Fernando Otero's instrumental album entitled Enigma comprises eleven thematically-linked compositions for orchestra featuring guest soloists, choir, chamber ensembles and pipe organ. Once again, the pieces are conceptualized around the musical vocabulary of his native land, Buenos Aires, although this release manages to feel distinct from his previous work, in melodic content, instrumentation and form.
Enigma showcases a full orchestral sound in the hands of the New York State Symphony Orchestra -recently founded in January 2016- conducted by Otero, who also plays pipe organ on four of the tracks. On previous albums and concerts Otero has showcased both the lyrical and the rhythmic aspects of his music. His works for piano and orchestra and his previous album Ritual, (nominated for Latin GRAMMY awards for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Contemporary Composition) are examples. On this latest release he emphasizes melody and orchestral textures rather than rhythmic prominence.
The album begins with three pieces for violin and orchestra, written by Otero for his longtime collaborator, violinist Nick Danielson. Otero and Danielson have made more than ten albums together and performed worldwide, their last project being a live recording at the National Opera Center in New York in March 2015. Their new undertaking on Enigma is worthy of mention. Through his writing, Otero provides a weighty orchestral sound to support Danielson's interpretation, hefty yet characteristically lyrical.
Rhythmic dynamism, one of the most relevant characteristics of the Otero oeuvre, appears on "Iris", with guitarist Brian Forbes giving support to an energetic violin and cello counterpoint while rising to a particular technical challenge.
On "Jade,” a Bandoneon and Organ duet, bandoneonist Hector del Curto provides a fully Argentine aura with an emotive phrasing of Otero's melody, which uses a lyrical language easily identified with the tango genre.
Guest soloists include cellists Adam Fisher and Patricio Villarejo, clarinetist Ivan Barenboim, flutist Mariano Gil, percussionist Waldo Madera, soprano Maria Brodskaya and countertenor Resh, in lead roles accompanied by orchestra or pipe organ, and at times unaccompanied.
The album was produced by Ruben Parra, Brian Forbes and Fernando Otero and recorded in New York City in February 2016.
Enigma could be considered a reflection of Otero's personal desire for renewal and transformation. It doesn’t reveal every aspect of his instrumental work, especially since it finds him on pipe organ instead of piano and conducting an orchestra. One thing is certain: Enigma is the work of an artist in search of new techniques and challenging soundscapes.