Argentine/American pianist Mirian Conti writes in a
booklet note that “Nostalgia is a yearning for the past, be it in time or
place--an aching to return home. Feelings of nostalgia are brought on by
remembrances: images, smells, touch, music. For me, this recording brings with
it nostalgia for my own musical past, for those Argentine composers lost or
forgotten on the shelves of libraries, conservatories, and old pianos.”
She continues, “The 1920s represented a time of new
musical tendencies in Europe and America. This was no less evident in Argentina
where the continuous search for a national voice encountered many styles of
expression. All of the music here, whether the musical language is romantic or
modern, angular in its polytonality and accents or luscious in its
impressionist mood, are without a doubt Argentine. They represent the many
faces of classical Argentine solo piano music spanning from the 1920s to today.
The composers were born between the 1880s and the 1930s and many of the pieces
are based on either folk or popular dances.”
Fair enough. So, Ms. Conti waxes nostalgic for the music
of her Argentine homeland, offering in the disc’s program over two dozen
examples of dances from eleven different Argentine composers. The interesting
thing, though, is that only two of the dances on the program actually date from
the 1920s, the others written between 1947 and 2010. Nevertheless, they all
look back to the Twenties for their roots, their inspiration, the “nostalgic”
angle to which Ms. Conti refers. The works vary in style and tone, Ms. Conti’s
piano playing is heartfelt, and the listening experience is a pleasure.
The album begins with Remo Pignoni’s Danzas tradicionales para piano, two traditional dances for piano.
The first dance, “Por el sur,” is vibrant, and the second, “Como queriendo,” is
Debussy-like in its sweet, Romantic impressionism. Ms. Conti plays the pieces
with a conviction obviously drawn of love for this music. Her style is
sublimely confident and polished, vaguely old fashioned yet contemporaneously
Next we hear a brief piece from Emilio Balcare, “La bordona,” a slow, sensual tango, which
Ms. Conti performs as though there were three or four separate people involved
in a small ensemble. The melodies and harmonies are infectious.
Horacio Salgan’s “Don Agustin Bardi” follows, a tango that
sounds the opposite in style from the preceding one, Salgan’s being more
pulsating, more vibrantly rhythmic. As we might expect by now, Ms. Conti
attacks it with a wonderfully spirited vigor.
Then we get the centerpiece of the album, Carlos
Guastavino’s 10 cantos populares, ten
popular poems, as the name implies dances that are lyrical, songlike.
Guastavino believed in the value of older musical traditions, admiring Chopin,
Schubert, and Rachmaninov, so expect an older Romanticism at play here. He felt
more-modern composers were destroying music, and when you listen to his
compositions, it’s hard to argue with him. They are beautiful, especially given
the loving attention Ms. Conti lavishes on them. Each piece shimmers like a
tiny jewel, “No. 4” truly exquisite.
And so it goes through works by Carlos Lopez Buchardo,
Floro Meliton Ugarte, Gilardo Gilardi, Mario Broeders, Osmar Maderna, and
Julian Plaza. I could describe each of them, but I think you get the idea. Still, the composer I should emphasize
before closing is Mario Broeders, whose work reflects a gentle, captivating
melancholy. “Val criollo no. 3” is particularly lovely.
The album ends with a fast number, Julian Plaza’s
“Nocturna,” a fine show closer and another excellent piece for Ms. Conti to
demonstrate her sympathetic virtuosity on the piano.
Steinway & Sons recorded the album in 2012 at Sono
Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia. The piano sound is gloriously rich and
resonant, a single instrument practically duplicating a whole orchestra. The
acoustic is just reverberant enough and the miking just close enough to produce
a lifelike response with plenty of warmth and bite at the same time.