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Vienna-based Hungarian guitarist Zsófia Boros brings remarkable interpretive clarity and a uniquely unifying touch to a diverse collection of pieces in her second recording for ECM, Local Objects. Phrasing in distinct ways while staying faithful to the spirit of the music, she offers new perspectives on standards of the concert repertoire such as Carlo Domeniconi’s “Koyunbaba” and Jose Cardoso’s “Milonga”, differently flavours Egberto Gismonti’s harmonically-inventive “Celebração de Núpcias”, and reveals a highly observant musical eye in the choice of contemporary guitar pieces such as Mathias Duplessy’s “Nocturne”, Alex Pinter’s “Gothenburg”, and the epic “Fantasie” by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh.

Gismonti’s “Celebração de Núpcias” appeared on the 1976 recording Dança das Cabeças (a duo with late percussionist Nana Vasconçelos), the Brazilian master’s first ECM album. Zsófia’s version highlights the trance-like qualities of Gismonti’s original: “I couldn’t stop playing it,” she says. “I just wanted to hear those harmonies.”

On “Milonga" by Argentinian Jorge Cardoso and Brazilian Anibal Augusto Sardinha (Garoto)’s exquisite, lyrical “Inspiração”, Boros adds introductions of her own. On the latter, harmonics suggest glass stars over a distant shore, before the melody arrives. “Like a film director, you focus on a small thing and it creates a feeling before you know what the film is about. Water droplets, droplets on a flower, a flower garden … I don’t want to go straight into the room where the story takes place, I want to go first into the garden, to see the flowers.”

With Italian composer Domeniconi’s four-part “Koyunbaba op. 19”, about a thirteenth century hermit who lived in a cove by the Aegean Sea, Boros puts each of the various sections and elements of the piece in an explicit light, creating an enlarged vision of the whole. After climactic chords, soft paper placed on the guitar strings helps produce the muffled, quasi-sordino passage that opens Zsófia ’s building rendition of the “volcanic” presto, as she describes it, played fast but light.

Another extended offering on the album is “Fantasie” by Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, an open-ended instrumental and compositional showpiece (in the positive sense of the term). Inside its complexity, Zsófia says her challenge was to “find the story”. “I need to make a piece my own for it to be authentic. And I can only be authentic if I’m honest, honest if I’m free.”

Short pieces by composer-instrumentalists bookend the album. The opening “Nocturne” by Frenchman Mathias Duplessy evokes, if unconsciously perhaps, the nocturne in its original Italian denomination describing a type of serenade. “I can hear it a thousand times and it still touches me,” she says. 

“Gothenburg”, by Austrian guitarist Alex Pinter, is about the end of a relationship. “Everybody knows how when a relationship ends, you have all these questions,” says Zsófia , for whom Pinter is a friend. She plays his lament liberally, empathetically, as an “object of local insight” to borrow from the Wallace Stevens poem that lends its title to this recording and is published in the CD booklet.


Zsófia Boros was born in Prague in 1980 and studied in Bratislava, Budapest, at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, and at the Francisco Tárrega Guitar Academy in Pordenone, Italy. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including first prizes at the North London Music Festival, the Concorso Internationale Val Tidone, the Paganini Competition in Parma, and the Premio Enrico Mercatali in Gorizia.

Boros’s ECM New Series debut, En otra parte (“Elsewhere”), appeared in 2013, with a focus on music by Leo Brouwer. Nora McCarthy of Jazz Inside magazine wrote of her playing on the disc: “Not only is her musicianship exquisite but her soul and her ability to transmit emotion, and intuit thoughts and feelings is quite extraordinary”. Her performance at the ECM Festival in Freiburg, in April 2016, was widely considered a highlight of the event.

Local Objects was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in November 2015, and was produced by Manfred Eicher. 

© Studio Svengali, May 2024
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