Outside a small group of specialists the music of Chile is pretty
much unknown in Europe. Of the names mentioned on this disc
only Victor Jara and Violeta Parra can claim to be – or have
been – anything approaching household names and then only within
a more popular genre with political and/or social undertones.
five composers represented here – four of them contemporaries
– have assimilated elements from popular music or folk music
and amalgamated them with academic compositional principles.
The outcome is a programme with evocative rhythms, beautiful
melodies and in some cases harsh harmonies.
is also evident from the outset is the technical flair and
brilliance of the playing. José Antonio Escobar is a fabulous
guitarist, whose playing is so assured that it sounds more
or less improvised. It sounds effortless – and that is not
a euphemism for bland and unengaged – but he gives the impression
that technical intricacies are no big deal; he can concentrate
on shaping the music.
Contreras is the youngest of the composers on this disc and
he is also the boldest, harmonically speaking. Euclidica
is virtuoso music, also requiring the player to treat the
guitar as a percussion instrument. That also goes for Tonada
del Retorno and Tonada a mi madre, which is fluent
and vital music. The homage to Victor Jara is tranquil and
here the composer has adjusted to the style in which Jara
Salinas was in the 1980s leader of the group Inti-illmani,
which cooperated with John Williams; Cristalino is
a reminder of that relationship. It is a movement from a longer
work that would have been interesting to hear complete. It
is beautiful and melodious, changing directions constantly.
Restucci’s music is also virtuosic and he has a nice feeling
for melody. It is rhythmically attractive and there is more
than a whiff of Argentina about it.
Juan Antonio Sánchez we find this mix of popular and serious
elements mentioned above very pronounced. It is paired with
a sense of improvisation, which turns out to be truer than
I first understood. For this is exactly the case: he allows
the player freedom to use his imagination. Chiloética
has much of this sense all through, though I don’t know to
what degree Escobar plays ad lib. The guitar sonata,
like so much else on this disc very recent music, has an opening
movement that is dominated by the rhythmic elements, often
jagged and ‘backward’. The second, Dulce, is exactly
that: soft and contemplative. The third movement is quickly
walking but with sudden pauses, and in the finale rhythm is
again to the fore – most of it is percussive.
sonata is a tribute to Violeta Parra, who is herself represented
by 5 Anticuecas from 1961. These pieces were not written
down. They were transcribed from her recordings after her
death. One can hear phrases that are reminiscent of her songs
but by and large this is music that stands out as highly original,
not sophisticated but ‘real’. The simile may limp but this
might be seen as a Chilean variant of blues. No. 5 is especially
intense and – yes, bluesy.
last word goes again to Sánchez, whose Tonada por despedita
is intimate and melodious in a popular vein. One almost expects
the player to start singing. As in every good encore he adds
zest to the end through a sudden dramatic outburst.
Kraft and Bonnie Silver have provided ideal sound as usual.
Juan Pablo González, Instituto de Música, Pontificia Universidad
Católica de Chile, gives much useful information on the composers
and their music, even though I wish he had been allotted more
space, since this is a field that is largely unknown to me.
aficionados need to hear Escobar’s absolutely stunning playing.
Having played the disc three or four times I have come to
terms with the music and found that it opens up and has something
new to offer every time.