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Best Classical Compendium

Federico de Michelis, bass-baritone
Steven Blier,  piano

© 2023 NYFOS Records

Producers: Steven Blier, Jonathan Estabrooks

Mixing: Jonathan Estabrooks

Mastering: Bryan Lowe

Engineer: Chris Benham

Recorded on February 16, 17, 19 & May 23, 25, 2023 at Big Orange Sheep, Brooklyn

Album artwork design: Gillian Riesen, Emitha LLC


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From the moment I heard my first Guastavino song some 40 years ago I have been under the spell of Argentinean song. And when I met Federico De Michelis in the winter of 2022 I felt I was in the presence of an authentic Buenos Aires voice, imbued with all its tenderness, its poetry, and its bruised machismo. This CD is the product of our mutual love of porteño song, featuring music by some of Argentina’s iconic composers.     


Carlos Guastavino is one of her gentle giants. While so many other composers were jumping on the 12-tone bandwagon Guastavino remained true to his faith in tonality, which amounted to a passion. His gentle turns of harmony and the perfect flow of his vocal lines have rightfully earned him his nickname, “The Schubert of the Pampas.” His compatriot Carlos López Buchardo shared Guastavino’s gift for lyricism and his uniquely South American sense of rhythm, to which he added his own sweet glaze of French impressionism—a product of his studies in Paris.     


No portrait of Buenos Aires would be complete without a selection of tangos—as intrinsic to that culture as the blues are to North Americans. The tango craze reached its first golden age in the 1920s and 30s with the rise of Carlos Gardel,“The King of Tango.” Composer of many of Argentina’s most famous popular songs, Gardel became a matinée idol and recording star, worshipped by millions. He wasn’t alone: composers like Mariano Mores and Héctor Stamponi fueled the tango hit factory, writing the songs that made Argentina dance.     


When Astor Piazzolla came on the scene in the 1950s, he supplanted tango’s traditional sentimentality with a knife’s edge and an irresistible dark fire. His masterpiece with lyricist Eladia Blázquez, “Siempre se vuelve a Buenos Aires,” captures the city’s addictive allure, a mixture of seduction and nostalgia.     


Ariel Ramírez’s heartbreaking “Allá lejos y hace tiempo” answers Piazzolla’s bravado with a tenderness so deep that it makes me yearn for Argentina—a country I have never seen. In fact each of the beautiful songs on Mi país evokes what Eladia Blázquez calls “that melancholy way to love” with such power that I always come back for more, year after year.

- Steven Blier

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