CD Review: A Fine, Varied Set from Chilean Guitarist Mauricio Valdebenito (and Guests)

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Mestiza (Musica Chilena y Latinoamericana)
Mauricio Valdebenito and guests
Portaldisc.com

An Online Exclusive Review by Paul Fowles

Chilean guitarist Mauricio Valdebenito is a superb player whose work has only occasionally been covered in Classical Guitar. In a program ranging from folk dances collected in the 18th century to a recently-minted Hendrix tribute with electronics, Valdebenito appears in the company of seven guest performers on this set, which came out in late 2014. Singer Magdalena Matthey receives the most credits, but only Valdebenito himself is on all tracks.

A couple of these pieces are well-known: Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachiana Brasileira No.5 is offered here in a version for voice, guitar and cello, and Radamès Gnatalli’s Sonata per violonchelo y guitarra is deservedly championed by a number of cello and guitar duos. But the greater part of the program here will be new ground to many. I choose these words with caution, knowing that the songs of Victor Jara (1932-73) remain highly prized on their creators’ home territory (Chile) and beyond. Served here by the winning team of Matthey and Valdebenito, the arrangements have the potential to take this sensual music to a wider audience. What a pity there’s no English translation of the words.

Elsewhere, the guitar and charango arrangements of two of the 20 traditional themes collected by Baltasar Jaime Martinez Compañon (1737-97), a Catholic prelate posted to Peru by Charles III of Spain, act as a charming interlude in what’s otherwise a 20th and 21st century agenda to which Violeta Parra (1917-67) and Francesca Ancarola (b.1968) make the most weighty contributions. If I understand Valdebenito’s notes correctly, Parra’s 14-minute El Gavilán, presented here on voice and guitar, survives in a number of guises but was never completed in the ambitious orchestral form the composer envisioned. Finally, there’s the relatively compact “Loop 2” for amplified acoustic guitar with reverb and digital tape, in which Francesca Ancarola pays homage to the legacy of Jimi Hendrix, whose death took place just two years after her birth.

All this adds up to a feast of listening and is recommended without reservation.

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