Emilio Colón

Esencia: Cello in the Pampas and the Caribbean

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Most of the music on this album was arranged by the performer, Puerto Rican cellist Emilio Colón, for the combination of cello and piano; only the cellist's own Armando's Waltz is presented in its original form. Yet it doesn't show any strain from the transcription. The music of several composers here -- Ernesto Lecuona, Astor Piazzolla, and the creators of the Puerto Rican piano dances grouped under the heading "Danzas célebres puertorriqueñas" -- has often proven adaptable to new instrumentation, and even the more formal Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2 (1937), of Alberto Ginastera are beautifully arranged, with the cello serving to highlight Ginastera's creole rhythms in a context already marked by a good deal of dissonance. Best of all, Colón's recording does what a good recital should: it not only shows off his own nice cantabile and the sensitive accompanimental skills of pianist Nariaki Sugiura, but also draws connections for the listener to think about. Colón explores the territory indicated by the blurred line between popular and classical in Latin America, beginning right on the line (Lecuona) and moving in one direction (the Puerto Rican danzas) or the other (Ginastera, who even at this young age carved out an adventurous style even as he showed French and American influences). He concludes with wonderful performances of five of Piazzolla's famous tangos, which have continued to blur the popular/classical line in an age that has seemed bent on reasserting and clarifying it. This is a fine hour of melodically and rhythmically vital music that seems more and more essential with each passing year.

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