Following the success of their Odradek release Canciones para una Reina – art songs by Emilio Arrieta – soprano Sofia Esparza and pianist Rinaldo Zhok return with an album of world-premiere recordings showcasing the cancion output of 19th-century Spanish composer Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, marking the composer’s 200th anniversary.
Winner of the Premio al Talento Artistico de Navarra 2022, Sofia Esparza is a soprano celebrated for her creamy lyricism, while Rinaldo Zhok has been acclaimed for his groundbreaking research into neglected Spanish repertoire. Of Canciones para una Reina, Scherzo magazine wrote: “We should build a monument to this musician in Spain for his incredible work in favour of our heritage… an interpretation full of love, care and nuance…”.
One of the most important composers in the history of Spanish lyric theatre, Barbieri believed that the cancion occupied a privileged place in both popular and classical music, representing a timeless heritage common to all social classes that connects words and dance, theatre and folklore. Through studying and performing his songs together, Sofia Esparza and Rinaldo Zhok have revealed Barbieri’s love of his Andalusian roots, as well as his emphasis on immediately appealing melodies crafted with great skill. The songs gathered together on this album, never recorded before, represent a compendium of the cancion style; Barbieri’s career charts the trajectory of the genre itself, and beneath the surface of its accessible style is a rich and varied history embracing a wealth of cultural influences.
Barbieri was a versatile character whose career combined composition with researching and publishing fields from ethnomusicology to literature. Esparza and Zhok found that, while working on Barbieri’s songs, his aesthetic and social vision was also reflected in dozens of his essays and articles. This immersion in Barbieri’s world has given them a unique insight into his style – a perspective that comes across in their colourful and heartfelt interpretations of his music on this unmissable recording.