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La Segunda

La Segunda

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Date Added: Tuesday 11 November, 2003

by web master


The appearance of a classical musician on a world or pop music compendium has frequently been decried as “crossover.” The core classics, after all, have long been draped in an overlay of snobbery and elitism that suggests that those who venture beyond the black and white boundaries of the concert hall are betraying their ranks, so to speak. (It was not that long ago that Metropolitan Opera General Director Rudolf Bing fired Wagnerian soprano Helen Traubel for singing in a nightclub. And in 2001, mezzo Anne Sofie Von Otter, who makes her long-awaited Cal Performances recital debut next January, temporarily fell from grace in at least one Gramophone’s reviewer’s estimation when she recorded her marvelous, anything but operatic Lost in the Stars collaboration with Elvis Costello).

Sometimes the label “crossover” is appropriate.  Certainly there is no question that major record labels, faced with declining sales, fewer retail and media outlets, and an appalling cessation of music education have been scrambling to ignite the fires of consumption under veteran and new listeners by initiating crossover projects. But it is equally true that many classical performers and composers now feel free to channel their passion for folk, world, and popular music into genuine artistic statements. As a result, the concert hall increasingly welcomes artists whose music crosses boundaries to create original fusions of rock, folk, classical, and electronica.

There is historical precedent for such explorations. 19th century European composers such as Brahms, Janacek, Dvorak, and Canteloube, followed by 20th century Americans such as Ives, Copland, Schumann and Harrison set about adopting and rearranging traditional folk melodies, songs and hymns into classical composition. Classed up in acceptable new guises, folk melodies from around the globe entered the concert hall, allowing so-called sophisticates to reconnect with the simple, enduring music that had nurtured preceding generations. Jazz made its entry as well, with Ravel, Milhaud, Gershwin among others incorporating jazz rhythms into their music.

Which brings us to the present. Three recent releases, two featuring internationally known classical artists, explore the traditional and new music of Brazil, Argentina, Poland, and North Africa. The sincerity of these endeavors suggests that these projects would best be understood, not as “crossover,” but rather as acts of devotion.

..... Equal enthusiasm extends to . . .

A follow-up to the first Será une Noche (M052A), a unique quasi-improvisatory exploration which fused Argentinian tango with “diverse contemporary and ancient musics, Indian classical music, baroque music and free improvisation,” Será une Noche La Segunda deserves as many raves as I gave its predecessor.

One of many unique offerings from the independent M.A label (1- 888-794-6229 or whose Japan-based producer Todd Garfinkle has an uncommon ability to generate music from unlikely sources, Será una Noche: La Segunda is a rare example of a recording in which quality of musicianship and degree of imagination are complemented by outstanding sonics.

This is the first disc from M.A. recorded with a sampling rate of 176.4 kHz. The stellar engineering further highlights M.A.’s specialty, digital recordings that maximize the sense of space around and between sounds. There is a mesmerizing quality to the sound of this disc (and most M.A. discs), light years ahead of most mass-market fare that makes listening to performances recorded in Argentina’s Monasterio Gandara a special experience. And when M.A.’s sonics grace a production that features such accomplished Argentinian musicians as Lidia Borda, Santiago Vazquez, Marcelo Moguilevsky, Edgardo Cardozo, Martin Iannaccone, and Gabriel Rivano on percussion, clarinet, bass clarinet, recorders, harmonica, guitar, voice, bandoneón and that most elevated of art forms, whistling, the rewards are plentiful.

Será una Noche: La Segunda mostly features traditional pieces composed around the beginning of the 20th century, when the tango was young. Although project co-instigator Santiago Vazquez notes that in these thoroughly modern arrangements one can hear older musical styles such as milongas – rhythms with African influence – a habanera, as well as the Argentinian folk rhythms that provide inspiration for original music composed by members of the group, South American music expert and UC Santa Cruz Professor of Ethnomusicology John Schechter reports that these engrossing, sometimes danceable modern interpretations render most of the traditional melodies barely recognizable. While the degree of jazz improvisation heard on perhaps the most far out selection, the opening tango milonga “El Choclo,” may disturb those devoted to preserving indigenous music from the cultural equivalent of deforestation, the results are marvelous. To single out just two of the artists who perform here, Lidia Borda has a wonderful voice and Moguilevsky’s whistling is marvelous. This is great, entrancing stuff, occasionally humorous, and a pleasure to listen to. Don’t miss it.

Note that M.A. is preparing to release another potentially delicious, disc, Buenos Aires Madrigal (M063A). Performed by "La Chimera", it features Furio Zanasi(Italia) and Ximena Biondi (Buenos Aires) singing on many of the tracks. Furio Zanasi often sings with Jordi Savall’s ensemble.

Performance: 5

Home Theater and High Fidelity Magazine
Classical Music Reviews - No. 43 - October, 2003
by Jason Victor Serinus

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]

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