The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
CD Review: Angel Luis Castaño
total time: 52:02
label: Elkar (KD-328)
Musika Kontenporaneoa Akordeoia
Gubaidulina, Nordheim, Takahashi. . .
Angel Luis Castaño, accordion
Review by Henry Doktorski:
Angel Luis Castaño is one of Spain's great concert accordionists. Born in San Sebastian in 1969, he began playing at the age of five and studied with Max Bonnay at the Conservatory of Paris and with Mogens Ellegaard at the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen, specializing in contemporary music for accordion. After winning many competitions in his country, including the Guipuzcoan Accordion Competition (1987 and 1988), he placed first in the 1990 Coupe Mondiale competition held in Germany. Today Castaño is developing a promising career as a concert artist; he also collaborates with composers to write music specifically for the accordion.
Castaño's first CD is a collection of seven 'classics' for the modern accordion.
The Russian composer, Sofia Gubaidulina, wrote many works for the bayan (Russian button accordion). As in many of her works, religious themes provide the inspiration for De Profundis (1978): it is based on the psalm of King David which begins "De profundis ad te Domine." The piece is a contrast between fear and hope represented by dissonant tone clusters and major chords.
The Spanish composer Fermin Gurbindo wrote, "The form [of Fantasia] is determined by the title of the work; it lacks tonality, its themes and principal developments are taken from the first three notes which make two intervals of the fourth."
Ole Schmidt's Toccata No. 2—commissioned by the Accordion Teachers Guild in 1963—is a contrapuntal piece with a rhythmic moto perpetua theme. It was Schmidt's fourth work for the accordion.
Flashing, by the Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim, is a type of minimalistic work: the opening consists of the single note D, which is sustained for approximately one minute before other pitches are introduced.
Duo for Accordions was written by Ketil Hvoslef—another Norse composer—who subtitled the work "Fantasia on what seven feathers may lead to . . ." A rhythmic ostinato permeates the work on several levels. On this piece, Castaño is joined by accordionist Raquel Ruiz.
Like a Water Buffalo, by the Japanese composer Yuhi Takajashi, was inspired by a poem of the same name by Wendy Poosard about the problems of Third World peoples. The water buffalo is an animal destined to live its life as a beast of burden in the Asiatic countryside until it dies; it is also a symbol of the enslavement of the Japanese people. Parts of Like a Water Buffalo suggest an Oriental setting by the use of pentatonic scales and ornaments reminiscent of indigenous Japanese reed instruments.
The Finish composer Heikki Valpola wrote the suite Marilina for accordion and piano in 1987. It is the most traditional and tonal of all the pieces on the CD. The final movement—Misterioso—creates suspense by the repetitive piano ostinato (a perfect fifth) in the low and dark register of the instrument.
Angel Luis Castaño performs all the pieces on the album with great attention to details. I cannot find any fault in this CD with one possible exception: in De Profundis for some strange reason Castano plays an unusual arpeggio-like figure instead of the register shifts (clearly marked in the score) on the penultimate page of the piece.
On the other hand, I must compliment him for his creative solution to the problem of playing the left-hand glissandi during the preceding two lines of music: Castaño simply switches his hands and plays the top staff with his left hand and the bottom staff with his right hand.
I recommend this CD for all lovers of contemporary music.
For more information contact:
Angel Luis Castaño
Conservatorio de Música de Segovia
Plaza Conde Cheste, 8
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