Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico

Pasión Argentina

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This CD is a real anomaly: a recording of Latin American music for voice and eight cellos that does NOT include Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5! The repertoire presented here is so rich that the Villa-Lobos isn't even missed (and for fans who crave hearing Conjunto Ibérico perform it, the group has recorded it for Channel Classics). All of the pieces are expertly arranged for cello octet by Conjunto Ibérico's conductor Elias Arizcuren and Pablo Escande. The three composers represented, Piazzolla, Ginastera, and Guastavino, are all Argentinean, and the music throbs with rhythmic vitality. Mezzo-soprano Elena Gragera is a real find -- she has a luscious but earthy voice that's absolutely secure over her broad range, and she sings with infectious naturalness and abandon. Piazzolla's three Milongas are exuberant and loose-limbed, in the spirit of his tango-inflected music. Ginastera's Canciones argentinas show more of a European influence, but they are still clearly rooted in folk song. The ensemble plays two other Ginastera transcriptions, Pampeana No. 2, originally for cello and piano, and selections from his nationalistic ballet Estancia, whose languid slow movements are especially engaging. The six of Guastavino's 12 Canciones populares performed here are immediately appealing songs. The cello octet performs with the same abandon and freedom as Gragera, making this vibrant music dance so naturally that is hard to remain still while listening to it. The sound quality is clear and present, with excellent balance.

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