Montreal-based ethno-classical Duo Beija-Flor explores the Spanish and Portuguese influence on classical music with COSTAS, their vibrant debut for Big Round Records. Charles Hobson (guitar) and Marie-Noëlle Choquette (flute) form a highly expressive, versatile duo that is a force to be reckoned with.
The twenty-two (!) tracks on COSTAS appear to be bite-sized, but not only do they span a vast repertoire, they also pack a powerful punch individually. When Astor Piazzolla's only non-tango piece (Escualo) is contrasted with traditional Spanish folk songs (Siete Canciones Españolas) and motion picture soundtracks (Summer Garden Suite), it's not far-fetched to call this selection eclectic. All the more astounding, then, is Duo Beija-Flor's ability to tie this diverse program together, making it sound as if these pieces had always gone hand in hand.
Occasionally, experimental elements are allowed in and incorporated into the flow of the album, such as the temporary, modernist dissonance in Boulevard San Jorge or the jazz harmonies in Havana Street Parade. And naturally, mirroring the dualist nature of the set-up, contrasts abound, not only in instrumental timbre and dynamics, but also in the music's character: Thus, the cheerful sweetness of Pé de Moleque and Quebra Quiexo (both aptly performed according to their title referencing Brazilian candy) is abruptly cut short by two dramatic fados pondering nothing less than the value of life.
COSTAS attractively meanders between the light-footed and the profound, and the album's finale, Four Sephardic Songs, forms a majestic and evocative conclusion to an hour of music that is as vivacious, colorful and multi-faceted as the performing duo itself.