As compared to the vast reference material devoted to the history and analyses of North American and other Central European classical song literature, little scholarly attention has been devoted to the art songs of Catalonia, the autonomous community in Spain. The repressive effects of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorial ban on this region’s native language, Catalan, contributed to scarce diffusion of its classical song literature abroad. General public knowledge of Catalan art song stems primarily from the extant recordings of a few internationally revered native singers such as Victoria de los Ángeles and Montserrat Caballé. Despite the work of these extraordinary artists to champion the endangered music of their homeland, much work remains in order to achieve a deeper understanding of this music internationally. Our recording aims to illuminate this nationalistic genre—its history and its style—and also provide a context for understanding the performance practice, so that Catalan art song of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries may continue to gain recognition.
Spain’s landscape is vast, and Catalonia—joined by Castile, Andalusia, Galicia and the Basque country—enjoys its own customs and style. Indeed, Catalan art song has a distinctive musical voice and heritage, strongly influenced by its exchange of ideas on Impressionism and Neoclassicism with France. It’s important to note that areas of the French département of the Pyrénées-Orientales, recognized as Catalogne Nord (Northern Catalonia), was once part of the former Principality of Catalonia. Although ceded to France by Spain (1659), this region still retains much of its Catalan culture. The Catalan language is also spoken in the Principality of Andorra in Alghero, Italy, and other regions of the world.
Since 2010, concerts of Catalan art songs presented by the formidable duo of Isaí Jess Muñoz and Oksana Glouchko have generated overwhelming responses from audiences eager to hear more of this fascinating repertoire. Through these encouraging interactions, they were inspired to create this audio recording. History illustrates that something emerges from the human compulsions to look and record, to contemplate, even as we mourn. Much like the civil unrest and physical displacement endured by Catalonian artists, such as Frederic Mompou, Ricard Lamote de Grignon, and many contemporaries, troubled times have been inherent in many compelling artistic journeys; specifically, the frustration of seeing one's hopes and hard work either halted or not fully realized. For these artists, however, creating was an attempt to break free from the constraints of their present state, to draw on what they had already experienced, and to gain understanding of what still lay beyond the known and the present, in order to make peace and a positive difference. Beyond the cry for love of country, or amorous or fraternal affection, the music and poetry contained herein serves as compelling artifacts of human longing and endurance.
Select Critical Acclaim for Visca L'Amor
“...vibrant new recording distinguished by the quality of its unusual repertoire and the strength of its ardent musicianship… Muñoz is a joy to listen to. Not only is his expression as pure as it is sincere, but the manner in which he sounds open vowels in the midrange is a bit reminiscent of the voice of the young Jussi Björling… his voice and renditions deliver such unalloyed pleasure as to ensure that many of these songs will find a warm spot in your heart… As far as ardent tenors go, Muñoz is right up there with José Carreras, which is saying a lot… there’s so much beauty to be had on this recording, that I recommend it highly.
I also expect that, upon hearing it, many vocal lovers will want to seek out more recordings by Isaí Jess Muñoz.”
Jason Victor Serinus, San Francisco Classical Voice
“A strikingly beautiful recording… Sung passionately by Muñoz and luminously played by Glouchko… a thrilling introduction to a little-known musical world… replete with exceptionally fine, appropriately emotional singing and beautiful pianism, the songs themselves are a continually expanding treasure-trove, one after another filled with musical riches…Muñoz has written detailed and very interesting liner notes about both the songs and the political climate that denigrated them...The communication between singer and pianist in this recording is transcendent, with equal artistry on both parts, and the beauty of the songs themselves makes it all the more jarring that this vocal canon has been so shockingly absent from the world stage.”
Gail Obenreder, Philadelphia’s Broad Street Review
"Five Stars: This present disc certainly does Catalan music a great service and can be unhesitatingly recommended…Fine presentation and a perfect recording in which the voice and piano are placed in ideal relation to each other rounds off a most notable release…Muñoz knows exactly how much emotion to inject for maximal impact, never teetering over the edge into sentimentality; and it is in this that the strength of these readings lies. Muñoz's long melismas, too, reveal a seamless legato…the fragranced harmonies rising to palpable ecstasy from Muñoz’ strong lines… the luminous playing of Oksana Glouchko.”
Colin Clarke, Fanfare
“A lovely recital and a cultural milestone…Anyone already devoted to Spanish vocal music is bound to be intrigued by the cultural importance of this release, but on musical grounds it deserves a wider audience, since every song is appealing and beautifully performed…A thumbnail sketch hardly does justice to a thriving music scene, and I was happy, through this eye-opening song recital from tenor Isaí Jess Muñoz, to experience a wealth of composers unknown to me…I hasten to say that the singer on this new CD, Isaí Jess Muñoz, possesses a very attractive lyric tenor with a melting, romantic timbre. He displays admirable musicianship and a strong empathy for the texts, which are by prominent Catalan poets. The singer’s well-controlled legato suits the material perfectly, particularly when the subject is love. In the Russian-born Israeli pianist Oksana Glouchko, Muñoz has found a strong musical partner whose playing is confident and idiomatic.”
Huntley Dent, Fanfare
"Five Stars: Catalan Art songs shine.. first-rate repertoire marvelously performed… the performing artists are as exemplary as the repertoire they interpret. Isaí Jess Muñoz is a lyric tenor with a warm and attractive voice, never losing its focus or tonal beauty. He sings the featured repertoire with keen attention to the music and text, enhanced by a rich dynamic and tonal palette. Pianist Oksana Glouchko plays with incisiveness, rich tone, and a notable sense of collaboration with Muñoz. I’ve already enjoyed it several times, and will continue to do so. Highly recommended."
Ken Meltzer, Fanfare