'Asturiana 1: 12 Songs from Spain and Argentina for Viola and Piano'
'Asturiana 1: 12 Songs from Spain and Argentina for Viola and Piano,' transcriptions by Kim Kashkashian and Robert Levin (Partitura Verlag, $39.95)
Poetry is filled with raw emotion, from the searing pain of loss to the unbearable feeling of loneliness, and music can be the perfect medium to illustrate this power. In Asturiana 1, violist Kim Kashkashian and pianist and composer Robert Levin have transformed 12 vocal songs from Spain and Argentina into a collection of beautifully arranged works for viola and piano.
The songs, by composers Carlos Guastavino, Alberto Ginastera, and Xavier Montsalvatge, are in their original forms not simply folk songs for voice and piano, but range in instrumentation from mezzo- soprano and orchestra to voice and guitar. The original songs range in style—some reflect Antillean rhythms and melodies while others combine diatonic and pentatonic scales. Still others embody melodies and textures reminiscent of Debussy and Ravel.
Kashkashian and Levin’s elegant transcriptions do not overly complicate the songs or turn them into virtuosic works, but instead capitalize on the instrumental qualities of the viola and piano, and use their timbres and capabilities to embody the sadness, longing, and desire expressed by the texts. The writing is creative, but not daunting—Kashkashian and Levin have published the songs without bowings or fingerings, “believing that each performer should savor the joy of finding personal colors and gestures,” as they note in the foreword.