Armenian-American violist Kim Kashkashian has released a string of excellent recordings with ECM over the years. She is on the faculty at New England Conservatory of Music and collaborates regularly, including on her latest disc, with Robert Levin, who teaches at Harvard. As a preview of her highly anticipated Washington area recital later this month -- with pianist Lydia Artymiw, at Congregation Beth-El in Bethesda, sponsored by the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, on November 18 at 4 pm -- one could do worse than this lovely little bon-bon of folk-influenced songs from Spain and Argentina, arranged by the artists for Kashkashian's mellifluous and declamatory viola.
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Asturiana: Songs from Spain and Argentina, K. Kashkashian, R. Levin (released on September 18, 2007)
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Named for the lead song, by Manuel de Falla, this survey of sultry and earthy music also includes pieces by Granados, Ginastera, Montsalvatge, and two lesser-knowns named Carlos Guastavino and Carlos López Buchardo. We last reviewed some of the songs by Falla and Montsalvatge on a recital by Stephanie Blythe, and they continue to be, in my estimation, some of the best adaptations of Hispanic folk sounds into something much more interesting than their sources (especially Falla's set Siete Canciones Populares Españolas). The musical appeal of the sound needs no further explanation: if you have an aversion to the viola as the violin's clutzy cousin, this disc may cure you, at least temporarily. The translations of the source poems, printed out of order and without their Spanish originals, will provide some background, but as with most fine examples of the "song without words" genre, they are probably not necessary. If you can make it to the FAES recital on November 18, you may hear a piece or two from this album on the program or as an encore.
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