Thursday, December 30, 2010

Salli Terri & The Almeida Combo Recordings of 1958

I don't follow opera much, and a lot of what is called art song seems to exist in a pocket of space and time that I never enter. But I was much taken in the summer after my third year of college with a recording which a new friend of mine named Vern introduced me to: Duets with Spanish Guitar, featuring soprano Salli Terri, here in its original LP sleeve--

and here, in its later incarnation as a part of a double CD reissue from EIMI/Angel--

For those of you who don't like classical soprano voice, be advised that these tracks don't sound like opera, because they're settings (except for the famous one of Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasilieras No 5) of popular South American cabaret or folk tunes, lively and sexy. But Ms. Terri's voice is very special indeed. Not being, as I say, an aficionado of classical voice, I'm unqualified to judge its professional calibre, but can only confess that it speaks to me in a deeply emotional way.

Ms. Terri made a series of recordings with the superb Spanish guitarist Laurindo Almeida in the late 1950's, which were issued in (I believe) three separate collections. Those I first heard were from the initial album selections. YouTube only has a couple of selections from these albums--the Villa-Lobos and a rousing piece called Boi-Bumba. Here is a listing of the entire CD Album contents--

"Entr'acte" (Jacques Ibert) — 3:12
"Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" (Heitor Villa-Lobos) — 2:24
"Ronde" (Emile Desportes) — 2:01
"Azulao" (Jayme Ovalle) — 1:28
"Prelude in E Minor" (Frédéric Chopin) — 2:13
"O Cacador" (Laurindo Almeida) — 1:47
"Pastorale Joyeuse" (Desportes) — 2:36
"Tres Pontos de Santo" (Ovalle) — 4:06
"Tambourin" (François-Joseph Gossec) — 1:26
"Boi-Bumbá" (Valdemar Henrique) — 1:35
"Sicilienne" (Gabriel Fauré) — 4:00
"Para Niñar" (Paurillo Barroso) — 2:20
"Pièce en Forme de Habanera" (Maurice Ravel) — 2:45
"Maracatu" (Ernani Braga) — 3:33
"Pavane pour une infante défunte" (Ravel) — [Bonus Track] 3:53
"Passarinho Está Cantando" (Francisco Mignone) — [Bonus Track] 1:23
"Modinha" (Bandeiro, Ovalle) — [Bonus Track] 2:20
"Waltz from the Serenade for Strings" (Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky) — [Bonus Track] 2:53"Canción from Siete Canciones Populares Españolas" (Manuel de Falla) — [Bonus Track] 1:24"Farrúca" (De Falla) — [Bonus Track] 2:38

The voice combo recordings are interspersed with pieces by Almeida and a flautist named Martin Ruderman--which are in their way as inspired and beautiful as the pieces sung by Terri. The whole CD can be "sampled" on the following "myspace" page (, if you have an iTunes software on your PC.

The problem with music that one discovers at this age, is that there is always the danger that it will effect one more deeply than it otherwise might have, simply because one was, at that time, in love, or falling in love--which was the case for me that year. There is nothing quite like the romance of a lovely female voice when one is loving a woman, intensely, for the very first time. But let's not get maudlin.

I can't say I know very much about Salli Terri, aside from my experience of her emotional sensibility as expressed in her recordings (which is really something!). She was born in Canada in 1922, and emigrated to the U.S., taking degrees in Music at Wayne State and USC before traveling to teach English (!) in Japan in the early 1950's. She eventually married, bore two children, and had a long career as a teacher of music theory in Fullerton, and conducted chorale, while pursuing a professional career as a classical singer. She even did some work in the movies. Died in Long Beach in 1996.

Salli doesn't appear to have been a great beauty, but she wasn't unattractive, at least on the evidence of the stylized portrait above, apparently made while she was residing in Japan. But the quality of her voice has been one of the great pleasures of my life. I've listened to the three albums she made with Almeida over and over for over 40 years, and they never get old.

