “Golden Age of Islam.” The atmosphere of Los dos amores reflect an Impressionistic, ethereal form of composition. Vassallo skillfully handles the technical challenges and tessitura of the piece, and also the sadness of a loss of a beloved castle in Elegía a la perdida de la Alhambra.

Joaquín Turina.
Other well-known Spanish composers are represented as well. Joaquín Turina’s influence from Manuel de Falla and Isaac Albéniz can be heard in Turina’s Poema en forma de canciones, Op. 19: an example of his ongoing “expression of the feeling of a true Sevillian who did not know Seville until he left it...” After the poignant piano prelude Dedicatoria, Vassallo lends a special understanding of Spanish ambiance with Nunca olvida and Cantares.

Enrique Granados.
Barcelona-born Enrique Granados, recognized as one of Spain’s most gifted composers and tragically drowned aboard the Lusitania, also is represented in the album. Highly influenced by Spanish painter Francisco De Goya, Granados combined the old and the new in his famous cycle, La Maja Dolorosa (1910). In her performance of the three songs contained herein, Vassallo brings a soulful, tragic sense of shock to the story of the young Madrid woman who laments the loss of her majo. The soprano’s lovely tone pulls at the heartstrings of the listener.

Vassallo closes the album with the folk melody-based Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas, Op. 10, five folk songs by renowned Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera, who channels some of De Falla’s songs. From the spirited Chacarera (“from the farm”) to the more sobering Triste (“Sad”), the dynamic contrast and leaps in tessitura are impressively done.


Vassallo will perform songs from the album at a CD launch concert in New York on Friday, June 28, 2024, 7:30 pm, at Christ & St. Stephen's Church 120 West 69th Street. Details and tickets ($20/$15 students and seniors) at:

Album information: Catalogue No. CDE 84647 Barcode: 5015959464716

Photo credits: Christine Moore Vassallo: Richard Blinkoff; Jorge Robaina Pons: Michal Novak; Pablo Jimenéz Hecht: Javier Sanchez Leon; Antón García Abril: Fundación Tómas Moro; Turina & Granados: Wikimedia Commons.

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