Review of “AMERICAS WITHOUT FRONTIERS” CD by Ray Picot

Its impact is immediate and positive

Another interesting programme was played last October by Clara Rodríguez, where she explored the music of the Caribbean, two months later she has just released her latest recording, Americas Without Frontiers (Nimbus Alliance NI6346) which takes us around the area explored in the concert and beyond. Whilst I’ve only had the CD a very short time, its impact is immediate and positive, though treading in some familiar areas from this pianist’s discography, the album is an altogether new experience.

“The choice of music is perfect, as one dance rhythm slips into another”

Rather imaginatively Clara Rodríguez bookends the album with some idiomatic arrangements which incorporate subtle percussion. These also pop up in places across the programme, though they never jar, but rather point up the unique interface in South American and Caribbean art music and more popular styles. Listening to Nazareth firstly on solo piano and then with the percussion is inspired, and you wonder why this is not done more often. Whilst there are some names of composers who will be unfamiliar, the choice of music is perfect, as one dance rhythm slips into another. There are also extra-musical concepts behind the album, which are interesting and shows how well connected Ms Rodríguez is with the world in which this music was created.

“They are played with affection and consummate virtuosity”

A very important connection is made in this album to the 2016 centenary of the Venezuelan, Antonio Estévez, with the wonderfully idiomatic 17 Pieces infantiles, which resulted in the composer being given the National Music Award in 1957. These are fascinating short pieces which sound beguilingly simple in Clara Rodriquez’ hands, which I am sure they are not! The individual pieces exhibit many mood changes, breathing a distinctive indigenous air, but always tuneful and interesting. They are played with affection and consummate virtuosity and represent some of the composer’s best work for the piano, and it is surprising they are not better known.

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Another highlight for me was the selection of 5 Studies by Ariel Ramírez, which, like his wonderful Alfonsina y el mar, effortlessly conjure the area of Río de la Plata.

Across the album, familiar pieces breathe a new air in transformed surroundings and with such dedicated performances.

“In short this is a disc to enjoy and savour by afficionados and newcomers to a fascinating repertoire, of which Clara Rodríguez is an undisputed champion.”

Ray Picot ILAMS IberoLatinAmericanMusicSociety. London 2017Clarines_blue_wednesday

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