Imágenes: Music for piano
Horacio Lavandera piano
Recorded October 2013 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
U.S. Release Date: September 25, 2015
For a musician whose heart pulls so much blood from the tango and folklores both longstanding and personal, bandoneón master Dino Saluzzi is a composer in the same way that a poet is a writer. Every syllable takes on note value, which in the grander scheme of a finished piece yields shape and color. Whereas through his standby instrument he actualizes breath by way of a smaller “keyboard,” here Saluzzi bows to the interpretation of young Argentine pianist Horacio Lavandera at a much larger one in a sonic Decalogue of epic intimacy. The piano’s classical associations do nothing to obscure Saluzzi’s idiosyncrasies, which in this context mix two parts atmospheric to each melodic.
In his German-only liner notes, Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich characterizes Saluzzi’s piano music as speaking in “fragmented images.” From the rolling arpeggios that begin the 2001 title composition, we encounter a sound world that surely privileges fragments: of memory, of place, and of time. The proximity allowed by ECM’s longtime engineering ally Jan Erik Kongshaug assures listeners that the music is speaking not only to, but also into, them. Here is where the darkest hours of Saluzzi’s timekeeping are to be discovered, where every sweep of the minute hand is the arm of a shadow piecing together in slow desperation a coherent narrative of who it used to be. Moods and techniques vary accordingly, one moment rhapsodizing in sunshine while the next sinking into the depths of some forgotten, nocturnal lake.
Although Los Recuerdos (1998) would seem to unfold at higher elevations, its plumbing is no less subterranean. With resolute sporadicity, Saluzzi-via-Lavandera (that the composer was present at the recording session is obvious, even without the candid liner photos confirming this) dabs from a psychological palette. A colorless abyss provides the backdrop for streaks of yellow and brown, splashes of red and lavender, and the occasional sparkle of gold. But the default is something far cloudier, a hue that cannot ever seem to settle on one constitution. In a supplemental liner note, guitarist Pablo Márquez, who like Saluzzi grew up around the mountains of Salta, confirms this: “Dino never allows himself to become trapped in one aesthetic; he is always somewhere unexpected.” Said genre-defying style only adds water to the composer’s stream of consciousness. His notecraft oars its way into the moonlit inlet of Media Noche (1990) and docks at the misty way station of Vals Para Verenna (1987) with equal attention to detail. Even the minute-long etude Moto Perpetuo (2000) is no less rich in imagery and association. Márquez’s sentiments further emphasize Saluzzi’s affinity for storytelling. In such pieces as La Casa 13 (2002) and Donde Nací (1990), one can feel his thick approach to description. Others, such as Romance (1994), which in its tuneful brevity relates the oldest story of them all, and the Satie-like Claveles (1984), come across as songs in search of words, even as they content themselves with mere hints thereof.
But as the program evolves in self-conscious order, slender shards of nomination cohere into wider scenes by the glue of minimal vocabularies. The majestic peaks of Montañas—which, having been composed in 1960, is the earliest of the ten—reach skyward with resolution of a younger soul, one who carves with fists over chisels yet who in doing so affords through the grime of experience that much more to consider.
From these portals of reflection, Lavandera emerges as a storyteller in his own right with pianism at its most impressionistic—which is to say: indelible.
(To hear samples of Imágenes, click here.)