Notes and Editorial Reviews
William Knuth (vn); Adam Levin (gtr)
DUO SONIDOS (no number) (53: 16) Available from DuoSonidos.com
Histoire du tango.
7 Popular Spanish Songs
I believe it was in one of
Charles Baudelaire’s prose poems that I first read about Niccólo Paganini’s relationship with a Gypsy guitarist, with whom he toured the countryside of Italy. Paganini, who also played guitar on the side, was blown away by this fiery artist. Judging from the descriptions of their performances together, the music they made was probably not too much different from that produced a century later by Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. The guitarist’s name was Luigi Legnani; he was born in Ferrara in 1790, and in addition to touring with Paganini he also shared his home in Parma for a while. During his long career (he died in 1877) Legnani was also associated with the famous Viennese luthier Johann Stauffer, who trained C. F. Martin.
I bring this story up to draw an analogy with Duo Sonidos. At times relaxed and lyrical, at others fiery and exuberant, their playing reminds me so very much of a classically oriented Grappelli-Reinhardt collaboration. Both musicians involved are evidently highly trained virtuosi, but luckily for us, they don’t let that training get in the way of their sheer enjoyment of this material. (I’ve heard several Latin pianists playing the music of Falla or Piazzolla with about as much energy as a cocktail pianist at a Howard Johnson’s Motor Inn.) Never for a moment is this album dull, and often (listen particularly to the opening of Salvador Brotons’s “Con Fuoco”) they are so lively that they practically lift you out of your seat.
The one piece on this disc that is a premiere recording is
written by Cuban-Spanish composer Eduardo Morales-Caso. He describes his piece as “a fantasy for violin and guitar inspired by Goya’s famous painting of the same title, which bases its structure on the principle of color as a generator of textural contrasts.” The music builds modally around bitonality, the guitar in one mode and the violinist in another, depicting musically the mystery and menace of “Goya’s eerie depiction of an airborne witch and her ghouls.”
The recital ends with an absolutely fabulous transcription of Falla’s classic
Seven Popular Spanish Songs.
Duo Sonidos plays them with exactly the right balance of elegance and élan, never once falling into cheap showmanship for its own sake. These are really dedicated musicians who want people to enjoy what they’re doing, yet refuse to lower their standards in order to broaden that audience.
I can’t say enough good things about this disc. It’s an absolute gem.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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