I hope others may have this experience as I did. Salli Terri's flexibility was such that she could perform and evoke classical pieces and expression as well as she could cabaret or folk melodies. The common thread was the stirring and heart-felt conviction she brought to each setting. One is moved to exaggeration: There can be no higher value to an artistic experience than listening to a master, milking all the passion and hunger for life communicated through the instrument of the voice. Hearing her sing is like being in love all over again.

You can still purchase the CD online. At $8.99 per, it's the best musical bargain in history.


Perezoso said...

the Villa-lobos, Bach in Brazil---que sabroso

Stravinsky admired Segovia, supposedly--- the guitar's beauty is quiet, tho', sensitive, melancholy, not teutonic, or Beethoven or rock n roll dance noize---ergo, 'Mericans don't usually get it

J said...

Interesting, Pz.

As with much opera-related product, the musick's not half bad, at least when there's no singing, tho' Larry might have used a bass player.

Craig said...

I always associated Almeida with the mandolin. That's what he had with him when he rode in my taxi from the Olympic Hotel in Seattle to the Jazz Alley for a gig with Ray Brown back around 1980. He was shocked that a cab driver recognized him as a celebrity.

Craig said...

Brazilian music derives from the Portuguese tradition which features the mandolin backed by a Spanish guitar. According to wiki Beethoven was fond of composing music for the mandolin, the primary guitar instrument of his day. Almeida's unique ability to play mandolin solos on the Spanish guitar is what made him a jazz sensation and not just another classical musician. I saw him play with the L.A. Four at the Paramount in Seattle in a concert that featured what were then known as the Concord All-Stars, a dozen or so big name performers who recorded primarily on the Concord Label. I went with some friends who were there to hear Barney Kessel, best known for his rendition on electric guitar of the theme from the Flintstones.

Craig said...

I also drove Johnny Unitas from the Westin Hotel to the Kingdome for one of his not very numerous gigs as a color commentator.

Teresa said...

I just came across this post about "Duets with the Spanish Guitar," produced by my father, Robert E Myers. I deeply appreciate your generous and thoughtful comments. "Duets" was a remarkable accomplishment in the lives of the artists, as well as for my dad and the engineer Sherwood Hall III, who was awarded the first classical engineering Grammy for "Duets". As you might imagine, it is gratifying that the recording is still available on iTunes et al. You might be interested in the Wikipedia page on my father, "Robert E Myers record producer" which includes his discography and an overview of his career with Angel Records. Again, thank you.

Curtis Faville said...


Producers and engineers are the great unsung heroes of the music business.

How much of what makes an album great is the result of great mechanics and editing? These are mysterious areas for most of those of us who do the actual buying and listening.

Thanks for this post!

Teresa said...

Thank you! In addition to the mechanics and science of recording, I believe another mystery (to us outsiders) is role of the gut level instincts and ear of the producer sitting in the recording booth. I have a clear memory of a conversation between my dad and the great Eleanor Aller Slatkin, cellist with the Hollywood String Quartet. They were discussing a heated arguement that had taken place years earlier over which take to use in an HSQ recording. That day, she confided to my dad in a low, laughing voice, " were right!"

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your comments about the "Duets" album, which I just bought in CD form (for twice what you thought it was selling for), after owning the cassette recently and the original LP years ago. Salli Terri really is remarkable, as is Martin Ruderman (flute) and of course, Almeida. I'm listening to folk songs Salli recorded right now (Red River Valley is playing) through Spotify. Year ago, there was a great classical music station in Sausalito, serving San Francisco and the surrounding area: KDFC. The program director was Bill O'Connell, whom I believe now works in Cleveland. His voice was so good and his reading so relaxed, I actually listened to -- even looked forward to -- his low key commercials. Bill used selections from "Duets" as background music for his station ID's, which is where I first heard them. According to the Salli Terri's "unofficial" website, Villa Lobos himself thought her version with Almeida on "Duets" of the Bachianas Brasilieras #5 was the one he personally enjoyed the most. By the way, Spotify has the entire album available, as well as several others by Salli Terri.