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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Lots to discover and enjoy on these 3 new piano albums

Every now and then we get an album here at TPR that I'm immediately taken with from the track 1 needle drop. Agustin Muriago’s delightful new recording of Argentinian piano music takes to the skies with Lilián Saba’s “Para Empezar a Volar,” music that seems both equally influenced by jazz harmony and folkloric melodies. Reading the liner notes, I learned that Saba is also evoking the vidala chayera, a type of vocal music common to Bolivia and Argentina. This piece absolutely sings.

Sur: Piano Music from Argentina” is full of pieces that fall into three thematic eras and styles, Looking Backward: toward European influences on the music; Looking Inward toward Argentinian folk music; and Looking Forward, through the pushing of boundaries. Interestingly, there’s a piece with “milonga” in the title in all three of those categories, so listeners can hear from different eras the different ways the dance can be interpreted through music. I especially enjoyed “Milonga, Op. 2” by Leonardo Brunelli, a gorgeous melody with a sultry rhythm that places strong emphasis on three beats of measure with a softer fourth beat. The similarity to the tango is unmistakable.

Pianist Agustin Muriago’s playing and programming on this album is beautifully evocative of his homeland. I loved taking this musical journey.

A little further to the north, Mexico is the star of Argentina Durán’s new album, “Rapsodia Mexicana,” featuring composers working in romantic, nationalist, and impressionistic styles. The album opens with some of Manuel Ponce’s popular “Danzas Mexicanas,” then continues with Durán’s gorgeous performance of a romantic melody by Felipe Villanueva called “Amar… (Nocturno).” I also enjoyed very much the “Romanza sin palabras” by Alfredo Carrasco and the title track, “Rapsodia Mexicana,” by Jesús Corona.

This is Durán’s second album, beautifully recorded on a crazy-expensive Yamaha CFX grand in Mexico City. Durán is the principal pianist of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, the first female to earn the spot. Like some of the composers on this album, I wasn’t previously familiar with her work—however when I did a Google search on Durán’s name, her Instagram page showed an astonishing 243,000 followers, placing her in the company of other online classical stars like Khatia Buniatishvili and Yuja Wang.

Speaking of… the third piano album I’ve been listening to lately is Yuja Wang’s latest for Deutsche Grammophon, “The Vienna Recital.” Recorded live in 2022, the programming on the album is fascinating, opening with Spanish music by Isaac Albeniz and late Romantic work by Alexander Scriabin. The surprises for the listener include two of Nikolai Kapustin’s “Jazz Preludes,” one of which, No. 10, really cooks. Wang also shines on a piano arrangement of Arturo Márquez’s “Danzón No. 2” that’ll make you sway in your seat. But curiously, for a recital album recorded live, there’s no audience sound. It’s a technically brilliant feat on the engineer’s part, but it left me wanting to hear that natural human reaction to the music that helps transition the listener from one piece to the next on what is a varied program, with Beethoven, Philip Glass, Johannes Brahms, and more.

For lovers of the 88 keys, here are three albums full of exciting new discoveries, all three recommended for your virtual or real-life listening shelf.