What is beauty? What does it mean to feel, to remember, to laugh or to cry? How can music sound both created beforehand and recreated each second? Is music a direct connection to the infinite, to our very ground of being, so we can see into the musician's soul?
These and many, many more questions are raised by Ojos Negros
, the astonishing record by bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi and cellist Anja Lechner. Saluzzi's Juan Condori
(ECM, 2006) was a family affair, but the music somehow managed to convey the humanity, vulnerability and wisdom of its patriarch, Dino Saluzzi.
Lechner is a member of the Rosamunde Quartett, which has an extensive ECM classical discography. She has a deep interest in many kinds of folk music, but Argentinean music has held a special place in her heart for the past twenty-five years. Her research led her to Saluzzi, with whom she has played for the last ten years, including six of duo concerts.
Thus, Lechner has been able to get inside of this music and especially become one with Saluzzi, whose music, at this point, transcends tango. The resulting performance is beyond category and might best be described as not
tango, and not
Whatever it isand Saluzzi would say, "I play music"its emotional impact derives from a delicate intimacy that emerges from the music's depth and breadth, which includes the sound of Saluzzi pressing his bandoneon keys. Lechner, as a playing partner, has tapped into Saluzzi's ability to communicate directly to the listener. They are talking to us, or better, we are overhearing a musical conversation with all artifice discarded, and what is left is from their hearts to ours.
In the notes, Lechner talks about how each performance could be entirely different from the last, and in more ways than just the amount of rubato, and hence the pacing of this or that phrase. What is improvised is indiscernible from what is written and the arrangement, ostensibly the form of the piece, becomes a very flexible thing that is but the starting point for the performance.
The magic of the sound of Ojos Negros
, apart from the emotional intangibles, lies in the fact that nothing stands still. Saluzzi will play close chords, then contrapuntal lines, while Lechner changes registers to mix first with Saluzzi's high notes and then the low notes, or jumps back and forth from arco to pizzicato. When playing together, the caress of Saluzzi's bandoneon surrounds Lechner's singing cello.
Combine all of this with a sense of rhythm or pulse that is so refined as to make the music playfully dance, creating such a very strong sense of breathing that you might just hold yours. Ojos Negros
is another gem in the ECM catalogue of gems, and will continually show new faces and reflections no matter how many times it is heard.