Koch International Classics
Oblivión is an elegiac cello/piano meditation on adapted or original works by Cuban pianist/composer Joaquin Nin (1879-1949) and Argentine Tango renovator Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). Nin collected and edited Spanish baroque scores and, in best Baroque tradition, wrote musical commentaries or adaptations on some of them. Oblivión selects three of his works, "Chants d'Espagne", "Cuatro Comentarios" and "Suite Espagnole". The central suite is a four-movement canon of miniatures based on themes by José Bassa, Rafael Anglés and Pablo Esteve. The bracketing suites, also in four movements each, are original Nin works that combine French impressionist and German Baroque elements and blend them with Iberian motifs reminiscent of de Falla and Albéniz.
The present recording was conceived through Israeli-born cellist Maya Beiser's familiarity with two specific works - Piazzolla's "Grand Tango" (the only number he ever wrote for cello/piano duet and specifically for Mstislav Rostropovich in 1982); and Joaquin Nin's "Granadina", a guitar-accompanied song she remembered from an old LP as sung by Victoria de los Angeles and which she intuitively felt belonged next to "Grand Tango". For Piazzolla, Maya Beiser and pianist extraordinaire (and trained actor) Anthony de Mare picked "Adios Nonino", "Le Grand Tango", the virtuous solo piano number "La Mufa", an original oboe/piano version of "Ave Maria" and a trio variant of "Oblivión", then transcribed these works for their intended duetizing purposes, always sensitive to the fact that unwatched, a piano tends to overpower a solo cello in raw output.
So cleverly have these transcriptions been worked out that only a true aficionado would be able to systematically deny their originality on the grounds that the existing repertoire for these two instruments simply lacks these specific pieces. Ah - but the repertoire existing now does include them. Such is the self-regenerating power of music. That said, the present recording concentrates on the cello's bel canto abilities and thus deliberately foregoes the edgier spiccato elements in much of Piazzolla's deconstructionist modernism. Oblivión is about legato lyricism and impressionist romanticism, not highly rhythmic atonality and violence - though "Le Grand Tango" and "La Mufa", needless to say, do include succinct reminders of Astor's other side. But in general and since Nin's pieces make up 12 of the 17 tracks and Piazzolla's "Ave Maria" and "Oblivión" are of the dreamy sort, think Ravel.
Special mention is due de Mare's seemingly double-jointed prowess on the black and white keys and Beiser's virtuoso yet light touch on the cello. Their combined musicianship -- again in best Piazzolla tradition -- often has them sound far denser and multi-stranded than a mere two contributors. As audiophiles, we perhaps don't have another two instruments more challenging to reproduce than piano and cello if realism were our hope. Though the liner notes give little information about the recording outside the actual venue -- the recital hall of the SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center in New York -- this Koch release has definite audiophile ambitions and delivers handsomely on them, with a mid-hall perspective and terrific encoded ambient data whereby a superior system will resurrect SUNY's recital hall within your own four walls.
Particularly attractive about Oblivión is that we're not talking classical cello sonatas with piano accompaniment and a certain amount of staid formality but rather, quasi-symphonic transcriptions full of fluid transitions and unconventional implementations. These adaptations thus broaden the intrinsic scope and appeal of the present works. And just as Yo-Yo Ma is busy with on his end, it expands the active repertoire of the cello as arguably the most song-like and erotic of all stringed instruments. If that sounds like your recipe for a far out hour of musical bliss, Oblivión will deliver on its name and have mundane reality fade from your awareness until the last chord dies on the air.