CD Review: Mobili offers up new Chilean music for viola and piano

Georgina Isabel Rossi, viola; Sylvie Cheng, piano

New Focus Recordings – fcr268
Release Date: October 9, 2020

Karl Henning | 12 FEB 2021

Violist Georgina Isabel Rossi and pianist Sylvie Cheng have collaborated on a richly engaging program featuring world première recordings of music by several Chilean composers.

The compact disc, Mobili draws its title from a four-movement piece by architect, musicologist and eminent composer Juan Orrego-Salas, whose death came 16 days before the musicians began recording. Rossi reflects, “I carried that sorrow into the studio alongside his score in my hands and remember feeling an intense gratitude for his music, as well as a huge responsibility.”

The album opens with two contrasting pieces by Rafael Díaz: a piece for amplified viola unaccompanied, ¿Habrá alguien que en sus manos sostenga esta caer? (“Will There Be Someone Whose hands can Sustain this Falling?”) which begins with an intense keening gesture which made me think of jazz-blues violinist Don “Sugarcane” Harris. The piece is a freely imaginative fantasia juxtaposing coloristic avian “night music” and melodies collected by the composer in ethnomusicological fieldwork. Writes the composer, “the piece depicts the sonorities of the Pewenche [a people indigenous to the Andes] prayer (rogativa) through the wind and the elements of nature. This is a piece in communion with the pantheistic essence of Pewenche religion.” the glean in the viola’s timbre afforded by the amplification suits the hghly colorful music poignantly. In dramatic contrast, Al fondo de mi lejanía se asoma tu casa (“In the Depths of My Distance Your House Emerges”) is warmly, cozily modal “the sound image of a memory,” Díaz writes.

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Carlos BottoVallarino, fondly known as “Don Carlos” composed his Fantasía, Op. 15 in 1962. The piece’s soundworld intersects very agreeably with Schoenberg in benevolent humor.

Federico Heinlein’s dúo Do not go gentle is impassioned and restless, as befits the Dylan Thomas epithet. Its delicious lyricism stops well short of “raging against the dying of the light,” by which I mean no musical deficiency in the least.

David Cortés’s Tololo for viola and string orchestra, arranged by Miguel Farías for viola and piano, is named after a mountain which is home to an observatory. The composer writes that the piece is an homage to the Coquimbo Region, whose northern border is the Atacama desert, to which territory his family has ties. The piece’s layout has an intriguing tie-in to the Observatory. Writes Cortés, “The serviceable metaphor here is that of using a telescope, where you are first able to see an object—a planet, perhaps—but upon zooming in with the machine, the contour dissolves and the object sems to disappear as new details become visible. In this way, the middle two sections apply a kind of zoom into the music presented in the introduction.”

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Juan Orrego-Salas’s Mobili, Op. 63 is the only piece on the album to have been recorded before. Its four movements are designated “Flessibile,” “Discontinuo” (sharply rhythmic with mutual imitations), “Ricorrente” (“recurrent,” a warmly nostalgic Adagio) and “Perpetuo” (vigorous, but not breakneck).

The bonus track on the album is a treatment by Carlos Gustavino of a song from the Pampas, “El Sampedrino,” arranged for viola & piano by Kim Kashkashian and Robert Levin.

The performances throughout are outstanding, and the entire program a delight, suggesting indeed that Chilean composers are a source yet further to be mined. ■