American Record Guide. Spring 2004
American Record Guide
Piazzolla, Brouwer, Pujol, Carlevaro, Reis,
Salgan, Villoldo, Pereira
Ricardo Cobo—Naxos 557329—60 minutes
It was initially hard for me to muster enthusiasm for yet another potpourri of Latin American guitar miniatures. But when the guitarist is Ricardo Cobo it doesn’t much matter that there is a glut of such releases. The Colombian-born Cobo, a winner of several international competitions in the late 80s, is a world-class talent, possessed of stunning technique, penetrating musicianship, and a beautifully refined sound. I cannot imagine more satisfying or engaging interpretations of this music; his readings are incisive and vigorous in the fast pieces, dark and soulful in the more contemplative works, and every phrase is shaped by an impeccable musical instinct.
Several works here are presented in new arrangements by Cobo, including Piazzolla’s well known tangos ‘La Muerte del Angel’ and ‘Primavera Porteña’, which serve as bookends to the program. His arrangements offer refreshing new insights into these often played pieces; the works sound fresh and alive, as though one were hearing them for the first time. Considering the ubiquity of Piazzolla these days, both on the guitar and in other settings, this is no small feat.
The works that come between the two Piazzolla tangos range from the unassuming waltzes of Dilermando Reis, which Cobo plays with incomparable poetry, to the more ambitious Elegía por La Muerte de un Tanguero by Máximo Diego Pujol, a three-movement homage to Piazzolla. This piece is harmonically richer than some of Pujol’s other works, especially the haunting ‘Melancolía’ movement, and Cobo invests even its simplest passages with an expressive depth and interpretive commitment that make the whole utterly persuasive. This charismatic interpretive voice is everywhere in evidence here, transforming what initially appears to be an ordinary recital into a truly extraordinary listening experience. With each sterling passage Cobo confirms his position as one of the finest guitarists of his generation.