There are two ways of listening to music. One, of course,
is the dinner party method, basically unnoticed unless the conversation
deadens and then the music can open up a new topic. The second is to
listen with the CD booklet open carefully following the action, as it
were. This CD can offer you both experiences and is therefore of doubly
Argentinian music is proving quite popular nowadays.
Factors have been the discovery of Astor Piazzolla just after his death
in the early 90s, the burgeoning appeal of Ginastera and now the discovery
of these composers and others thanks to companies like Marco Polo, ASV
and Naxos. The music is certainly worthy of attention and has the unique
and uncanny knack of both being serious in intent and enjoyable to everyman
at the same time. This is the perfect balance of the serious and the
popular, as this recording demonstrates.
The national music of Argentina is the Tango and it
appears in several forms with several names. Many are represented on
this CD, sometimes in suites of pieces using the national rhythms of
the country and sometimes in Sonatas. Pujol’s Suite has a Tango as its
second movement. ‘Del Plata’ means from the river Plate Basin of Buenos
Aires and Pujol is using dance rhythms from that area. The longest piece
of the disc, Ayala’s ‘Serie Americana’ uses dance rhythms from six South
American countries - for example the last one Gato y malambo from Peru.
The regular guitarist's technique of striking the body
of the instrument to gain a percussive effect but with chordal overtones
is a delightful characteristic of certain pieces especially those where
the rhythm dominates, as in Saul’s intriguing ‘Boulevard San Jorge’
which takes its name from a street the composer once lived on. This
piece also includes some fascinating harmonic effects.
Victor Villadongos contributes a brief paragraph to
the booklet that I should quote. He writes "The works here included
are an expression of the diversity of the genres extant in the republic
of Argentina, not folk music, but reflections of a unity in cultural
The back of the disc tells us ‘the recording brings
together pieces written … by the most eminent contemporary composers
of Argentina’, indeed the booklet notes inside, so well researched by
Keith Anderson give biographical detail on each of them as well as background
on the music itself.
Vincent Villadongas has an exemplary pedigree particularly
throughout South America and plays not only with virtuosity, which is
necessary, but also with a natural musicality and elegant sense of phrasing.
The recording is close but not oppressive and although recorded in a
church there is no cavernous acoustic.