June 14, 2021

  • Argentinean Nocturnes


    Bottiroli: Complete Piano Works, Vol. 2 (Nocturnes)
    George Takei, narrator. Fabio Banegas, piano.
    Grand Piano 871
    Total Time:  72:35
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****


    The music of Argentinean composer Jose Antonio Bottiroli (1920-1990) is among those of lesser-known 20th Century composers beyond, perhaps, his homeland.  His Belgrano March was decreed to be used as a commemoration for the national flag of Argentina.  Like other composers of the mid- 20th-Century, Bottiroli thus began exploring folk music idioms in his work.  That approach is mostly absent though from this current volume of piano music composed in the last couple decades of his life.

    Pianist Fabio Banegas undertook to collect and edit the works of Bottiroli and his intimate understanding of the music from such a task has no doubt impacted the loving care he brings to these world premiere recordings.  The Three Sorrows (1984) that open the release will catch the listener off guard at first because the music is all quite Impressionistic in its aesthetic with touches of Late-Romanticism.  The music has some flirtations with more modernist harmonic gestures but maintains its nod to the piano miniatures of an earlier era.  One feels like a whole new unearthed collection of Debussy has been discovered.  Ideas waft in beautiful harmonic support with a sort of dreamlike reflection.  The Six Album Pages (1976-77) create a variety of musings on evening beauty with a relaxing quality that wafts across each.  Sometimes a little salon-like musical feel will sneak into the style creating an even further delight.

    A more innovative approach can be heard in the final work on the album, Five Piano Replies (1974-80).  Bottiroli was a noted poet with some 84 known works to his credit.  The composer’s poetry serves as a scene setting for his music which subsequently adds a more dramatic arc to the individual movements.  The poetry, reproduced in the booklet, is read by the inimitable George Takei, perhaps more familiar to fans of Star Trek as Sulu.  That might peak interest among fans of a different ilk, but they will certainly discover some music that will encourage looking up into the night sky to contemplate their own place in the vast universe.

    Banegas is an excellent interpreter of these works and has been a dedicatee of the Six Album Pieces.  It would seem his skill would be equally adept at other earlier 20th Century Impressionist composers and perhaps he will turn his attention there once he has completed recording the works of Bottiroli.  What we have here though is a fine collection of colorful, relaxing works for piano that may entice listeners to continue to join him on these explorations of this Argentinian composer.