La Vida Breve
What initially looks like a marginally relevant disc turns out to be a deceptively smart, feel-good collection that also solves the not inconsiderable problem of translating tango-related music to the cello. Back in the 1990s, when lots of mainstream classical artists were discovering Ástor Piazzolla (the industry joke was ‘Have you heard the Maria Callas tango record?’), the music survived over-cultivated performances, if just barely.
Nadège Rochat strategically employs fluid fingerings, stays close to the instrument’s upper range and keeps vibrato to a minimum, assuring that little artifice intrudes on the music. In the more classical portion of the disc, namely Falla’s Siete Canciones populares españolas, the cellist inflects the line with the kind of shadings that keep one from missing the words usually heard in this music. In fact, Rochat makes the most of the instrument’s capabilities by showing what interpretative touches are possible when not limited by a vocalist’s breath control. In many ways, this is Baroque performance practice with some extravagant finger slides and an irreverent attitude.
The catalyst to this disc’s unassuming success is guitarist Rafael Aguirre. The smaller sound palette of the instrument plus its obvious roots in Spanish culture creates a sort of common denominator that deflates, say, the Intermezzo from Granados’s opera Goyescas without losing its charming essence, and distils Ravel’s Habanera (perhaps a bit too much, actually), making such a work appropriate company with the more vernacular Piazzolla, Assad and the mainstream pop of Lara’s ‘Granada’. Though the guitar is standing in for everything from piano to opera orchestra, Aguirre sounds perfectly at home throughout. The warmth and specificity of expression in this disc are such that nobody’s winter should be without it.