El Canto del Cisne Negro – Latin-American music that merits attention

In the liner notes, the artists write they’re presenting “a collection of largely unknown works for violoncello and piano from Latin America…[These composers] traveled to Europe, where they found themselves torn between their admiration for the culture and their nostalgia for… their own cultural roots. We share their experience, and their music resonated deeply with us.”

After listening to the recording, I agree with all points. The blend of classical and traditional music varies with each composer — but it’s always there. And the affinity the performers have with the music enhances their performances.

Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “El Canto del Cisne Negro” reimagines Saint-Saens’ “The Swan.” It’s beautiful work, leaning more towards classical. Jose Elizondo’s “Otono en Buenos Aires” for solo cello seems almost like a folk dance arranged for solo cello. In between those two extremes are some exceptionally beautiful works by Luis Saglie, Manuel Maria Ponce, and Joaquin Nin.

And throughout these works, I heard that connection the musicians had with the music — and each other. Their performances brought out the essential national characteristics of each work, carefully matched to the composer’s style.

I especially admired Nicole Pena Comos’ playing. Her cello has a rich, sonorous sound that made lyrical passages exceptionally beautiful. Yet she and pianist Hugo Llanos Campos could deliver firey energetic performances when required.

Though these are all Latin American composers, Comas and Campos let the distinctive voice of each one come through. An exceptional release of music that merits more attention.

El Canto del Cisne Negro
Nicole Pena Comos, cello; Hugo Llanos Campos, piano
Ars Produktion

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