CD Reviews: Two dashes of passion and finesse from Argentina

New York pianist Mirian Conti (Nan Melville photo).

Nostalgias Argentinas (Steinway & Sons)

Here is music made for the dog days of summer — meditative and melancholy pieces for a shady hammock in the afternoon, tangos for twilight pleasure — from New York City-based pianist Mirian Conti. A native of Argentina, Conti has spent many years championing young pianists as well as the rich store of tuneful music written for her instrument in that country.

Because this music is so easy to listen to, it might be easy to dismiss it as popular rather than classical, but it is no easier to make the little black notes leap off the page of contemporary composer Pedro Sáenz (who contributes the three-movement Aquel Buenos Aires) than in a piece by Samuel Barber or Maurice Ravel. The pianist needs a clear sense of rhythm in this music that rarely ceases to lilt and dance, but it must also be wrapped in the oft-delicate gauze of melody and its varied harmonies.

Conti’s light, determined, elegant, warm-tipped touch make these 14 pieces and little suites glow and shimmer. I challenge even the stoniest heart not to be seduced.

For all the details on this album, click here.

To give you an idea of what Conti sounds like, here is a piece not on the album, Milonga Sureña, by Juan José Ramos, in live performance:

Alessandro Scarlatti, L’Olimpia & L’Arianna (CPO)

Argentinean lyric soprano Adriana Fernandez brilliantly brings to life three classic tales of the abandoned lover set to rich, evocative music of the Italian Baroque. Anyone who has studied piano knows the work of composer Domenico Scarlatti, but the three secular cantatas for solo soprano recorded here are by his father Alessandro (1660-1725), a prolific composer of operas and cantatas – there are records of him writing more than 700 of the latter pieces for secular subjects alone.

Adriana Fernandez

The three cantatas collected here were inspired by Greco-Roman literature, especially L’Arianna, the story of Ariadne, abandoned on the Island of Naxos, who is saved from her miserable plight by Dionysus. The range of emotions experienced by Ariadne, Olympia and Amynta in the third cantata on the disc, Su le sponde del Tebro (On the Banks of the Tiber), gave Scarlatti the perfect excuse to unleash an avalanche of angry strings and harpsichord passages alongside aching arias of longing.

The instrumental work is vividly rendered by Italy’s Concerto de’ Cavalieri, led by Marcello Di Lisa from the keyboard. The musicians have explored every means to add rich texture to each score. Su le sponde del Tebro also features spectacular work by Gabriele Cassone on the valveless Baroque trumpet.

These three neglected works are well worth savouring over and over again.

You can find audio samples and painfully minimal detail on this album here.

John Terauds


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