Ponce: Mexican Piano Music (CD review)

Jorge Federico Osorio, piano. Cedille Records 90000 086.

The opening piece on the disc, "Estrellita," is ravishingly, heart-meltingly exquisite, and pianist Jorge Federico Osorio captures perfectly its beauty and charm. It's just the beginning of an album filled with such delights.

People probably know Mexican composer Manuel Ponce (1882-1948) best for his guitar works, but the booklet note reminds us that the composer's favorite instrument was the piano. The disc contains twenty-two short works for solo piano, most of them almost as attractive as "Estrellita." Ponce based the music largely on Mexican and Cuban folk tunes, but there's a lot of originality at play as well.

Moreover, most of the music is light, romantic, and lyrical, Osorio playing with a delicate touch. Perhaps the only exceptions to this style are the Estudios de Concierto Nos. 3, 7, and 12, which tend to be more outgoing and extroverted. If there is any minor snag to the album, it's that by the time it's over, you may feel a lot of it sounded alike. So be it; it's a lot of very nice alike.

Among the other items you'll find on the disc are three Canciones Mexicanas; three selections from Trozos Romanticos; the elegant Legende; eight Mazurcas, styled after the Polish dances; the Suite Cubana, inspired by the more sensual music of Cuba; and Deux Etudes Pour Piano, dedicated to Artur Rubinstein. Osorio seems at home with all of it.

One of my favorite audio engineers, Cedille Records' Bill Maylone, engineered this one, capturing the piano most realistically. No fear here of a twenty-foot instrument spread across your living room. Instead, the piano is miked at a moderate distance, presenting a modest but still imposing size, with sonics that are never hard or glaring, yet never soft or lumpy, either. In fact, the piano sounds like a piano, which is all that one could ask for. This is beautiful music, beautifully recorded.

JJP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa