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Stefano Bollani / Hamilton de Holanda: O que sera

John Kelman By

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Intentional or not, ECM's simultaneously release of Iranian kamencheh master Kayhan Kalhor and Turkish baglama expert Erdal Erzincan's Kula Kulluk Yakişir Mi (2013) with O que será, which captures a positively electrifying 2012 performance by efferverscent Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and Brazilian bandolim virtuoso Hamilton de Holanda, does more than merely celebrate the intimate potential of the duo. Variants, they may be, but there are also timbral similarities between de Holanda's bandolim (mandolin) and Erzincan's baglama (saz) in their use of doubled (or, in the case of the baglama, sometimes tripled) strings.

There, however, the comparisons end. Previous ECM recordings including his aptly named Piano Solo (2007) and more recent trio date, Stone in the Water (2009), have demonstrated both Bollani's knowledge and virtuosity, transcending reductionist labels—even ones as broad-scoped as jazz—to draw upon sources ranging from classical to pop, along with his ongoing interest in Brazilian music. But it's been on duo recordings like Orvieto (2011), with one-time influence Chick Corea, and The Third Man (2008), with fellow Italian and one-time mentor Enrico Rava, that the pianist has most assuredly demonstrated a career-defining ability to imbue music with both humor and joie du vivre while being, at the same time, capable of profound depth: sometimes staggeringly complex, elsewhere unyieldingly beautiful.

With de Holanda—equally expansive in range and a star in his own right, having collaborated with everyone from Richard Galliano to Bela Fleck—Bollani has, perhaps, found the perfect partner. Not only does de Holanda possess similar instrumental mastery, but he is as capable of pushing Bollani to turn on a dime as the pianist is in driving the mandolinist to change directions at thought-speed, the pair occasionally throwing in seeming non sequiturs that invariably reveal themselves as anything but.

O que seráis like watching two hyperkinetic kids in a musical candy store, looking to sample everything they can get their hands on. On pieces like Bollani's "Il Barbone Di Siviglia, (The Tramp of Seville)" and the frenetic closer, "Apanhei-te Cavaquinho" there's an exciting sense of the two playing constant cat-and mouse, Bollani breaking away from form into a high-speed passage of unfettered freedom only to get pulled back in by de Holanda, as if to say "catch up!" The mischief is palpable; it's almost possible to see the two grinning at each other madly as they interact, sometimes at speeds that would be considered impossible were they not here to be heard.

But an overarching sense of humor and relentless synchronicity don't mean that Bollani and de Holanda aren't capable of greater sensitivity. The duo's opening look at "Beatriz" is short and sweet, while Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Luiza" and {Astor Piazzolla}}'s "Oblivion" are, if not totally serious, then at least clearly reverential, as the two instruments engage at a near-mitochondrial level.

The inclusion of audience reactions throughout the show help make O que sera a breathtaking 54-minute break from life's trials and tribulations; as close to being there as any audio recording can be, it's proof positive that serious music can be fun, too.

Track Listing: Beatriz; Il Barbone di Seviglia; Caprichos de Espanha; Guarda Che Luna; Luiza; O Que Será; Rosa; Canto de Ossanha; Oblivión; Apanhei-te Cavaquinho.

Personnel: Stefano Bollani: piano; Hamilton de Holanda: bandolim.

Title: O que sera | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: ECM Records

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