The songs on this album fall into the genre of canción de cámera, or chamber song -- a specifically Argentine form resulting from the efforts of Argentine composers of the early twentieth century to create a national type of art song that drew on local folk and popular forms. Most non-Argentines will think of the tango in this connection, but the music here mostly dates from the years when educated Argentines shunned the tango as low-class. Instead the music draws on earlier layers of Spanish-American dance and on rural cowboy and village material. Most of the texts are quite simple love songs; the beautiful Encantamiento of Carlos Guastavino, track 1, is a lullaby or an expression of the love of a mother for her child. Three of Piazzolla's tango songs are included (two with texts by Jorge Luis Borges), and these are worth the purchase price all by themselves. Is there a more persuasive portrait of a gangster in music than El tîtere, track 16? If you're looking for the perfect piece with which to introduce a gangster rap fan to art song, this is it. The rest of the music is a mixed bag; the nine songs by Guastavino are all persuasive, but some of the other composers drift into what used to be called potted-palm territory. Slovenian-Argentine mezzo soprano Bernarda Fink makes a strong case for the whole bunch, with a superb feel for popular-inflected art song. She avoids the mannerisms of both popular and art-song convention, cultivating a natural, expressive style. The same can be said of her brother, baritone Marcos Fink, who has a bit of the ease with which Plácido Domingo sings zarzuela and other forms of light Spanish-language vocal music. The entire presentation of the album is handsome and effective, from the design featuring gold shutters on a red and blue wall, to the heavily and properly footnoted text translations, which put across the depth of local reference in these songs. This is an unusual repertoire, but one that singers, especially, should get to know, and they're not going to find a better introduction than that provided here.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim