A shorter version of this review appeared in the February
2012/1 Download Roundup; I designated it my ‘fun’ recording
of the month. I enjoyed hearing it streamed from the Naxos Music
Library – listen to it there before purchase, if you can – and
had decided to buy it on CD or download when the disc appeared
among my review allocation. Enjoyable as it would be as a download,
you would be missing the elaborately illustrated and luxurious
hardback booklet which comes with the physical disc. That booklet
contains the texts and is packed with information – had it not
been, I wouldn’t have been able to tell a zamba from
a samba or known that la cigarra of track
16 is a cicada.
With a title that translates as ‘the lost birds’, it’s appropriate to ask how many pieces of music inspired by birds (Spanish pájaros) can you name apart from Respighi’s Gli Uccelli? There are plenty of them on this recording – described as a fusion of musical styles, Spanish and Latin-American music from the baroque to the present day, arranged by harpist and director Christina Pluhar. Older listeners might be tempted to think of Edmundo Ros – which I don’t mean disparagingly – and, to be honest, the reference to baroque is a bit of red herring. It’s really the instruments and style that have survived from the ‘baroque’ rather than the actual music.
There’s a wider variety of music here than you might imagine, as the first five tracks will demonstrate. The opening piece is a lullaby, ‘sleep little black boy’, though it’s lively rather than dreamy. The mood changes to the melancholy zamba on track 2, Alfonsina and the sea. We’re back to Edmundo Ros territory with the third track, Montilla, the type of happy/melancholy music that most of us think of as typically South American. Then on track 4 we have one of the instrumental interludes with prominent harp part which punctuate the recording, pajaro campana, described as a polca, but hardly what most of us would think of as a polka. You may well find yourself thinking of a better-known song when you hear el curruchá on track 11 – I won’t spoil it by telling you what.
The centre-piece on track 5 which gives its name to the collection, ‘the lost birds’ is a canción by Astor Piazzolla. I imagine that his name alone will be enough to convince many readers to go for the recording. It’s vintage Piazzolla and it receives a fine performance with Philippe Jaroussky as soloist – for more about which see the next paragraph.
The performers are a mixed group – Philippe Jaroussky contributes his unusually light counter-tenor voice, but he and the soprano Raquel Andueza are the only singers to be distinguished by the traditional operatic terms: the other vocalists are designated merely ‘voice’ in the booklet, though I’ve given them more conventional designations in the heading. Surprisingly, the blend works very well: in fact, I wouldn’t have recognised Jaroussky as the vocalist in the Piazzolla work on track 5 if I hadn’t seen his name in the booklet. There’s obviously a difference between his voice on track 5 and that of Luciana Mancini on track 6, but there’s no inherent dichotomy of styles between them. Similarly, when the notes on the EMI/Virgin Classics webpage compare Raquel Andueza in Besame mucho (tr.20), not inappropriately, with Peggy Lee in her sexiest mode there’s another effective crossover of styles.
If you enjoy colourful Latin-American music in a wide range of moods, all appropriately conveyed by the performers, there’s no need to hesitate. The recording sounds impressive even as heard in the relatively restricted bit-rate of the near-CD version of the Naxos Music Library, but it’s infinitely richer and more colourful on CD. Best of all, the physical disc comes encased in that luxury 64-page hardback booklet. I’m not sure why there appear to be two catalogue numbers – both seem to be available at the same price at the time of writing, but perhaps one is a limited edition. My review copy, with the luxury booklet, is on 6785162 – go for that if it’s still available.
It’s quite a while since I nominated a Recording of the Month, as opposed to the Download of the Month which I include in my bi-monthly Download Roundups, but this certainly deserves the accolade.
Full track listing
Anonymous Popular Argentine/Quito GATO Duerme Negrito [2:54]
Ariel RAMÍREZ/Félix LUNA/Quito GATO Alfonsina y el Mar (Zamba) [4:57]
Anonymous Popular Venezuelan Montilla [3:16]
Anonymous Popular Paraguayan Pájaro Campana (Polca) [3:32]
Astor PIAZZOLLA/Mario TREJO/Quito GATO Los Pájaros perdidos (Canción) [3:45]
Anonymous Popular Venezuelan Pájarillo Verde (Pájarillo) [2:32]
Anonymous Popular Paraguayan Isla Sacá (Polca) [3:52]
Constantino RAMONES La embarazada del viento (Gaita Margariteńa) [2:50]
Hamlet Lima QUINTANA/Noberto AMBROS/Alfredo ROSALES/Quito Zamba para no morir (Zamba) [3:53]
Pancho CABRAL/Quito GATO/Christina PLUHAR Ay! este azul [3:03]
Juan Bautista PLAZA/Quito GATO El Curruchá [2:38]
Anonymous Popular Venezuelan Caballo Viejo (Pasaje) - Alma Llanera (Joropo) [4:57]
Luis Mariano RIVERA/Quito GATO/Christina PLUHAR La Cocoroba (Joropo oriental) [2:25]
Antonio Nella CASTRO/Hilda HERRERA/Quito GATO Zamba del Chaguanco (Zamba) [3:37]
Adela GLEIJER/Diana RECHES/Quito GATO/Christina PLUHAR Como un pájaro libre [3:33]
Maria Elena WALSH/Quito GATO/Christina PLUHAR Como la Cigarra [3:36]
Otarolo DOMÍNGUEZ Ojito de Agua [2:50]
Anonymous Popular Venezuelan/Quito GATO/Christina PLUHAR Polo margariteńo [3:58]
Padre Antonio SOLER/Christina PLUHAR Fandango [9:11]
Consuelo VELASQUEZ Besame mucho (Bolero) [3:44]