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Paul Cook, September 2000

"Alberto Williams (1862-1952) was an Argentinian composer whose long life was spent in advocacy of Argentinian music and the music of Latin America in general. He wore many hats: He was a composer, pianist, conductor, conservatory director, scholar, poet, and essayist. During his student days in Paris he was a pupil of César Franck (and you can hear some of Franck's influence in the not-particularly-Argentinian Hueyas, supposedly a gaucho dance that sounds as if it comes from Provence rather than Argentina). Although Williams' early music shows strong influences of the French (Saint-Saëns, then later Debussy), his techniques come directly from Chopin, evidenced in passages such as the scale runs in Berceuses. Milongas is a gathering of 10 ballroom dance pieces that incorporates the semi-tonal moods characteristic of Argentinian music. It's also the first group of works on the disc that even begin to sound remotely 'Modern' (and uniquely South American). By mid-career (around 1910), living and writing in his own country, Williams has found his own voice. Primera Sonata Argentina (of 1917), Williams' only sonata, incorporates both Indian motifs and those of earlier Spanish influences. These works are not technically difficult nor particularly challenging either for the pianist or the listener. This is music for a pleasant summer afternoon, and pianist Valentin Surif performs it all rather nicely."

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