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» 02 July 2008 » In Reviews »

TALES FOR GUITAR.  Ricardo Cobo, guitar.  ESS.A.Y  CD 1034 [DDD]  51:19,

Produced by Adam Abeshouse.  ( Distributed by Allegro.)

PIAZZOLLA: La Muerte del Angel;  Primavera Porteña: BROUWER: El Decameron Negro; BROTONS:  Two Suggestions Op. 23;  DYENS: Libra Sonatina;  KOSHKIN:Usher Waltz., Op. 29 .

When much of Piazzolla’s music is performed on the classical guitar it both loses and gains something in transition.  La Muerte del Angel,  when played by Piazzolla’s own quintet (Ermitage  ERM 124), is redolent with highly appealing ethnic grunge.  One hears five very accomplished and serious musicians who seem hell-bent on appearing to be just the opposite, as if to say simultaneously, “Ha! And you thought this was all just mere entertainment!” and “Ha! And you thought this was just all mere fine art!”

The net gain from a good classical guitar performance comes in the form of harmonic and structural elucidation.  Piazzolla’s music, for all its surface appeal, is very well and rigorously composed.  The loss comes when the guitarist tries to clean  Piazzolla   up a bit, put him in a three-piece suit, and make him a paragon of musical propriety suitable for a “Live from Lincoln Center” telecast.That does not happen here.

Alfred Heller has intimated to me that the most sympathetic way to approach Villa-Lobos’s piano literature (and, by extension, Latin American music in general) is from the point of view of a cocktail pianist–that is to say unpretentiously and with an alert, improvisatory attitude.  The player venerates it by striving to get the notes right, never losing sight of the fact that the music must communicate–directly and naturally.

All of this music is programmatic–some of it overtly  (Piazzolla’s La Muerte  del Angel  ;  Brouwer’s El Decameron Negro;  Koshkin’s Usher Waltz), some of it subtly (Piazzolla’s Primavera Porteña;  Broton’s Two Suggestions;  Dyens’s Libra Sonatina ).  The stylistic range of this music is wide–from the accessibly tuneful Piazzolla and Brouwer, through the more harmonically audacious Two Suggestions   of the young, Barcelona-born Salvador Brotons;  the exotic-cum-jazz-rock-and-funk  Libra Sonatina  of Roland Dyens; to the quietly manic and occasionally explosive  Usher Waltz   of Nikita Koshkin.

Colombia-born Ricardo Cobo takes it all in stride.  He is an impeccable guitarist who never lets his technical fastidiousness impede the verve of the music.  On the contrary, it is placed squarely at its service.  One minute into La  Muerte  del  Angel,  Cobo seemed to disappear, leaving only the unencumbered voice of Piazzolla.  And so it went throughout the recital.

The sound is in keeping with all the other elements of this release–it’s first-rate.
        William Zagorsky                    

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