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Casi Una Pregunta, Casi Una Respuesta - Latin American Piano Music In The 21st Century / Martha Marchena

Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1219   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aurelio de la VegaMarcela RodríguezCarlos Alberto VázquezAlba Potes,   ... 
Performer:  Martha Marchena
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CASI UNA PREGUNTA, CASI UNA RESPUESTA Martha Marchena (pn) MSR 1219 (55:09)

DE LA VEGA Toccata. RODRÍGUEZ Como el agua en el agua. VÁZQUEZ Rapsodia acquamarina. POTES 3 Piezas Breves. CÁCERES Laconicas. Read more class="COMPOSER12"> PIÑERA Del Libro antes del desayuno. LAVISTA Simurg. CORDERO 5 Preludios Nuevos

There’s power and passion aplenty in Martha Marchena’s recital of Latin American piano music, but that’s only part of what makes her artistry so satisfying. In the end, I’d say it’s her deep involvement with each work and her knack for finding and re-creating its essence that establish her as the formidable pianist she is. Her dynamic subtleties, rhythmic drive, and fluid transitions between contrasting episodes, along with her wide variety of touch and color, all components of pianistic mastery, can be summed up in one word: musicianship. Her program ranges from music that bears a slight resemblance to Ginastera to pieces written under the 12-tone banner, and Marchena brings them all vividly to life.

Aurelio de la Vega’s Toccata, dedicated to pianist Jorge Bolet, alternates between rapid cascades of notes and tranquil lyricism. This is not a hammered, brutally insistent toccata à la Prokofiev, but nonetheless one that generates considerable excitement with flowing yet propulsive unison passages. Marchena outlines Marcela Rodríguez’ Como el agua en el agua with crystalline delicacy and sensitivity to the rippling flow of this “water music.” Carlos Alberto Vázquez’ Rapsodia acquamarina , written for Marchena, is more overtly Latin than Rodríguez’ piece and melds thematic tension to Caribbean rhythms. Marchena is suitably rhapsodic, dramatically forceful, or tender in a reading that transforms the episodic structure into a coherent whole.

Although I’m not enamored of the Schoenbergian style of Alba Potes’s Tres Piezas Breves , nonetheless Marchena’s riveting performance successfully portrays them as convincing, if atonal, narratives. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but the music seems to have a hidden Latin heart pulsing beneath the intimidating surface. Germán Cáceres’ Laconicas , pianistic aphorisms written in the same severe style, are more concentrated and correspondingly brief: The first of the eight lasts for only 20 seconds. Throughout the set, intense, fast-moving moments alternate with spare evocations of musical “space.”

Juan Piñera’s Del Libro antes del desayuno (“Book Before Breakfast”) is a collection of pieces stemming from a novel idea: As a form of self-discipline, Piñera wouldn’t allow himself to eat his morning meal until he’d composed a complete piece. The two that Marchena has chosen are lyrical and melodic, one momentarily more energetic than the other; both convey a feeling of a peaceful dawning to a new day. Mario Lavista’s Simurg , named for the mythological king of the birds, is mysterious, atmospheric, and colorful. Marchena’s imaginative performance suggests that she’d be an excellent interpreter of the Impressionist repertoire. Roque Cordero’s preludes are written in a 12-tone technique, but one “closer to Berg’s ways than to Schoenberg’s or Webern’s usage” (from Aurelio de la Vega’s extensive program notes). The third prelude, oddly, reminded me of Prokofiev, and its motor rhythms offer a refreshing departure from the 12-tone dogma that shunned repetition of either motives or pulse. The reference to Berg must surely be to his late style and not to the Romantic, harmonically fluid outpourings that found their perfect expression in the Piano Sonata. Marchena plays the preludes with a controlled vigor that fluidly traverses the crests and valleys of the music’s emotional fluctuations.

All told, the composers of this fascinatingly varied program have an ideal interpreter in Marchena, and I’d like very much to hear more of her persuasive pianism. Recommended to anyone interested in hearing superlatively played contemporary Latin American piano music.

FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
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Works on This Recording

Toccata for Piano by Aurelio de la Vega
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; Cuba 
Length: 4 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Como el agua en el agua by Marcela Rodríguez
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Length: 5 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Rapsodia Acquamarina by Carlos Alberto Vázquez
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Length: 6 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Short Pieces (3) for Piano by Alba Potes
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Length: 10 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Lacónicas by Germán Cáceres
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Length: 4 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Del Libro Antes del Desayuno by Juan Piñera
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Length: 3 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Simurg by Mario Lavista
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; Mexico 
Length: 8 Minutes 10 Secs. 
New Preludes (5) for Piano by Roque Cordero
Performer:  Martha Marchena (Piano)
Length: 10 Minutes 28 Secs. 

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