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CD: Ana Cervantes

 

Solo Rumores
Arturo MÁRQUEZ
(b.1950)

Solo Rumores [3:50]
Marcela RODRÍGUEZ (b.1951)
Entre las ramas rotas [6:58]
Ramón MONTES DE OCA (1953-2006)
Ecos del llano [4:03]
Juan Fernando DURÁN (b.1963)
Entonces el cielo se adueñó de la noche... [6:03]
Hilda PAREDES (b.1958)
Sobre un páramo sin voces [5:12]
Joaquín Gutiérrez HERAS (b.1927)
Canto lejano [3:47]
Paul BARKER (b.1956)
Pedro’s Progress [11:47]
Laurie ALTMAN (b.1956)
Pedro’s Story [5:51]
Alex SHAPIRO (b.1962)
Luvina [5:27]
Zulema DE LA CRUZ (b.1958)
Arenoso: No. 2 de Estudios sobre la tierra [5:58]
Silvia BERG (b.1958)
Dobles del Páramo [8:08]
Ana Cervantes (piano)
rec.August 2007
QUINDECIM RECORDINGS 186 [66:06]
Experience Classicsonline

The Mexican pianist Ana Cervantes, if not especially well known on this side of the Atlantic, has won, in her own country and in the USA, a good deal of praise for her work, especially (but not only) in terms of her interpretation of contemporary repertoire.
 
The music on this present CD is part of a project planned and carried out by Cervantes which, with the support of various bodies, has allowed her to commission a set of short works from a number of contemporary composers. The project is centred around the 1955 novel Pedro Páramo by the Mexican novelist Juan Rulfo (there is an English translation by Margaret Sayers Peden). Rulfo’s novel – his only one – is one of the masterpieces of modern Latin American literature, one that has been very influential. The novel is brief, an account (though it is a novel of mood more than story) of how one Juan Preciado returns to the hometown of his dying mother, a town called Comala. He hopes to find his father (Pedro Páramo) there, but finds himself in a town inhabited entirely by ‘ghosts’; the bulk of the narrative is carried by these spectral voices. Mixing fantasy and an oblique kind of realism, the novel has a very distinctive and special atmosphere. By the time the novel ends one suspects that Juan Preciado himself is also dead. The novel was much admired by Gabriel García Márquez and was a clear influence on One Hundred Years of Solitude.
 
Cervantes commissioned a group of composers to write solo piano pieces in response to the novel. A first set of such compositions – including works by Mexican composers such as Georgina Debrez, Eugenio Toussaint and Federico Ibarra Groth, Americans such as Charles B. Griffin and Anne LeBaron and Stephen McNeff from the U.K – were gathered on a CD (which unfortunately I haven’t heard) called Rumor de Paramo (also issued by Quindecim). Now this second set has appeared, drawing on the work of six Mexican composers (the first six as listed at the head of this review), two composers from the U.S.A. (Altman and Shapiro) and one each from Spain (De La Cruz), Brazil/Denmark (Berg) and the U.K. (Barker).
 
Some of the composers respond to the general mood or method of the novel, such as Montes de Oca in his Ecos de llano (Echoes of the Plain), with its imprisoning circularity, challenged now and then by sudden bursts of energy, each contained or defused by the music’s larger circle of return; or Barker’s Pedro’s Progress, which the composer himself describes as related to “the halting and teasing structure” of the novel, as seeking to find musical parallels for what Barker aptly describes as “the sense of wonder without explanation” which characterises Rulfo’s novel.
 
Other composers offer a response to particular details of the novel, as in Marcela Rodríguez’ Entre las ramas rotas (Among the broken branches) which articulates a musical response to a single sentence in the novel, “Not a drop of air, only the noise he had made echoing among the broken branches”), doing so through some insistently reiterated triplets and some expressive silences.
 
A third group of composers – such as Zulema de la Cruz and Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras – seek inspiration in other areas of Rulfo’s work, such as his short stories and his photographs. In all his work, Rulfo’s vision is hardly easily comforting or comfortable. Death and absence, desolation and poverty, silence and ruin are his dominant modes and images. Most of the music necessarily reflects such themes and attitudes, so that listening to the CD right through can leave one strongly seeking some ‘light’, literal or musically metaphorical. Taken one by one, however, pretty well all of these pieces have – certainly as played by Cervantes – an intensity which compels attention. My own favourites included the compositions by Rodriguez (the use of rhythm and of silence particularly gripping) and Heras (visually evocative), Barker (full of organic and accumulative power) and De La Cruz (earthy in texture, with some aptly spectral dance rhythms).
 
Ana Cervantes plays with a kind of audible concentration which compels attention, playing with both power and delicacy as required and with what sounds like a deep felt involvement with the whole project. Perhaps this CD works best for those with some knowledge of Rulfo’s work (and those who haven’t any such familiarity could do worse than seek out Pedro Páramo) but it isn’t, I think, dependent upon such knowledge – it can be recommended to any adventurous spirits who want to get off the beaten track, musically speaking. This is profoundly Latin American music which is yet largely free of the elements we normally think of as characterising Latin American music.
 
Glyn Pursglove
 

 


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