Zsófia Boros’s distinct voice on guitar has been met with international acclaim since being introduced to the ECM roster, with Fanfare Magazine commending her “clear, beautiful tone, liquid phrasing, precise layering of melody and accompaniment, fluid figuration and her emphatic sense of mood and emotion” – qualities that are especially apparent on El último aliento. The guitarist’s previous two recordings for the label brought her to a broad spectrum of contemporary musical places, with repertory spanning everything from South American scores to compositions by her European peers – on her debut En otra parte she even rendered a striking interpretation of Ralph Towner’s “Green and Golden”, followed by her take on Egberto Gismonti’s “Celebração de Núpcias” on Local Objects. The focus of this new offering is split two-ways, with one spotlight turned towards music from Argentina and the other on the multiple-idioms spanning compositions of French composer Mathias Duplessy.
When it comes to putting together a programme, Zsófia lets instinct guide her: “My choice of music repertory is intuitive. Pieces of music are like places for me, like spaces that I visit, step into and experience. They all have their own mood and colour, their own scent, their own pulse and a special effect on me. Each place calls for different forms of behaviour in me. Sometimes I am allowed to surrender myself freely to the moment, sometimes I channel a certain pulse and go with it. Elsewhere I just observe, I am a part of the space and adapt to the ‘local customs’, so I make an effort to follow the unwritten rules.”
Intuition was also responsible for her connecting with French composer Mathias Duplessy, whose music makes up a large part of the programmes here. Zsófia reached out to him several years back and his “Nocturne” appeared on Zsófia’s last album Local Objects. Duplessy’s compositional language is marked by the harmonic customs of the 19th Century, yet instilled with contemporary structures, rhythmic outbursts and swift displays of a range of embellishments, here exquisitely executed by Zsófia. His pieces share a distinctive romanticism in common: “De rêve et de pluie”, “Le secret d’Hiroshigé”, “Le labyrinthe de Vermeer“, “Berceuse”, “Valse pour Camille” and “Perle de Rosée”.
Another familiar acquaintance of Zsófia’s returns with Quique Sinesi – En otra parte included his “Cielo abierto”. The Argentinian composer’s two pieces here belong among the album’s most unique sections. On “Tormenta de Illusion” Zsófia switches to the ronroco, an instrument with ten strings arranged in five double-courses similar to the charango – on which Sinesi originally conceived the piece – but covering a slightly lower range. Both are from the Andean regions. Rooted in South American folklore, the brief, pattern-coated song stands in contrast to Sinesi’s “El Abrazo” (in English the title translates to ‘Hug’), for which Zsófia straps a rubber band around her guitar strings.
Zsófia: “While my children were sleeping, I thought of muting the guitar differently so that I could play late in the evening, too. One day I stretched a rubber band over the fretboard and was fascinated by the sound. I found it particularly beautiful with ‘El Abrazo’, a song that indeed feels like a warm embrace.”
Joaquin Alem’s “Salir ardentro” is a romance much in the tradition of late 19th, early 20th century guitar solo works, while Alberto Ginastera’s take on the “Milonga” form is a prime example of how much tango actually permeates this traditional South American dance and Zsófia navigates its subtle emphasis with diligence and nuance. El último aliento closes with the title composition, penned by the Buenos Aires-based composer-guitarist and music professor Carlos Morscardini.
Like her previous albums for ECM, El último aliento was recorded at the Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano and produced by Manfred Eicher.