EL CUCHI BIEN TEMPERADO – THE WELL-TEMPERED CUCHI is a recording of music by Gustavo Leguizamón, arranged and performed by Pablo Márquez for ECM, produced by Manfred Eicher. A quick glance through the titles of the 17 tracks shows that the Argentinian composer, Gustavo ‘Cuchi’ Leguizamón (1917–2000) has written each of the pieces in familiar rhythms: zambas, chacareras, cuecas and bailecitos, but in Pablo Márquez’s arrangements, these are just familiar points of entry that lead us gently into a meditative exploration of the compositions – it is what one comes to expect from an ECM recording, a move into another zone of experience and Pablo Márquez’s arrangements and his playing really do get under your skin.
The Argentinian classical guitarist, Pablo Márquez is from Salta (birthplace of Eduardo Falú and of course, Gustavo Leguizamón) but he has been living and teaching in Strasbourg and Basel for a number of years now. The background to Pablo Márquez’s recording is one of those happy coincidences in life, as he explains:
Cuchi was a lawyer and history teacher as well as a musician and poet. He was an extraordinarily cultured man who read constantly. It so happened that he was my history teacher at the Colegio Nacional when I was thirteen years old. When I saw Dr. Gustavo Leguizamón come into the classroom for the first time, I had now idea that I was in the presence of one of Argentina’s greatest musicians, the composer of famous zambas I’d known and sung since childhood.”
Thus the recording has a strongly personal background. Beginning with a vidala-baguala, Copla de Tata Dios Pablo Márquez extends the composition with his own semi-improvisatory version of the piece, and so he continues throughout the recording: always rhythmic but often stopping to smell the exotic flowers on the way.
Pablo Márquez’s arrangements have inspired him to use different scordaturas to try to capture the richness of the original compositions, and he looked to the approach of Bach in the Well-Tempered Clavier with Preludes and Fugues written in each of the 24 key signatures, while deciding on the keys for his arrangements:
The project as I originally imagined it aimed to reflect the preponderance of zambas in Cuchi’s output by alternating eight of them with eight other pieces in different forms and rhythms. to avoid monotony and provide a wealth of colours I set myself the challenge of never repeating any key. In view of the small number of keys commonly used in solo guitar music it was my way of enriching folk practice.”
The tunings he uses also give the expansive sense of an open landscape; the lowered basses of the Zamba del pañuelo give a much broader range of timbral colour from the grounded-in-the-earth basses which contrast dramatically with the ethereal harmonies in the upper voices.
Sometimes Pablo Márquez borrows from other artists, such as in the Carnavalito del Duende where the arrangement alludes to Juan Falú’s Carnavalito del Duende (here performed with the singer Liliana Herrero) and his version of the vidala Canción del que no hace nada, with hints of Debussy. All of these pieces originally had accompanying text, either the composer’s own poetry or settings of the poetry of Manuel Castilla and Miguel Ángel Pérez.
Canción del que no hace nada (words by Manuel Castilla)
Miren mis ojos cuando yo estoy pensando, a ver si es que les miento.
Después, si ya estoy muerto, échenme arena y agua, así regreso.
Yo estoy nomás
Me va tapando los ojos
La eternidad. …
For those who might be interested in further background to Pablo Márquez’s excellent work here, then it is also worth listening to the 1969 Phonogram Records recording which Gustavo Leguizamón made of his own compositions, performing on piano and guitar (instruments which he taught himself by ear) and sometimes singing; it includes Carnavalito del Duende and Chacarera del expediente (Phonogram, 1969).
Pablo Márquez is a dedicated performer of contemporary music, performing the works of Luciano Berio, György Kurtag, Elliott Carter, Tristan Murail … To give some idea of his dedication, I recommend his performance of Exoskeleton for viola ‘alla chitarra’ by Arthur Kampela!
Pablo Márquez’s El Cuchi Bien Temperado is beautifully arranged in all senses of the word, flowing almost seamlessly from the first piece to the last (ECM New Series 2380 4810972).
© Thérèse Wassily Saba 2015