Recordings Solo Orchestra
[ CD Album ]

Musicians who specialize in a particular composer are often and unjustifiably pigeonholed.

To name but two, Alirio Diaz is synonymous with composer Antonio Lauro, and Leslie Howard with the solo piano music of Franz Liszt.

Paraguayan-born Berta Rojas has become universally accepted as a leading exponent of the music of Agustin Barrios. The magnitude of this association can be gauged from her participation in the BBC 4 programme, Great Lives broadcast on 26 January 2010. Guitarist John Williams nominated Agustin Barrios as his "Great Life" and invited Berta Rojas to join him for the interview. Her fine recording, Intimate Barrios was recently reviewed in this forum.

Like an earlier recording, Cielo Abierto from 2006, the review disc represents some of the talented composers she has discovered and befriended - see composer notes at the end of this review. The missing composer on Terruño is Barrios, and this new offering should totally negate any potential notion or perception that Rojas is one composer specialist. The programme here is from the pens of five composers, all of whom are currently living - Walter Heinze excepted. We may assume a high level of authenticity in the liner-notes as each composer wrote about his own compositions.

Guitarist, Victor Villadangos deputized for Walter Heinze. He is particularly well qualified for the task, having been the first guitarist to perform the Concordancias at the Guitar Seminar in Colón, Entre Rios in February 1997; one is dedicated to him.

The title composition, Terruño - Native Soil - is typical of the type of music that inspires Rojas. The origins of the guitar are deeply rooted in the folklore and music of Spain. Segovia felt that in writing music with Andalusian character, "composers must remember the guitar". The influence of the Spanish on South American music and culture is significant. When, irrespective of country-specific origins, you can perceive and recognize in music the love of land, folk music with its colours and fascinating rhythms and a spirited freedom of execution, the true spirit of the guitar is manifest. In Terruño [5], composer Quique Sinesi reflects inspiration from his homeland and the feelings of being part of it. Juan Falú consciously sought to imbue Che Galopa [9] with an air of Berta Rojas´s homeland, Paraguay. It is to her that this piece is dedicated. The awesome beauty of the Isle of Sark, one of the smallest of the Channel Islands (UK), is mirrored in the Five Pictures of Sark by Vincent Lindsey- Clark. La Moinerie [13] is the beautiful farmhouse where the composer and his wife stayed on Sark during their honeymoon in 1992.

People were also a source of inspiration for a number of the compositions: Laura [1] by Lindsey-Clark is named after his daughter. Written when she was still young, it is symbolic of the joyful nature of a small child at play. Quique Sinesi´s, Canción hacia Vos [4] - Song to You - is a message from one heart to another; it is dedicated to his son Augusto, and arose out of his birth.

It may be that not every track will be to everyone´s liking but there are some absolute treasures here. It is hard to single out one composition above another. Under duress I would express a particular affinity for Preludio [2] by Solis. This piece was part of the sound-track of the 2005 documentary Coiba Paraíso Salvaje under the title Tema de Alicia - Alice´s Theme.

The playing of Berta Rojas is always technically precise and impeccable but not at the expense of the music. She plays with a freedom that parallels a flamenco guitarist playing personal falsetas - for which no score exists. Her empathy is primarily for the music, the folk roots of the guitar. It is not for the disciplines of its academic evolution over the past several decades; these often totally disregard the guitar´s origins. To play the guitar like this you must deeply love the instrument and have strong empathy for the chosen programme; not just because it is topical, fashionable or ‘commercially correct´ but because it permeates the soul and quickens the heartbeat.

While Berta Rojas could make a beautiful sound on any guitar, for this recording she chose an instrument by luthier Michael O´Leary equipped with D´Addario strings.

In relation to this new recording Berta Rojas says: Terruño, for me evokes the scent of jasmine, the fire of the passion fruit flower, red earth, warmth and affections, and from the stillness of absence, embraces. The quest to fill the silence of absence with sounds gives birth to this recording and its culmination finds me surrounded by jasmines and red earth, confirming a suspicion that music can be embraced and someone, somewhere in the world will be there to warmly enfold it.

I am tempted to plagiarize these comments verbatim. Indeed, having listened to this recording I feel their surrogate author.

Zane Turner
[ USA ]