FROM INTERNATIONAL RECORD
Songs from Latin America
Marina Tafur (soprano); Nigel
Lorelt LNT112 (full
price, 1 hour 15 minutes). Texts and translations included. Producer Odaline
de la Martinez. Engineer Mike Skeet. Date June and September, 1996.
Lorelt Web site
Modhinas e Canções. Guastavino La
rosa y el sauce. Bonita Rama de Sauce. Se equivocó la Paloma.
Bor Triptico sobre Poesia Cubana.
Sas Seis Cantos Indios del Peru.
Lecuona Canción del amor triste.
Señor Jardinero. La Señora Luna. Quiero ser hombre. Estrada
La Rosa y tu. Valencia Tres dias hace que Nina dormida en su lecho está.
Ginastera Cinco canciones populares argentinas.
For the most part the Anglo-Saxon world remains disgracefully ignorant about
so much serious twentieth-century music from Latin America; and it has been
the Cuban-born musician Odaline de la Martinez's avowed intention to spread
the word about this music on the Lorelt record label, a by-product of her
live music-making with the ensemble Lontano.
A wise woman, Martinez has sugared the pill, so to speak, on this new collection
by offering first six songs by the best-known composer south of the border,
Heitor Villa-Lobos. And one's admiration is as much for the music as for
the artists who have recorded it. 'Cantilena', for example, a short song
in two stanzas that is based upon what presumably is a popular poem since
no poet is credited in the accompanying booklet. Musically the whole song
is grounded in a sequence of simple rocking chords with the voice negotiating
its way between them; Marina Tafur offers fine, soft singing, with a truly
seductive way with the portamento.
In so many of these songs, particularly those composed by an older generation
of Latin Americans, dance rhythms insinuate themselves into the music. The
Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, with Villa-Lobos, is perhaps one of the
best-known Latin American musicians from the middle years of the twentieth
century (he died in 1963 at the age of 67). He toured Europe and the USA
with his band Lecuona's Cuban Boys and a song such as La Señora Luna,
a surreal affair with Madame Moon wanting to marry a little pageboy from
the Royal House, revels in Latin dance syncopations. Here Marina Tafur makes
something splendid of the drama in a song that includes an eerie parlando
passage in the middle. Clearly Tafur, who was born in Colombia, was also
born to this music, but what really impresses is the way in which she husbands
her vocal resources in the interests of complete expressivity.
For this is not a conventionally beautiful voice, but it is instinctively
dramatic with an unerring feel for the right vocal shading. And the ability
both to characterize a song and step inside it emotionally makes Tafur's
performance of five songs by the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera a
However, what play on in the imagination are three songs by Modesto Bor,
a woman composer from Venezuela who studied in the former Soviet Union with
Khachaturian. And in particular her 'Noturno En Los Muelles' ('Wharves
Nocturne'), the last of Triptico sobre Poesia Cubana. The piano accompaniment,
well judged by Nigel Foster, sounds less Russian than French - Debussy and
Les Six - with masterly scene painting, the rippling of the night
sea and the steady pulse of the lighthouse. But the text, with its lament
for the lives that were exploited and lost in operating these wharves in
this harbour, is unmistakably Latin American. As is hinted at in the accompanying
booklet, and would that there had been space for a longer essay and more
extensive biographical notes for the eight composers represented on this
disc, it is the search for a voice that is both South American and yet
acknowledges musical roots in Africa and Europe that gives so much of this
music its particular creative tension.