Corazón – The Music of Latin America
M Ponce: Cello Sonata etc. Plus works by L Brouwer, Gismonti, Piazzolla, Villa-Lobos et al
John-Henry Crawford (cello), Victor Santiago Asuncion (piano), Jiji (guitar)
Orchid Classics ORC 100198 62:38 mins
Frustrations and pleasures walk hand in hand through this album devoted to music by 20th-century composers from Latin America, written or arranged for cello and piano or sometimes guitar. The pleasures lie largely in hearing infinite subtleties of touch and expression vividly caught in Orchid’s clear, all-embracing recording. Cello pizzicato passages alone make the ears tingle; the heart, too. The frustrations are chiefly bound up with the Brazilian, Mexican, Argentinian and Cuban music John-Henry Crawford and his colleagues choose to play.
Carlos Guastavino’s Pampamapa wins the brevity prize at one minute, 46 seconds. But the bulk of the others aren’t much more than a minute longer; and however momentarily satisfying, the succession of short-breathed impressionist pieces soon brings on the need for something meaty. When the big offering does arrive – Manuel Ponce’s G minor Cello Sonata of 1922 – it proves a dud, too eclectic in style ever to coalesce, with good and awkward moments constantly tumbling over each other during the work’s 24 minutes. Crawford’s cello shines in the first movement’s stormy figurations; the pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion can do nothing with his part’s useless trills in the third, an arietta.
Moods in the album generally swing between urban and rural. The smoky ambience of Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango needs greater thrust to cast the necessary spell. That’s not a problem with Oblivion, the final track, featuring the album’s departing glory: the three-dimensional throb of Crawford’s cello, warm but dark, joined by accompanying strings, crying to the moon.