In her home in New York City, Mirian Conti's piano is piled high with scores from all the different Argentine composers she remembers from her childhood, and a few that she's recently discovered. In preparing her latest solo recording, Nostalgias Argentinas, Conti says she had to carefully sort through that stack to find those works that created just the right atmosphere. "And I thought, all these composers, they're influenced by different schools of composition, some are more Romantic, some are a little more modern, some are more impressionistic, some more tied to the popular and folklore of Argentina. So I was trying to put together a rich variety of music from Argentina."
Argentine-American pianist Mirian Conti says this recording brings with it nostalgia for her own musical past, and for those Argentine composers lost or forgotten on old pianos, or on the shelves of libraries and conservatories. "And so the nostalgic aspect on this CD probably comes more from my personal life of having left the country when I was a teenager, and nostalgic feeling for friends and food and thoughts," she explains.
Many of the works featured on Nostalgias Argentinas were written by composers who were also influential teachers of their day. 2012 marks the centennial of the birth of Carlos Guastavino, who remained true to his own composing style even when it was considered old-fashioned later in his career. "He remained a Romantic lyricist and that was what he was most comfortable expressing. For that reason, Guastavino for many years was kind of put aside in Argentina, nobody paid attention to him. And he was sort of a recluse too," Conti confides. Guastavino's Cantos Populares are featured on this recording. Conti says each one is a unique composition. "Many people ask me if these are based on songs and I say no. They are all original melodies, original compositions, nothing based on any traditional folk tune or anything like that. He was a wonderful composer of songs, very lyrical. These pieces to me represent Guastavino at his best."
When Juan Peron rose through the ranks to serve as Argentina's president in the 1970's, he encouraged nationalistic music to be played on the radio. Mirian Conti says that's how the tango became so popular in Buenos Aires. Conti was born in the northern part of the country, so she didn't grow up with the tango. She does, however, include a tango fantasy on this new release. It was written by Argentine composer Osmar Maderna, a child prodigy who became a piano professor at age 15. Conti remembers Maderna, who died tragically at age 33 after the small airplane he was piloting crashed: "And it was very sad because his wife was pregnant at the time and the night that she found out, she lost the baby. It was just one tragedy after the other. And he would have been, who knows, another Gershwin or something for Argentina."
The first national conservatory in Argentina is named for Carlos Lopez Buchardo. He was best known for his songs and his operas. He did write a few solo piano pieces two of which Conti includes on this new recording, "The first one, the Cancion del Carretero, is a very lyrical piece. It's just wonderful, and the original of course is for voice and piano. And I just love this piece. Every time I play it, there's something in it tha brings a lot of memories and nostalgic feelings to me. And Bailecito is a very fast dance and just wonderful for the piano. It's a good encore for any concert."
On her new recording, Nostalgias Argentinas, Mirian Conti has a wistful desire to return to her homeland, and she takes us with her as we journey through Argentina with the music of some long-forgotten composers.