Sometimes artists show two or more sides. The different roles played in a concert hall or in a recording studio bring out different aspects of a creative personality, at least as masks if not as divergent personalities.
That’s how I’m thinking, as I look at the different sides of the pianist Beatriz Boizán. Her recent concert, launching a CD, could have been sub-titled “Action” for its vibrant physical appeal. If “Action“ is to be at one extreme, the CD, titled “Pasión” is the opposite. However this isn’t just a fantasy. I saw the concert, which led me to use the word “feral”.
And the CD? I think “passionate” is the right adjective, one that I’d like to unpack for a moment. The word get thrown around a fair bit without any context. A passionate embrace is one full of emotion, but not necessarily loud or active. I believe it’s understood as a surrender to feelings, as if one were possessed by sensation. In a CD, that means we’re encountering profound emotion in these compositions, but in the compact packages of these performances. The music doesn’t shout, but speaks eloquently, moving us.
Boizán plays the most difficult pieces on her CD differently than she played them in live performance. Where she was willing to risk the occasional missed note in the boldness of her attack, on the CD she manages to be carefully precise, containing the emotion in a tidy package.
Boizán takes us on a tour of Latin pianism, especially as it leads to two great masters of Cuban music. I knew the famous names on this album, but until now did not know the Cubans, even though one is responsible for the most famous tune on the entire album:
- Ernesto Lecuona 1895 –1963 (Cuban), including “Malagueňa”
- Antonio Soler 1729- 1783 (Spanish), who wrote keyboard sonatas that remind me of Domenico Scarlatti, but with a Spanish flair
- Ignacio Cervantes 1847 – 1905 (Cuban)? i am pleased to meet this subtle voice, who doesn’t seem at all out of his depth alongside the acknowledged Spanish masters of the piano
- Isaac Albeniz 1860 – 1909 (Spanish)
- Alberto Ginastera 1916 –1983 (Argentinian)
While this is a more passionate series of readings than what Boizán offered a few weeks ago, that is, with some of the emotion internalized rather than fully expressed in action, she holds nothing back when we get to Albeniz’s fiendishly difficult “Corpus Christi en Sevilla”, processional music of a Sevillian sound-scape that gradually calms itself. This is among the most difficult pieces for a pianist, powerful octaves hammering in both hands, a challenge to articulate clearly. Boizán finds the right notes to emphasize, bringing forth key parts of the dense texture, wearing her Latina allegiance on her sleeve.
The picture is more abstracted in Ginastera’s Dances, such as “Danza del Gaucho Matrero”, a luscious waterfall of notes pouring in quick succession. Pasión is a wonderful CD, roughly an hour of music that introduces me both to the artist –who I’ve seen only in the one concert—and to several of her favourite composers. I am persuaded to make further investigations of Cuban music.
You would have no better place to begin such an investigation than with Pasión.