Egberto Gismonti: Meeting Point (ECM 1586)

Egberto Gismonti
Meeting Point

Egberto Gismonti piano
Gintaras Rinkevicius conductor
Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra
Recorded June 1995, Vilnius
Engineer: Markus Heiland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

If any title could sum up the ECM aesthetic in two words, it is Meeting Point. This disc features the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Gintaras Rinkevicius, playing the music of Egberto Gismonti, who also acts as soloist. Having studied under Jean Barraqué and Nadia Boulanger in Paris, the multitalented Brazilian musician and composer puts his conservatory training into effect on this program of seven pieces. Of these, the diptych “Strawa no Sertão” is the shortest, making for a rollicking introduction that bustles like a market square, threading between fruit stands and children’s laughter. The nocturnal dances of “Música para Cordas” provide much-needed contrast to its surroundings, setting up a lively arrangement of “Frevo” (first heard on Sanfona). Gismonti now appears at the keyboard, adding urgency to this orchestral milieu. Interjections from horns burst onto the page like punctuation marks, while the flutes draw erasable underlines. The piano’s function as percussion instrument is further emphasized in the romping “A Pedrinha Cai.” It runs through that same market with stall prize clutched in hand, ending with that first sweet bite. Yet the most personal voice emerges in “Eterna,” for which a romantic solo violin blows like a summer breeze and breaks the orchestra down into the intimacy of a string quartet. Thus prepared for the roiling sea of a re-imagined “Música de Sobrevivencia,” we puzzle our way through brine and wisps of cloud, each blind to the other except through Gismonti’s overwhelming desire to communicate.

Though I wouldn’t recommend Meeting Point as your first Gismonti experience, one should never bypass the lungs on the way to the heart, for here is a breath of ineluctable brilliance, teaching, and careful thought.

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