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Tango Dorado
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Verano Porteno; Adios Nonino; Balada para un loco; Milonga del Angel; Neotango; Zum; Escualo; Sur: Los Suenos; Tangata; Libertango
Osvaldo PUGLIESE (1905-1995)
La Yumba
Alejandro SCARPINO
Seguime Si Podes
Domingo FEDERICO (1916-2000)
Juan Carlos COBIAN
Los Mareados
Cancion de Buenos Aires
Gerardo MATOS RODRIGUEZ (1897-1948)
La Cumparsita; La Cumparsita (Live version)
Bordoneo Y 900
Homero Aldo EXPOSITO/Virgilio Hugo EXPOSITO
Homero Aldo EXPOSITO/Enrique Mario FRANCINI/Hector STAMPONI
Pedacito de Cielo
Agustin BARDI (1884-1941)
Galla Ciego
Julian PLAZA (1928-2003)
Alfredo Le PERA/Carlos GARDEL (1890-1935)
Arrangements and transcriptions by Christiaan van Hemert
Tango Dorado/Christiaan van Hemert (bandoneón)
Jacqueline Edeling (bandoneón)
Alexandre Mota Kanji (violin)
Derk Lottman (violin)
Margreet Markerink (piano)
Eelco van de Meeberg (guitar)
Maaike Wierda (double-bass)
Richard Prada (vocals)
Claudia Copier (vocals)
Recorded at the Cristofori Amsterdam, Holland, July 1 - 2, 2004 (CD 2) and the Lucent Danstheater, The Hague, Holland, March 11, 2004 (CD 1) DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 6933 [47:24 + 46:09]

This set offers a really fine cross-section of twentieth century Argentinean tango music. The first CD was recorded in the studio; the second CD seems to have been recorded live as it contains audience applause.

Astor Piazzolla and the word ‘tango’ go together like strawberries and cream. Basing all his large output of works on the tango it is no surprise that the music of Piazzolla takes centre-stage here. Ten of his works are included. I have been fortunate to have recently reviewed two previous discs of music by Piazzolla, so from those reviews I shall re-use some of his biographical details and a short explanation of the origin of the tango.

The origin of the tango has not been answered with a definitive connection and remains an enigma. Although musical historians disagree as to its exact origins it is generally accepted that the tango is borrowed from many places and cultures. This is all part of the mystery and seduction of the dance. Its image is of unashamedly sensuality, epitomising the glamour and elegance of high society: women wearing glittering evening dresses, men wearing tuxedos with tails in velvet-walled concert halls and the soft-cushioned drawing room. However the tango most likely evolved in society’s urban underclass among the seedy bars and brothels of the immigrant-infused Argentine seaports of Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

By 1913 the tango had developed to become the hottest craze in Paris, heralding ‘Tangomania’. The 1940s spawned the ‘Golden Age of Tango’, as great composers, lyricists, singers and dancers achieved international reputations and laid the foundations for the modern-day tango form. In the late fifties the music of Buenos Aires took a radical turn, as the youth culture of the country demanded a music more relevant to their world. Musicians such as Astor Piazzolla responded with the edgier modern tango, or tango nuevo, that expanded the boundaries of the primarily vocal music then popular throughout the world. It also was a return to the organic roots of the music, a grittier style conceived in the bordellos and more suited to the pavements rather than the salon in the chaotic tableau of Buenos Aires life.

The tango can vary in tempo and mood. It can be vocal as well as instrumental, and can entail improvisation on its harmonic pattern as in Jazz. A typical tango ensemble/orchestra may consist of a violin or two, perhaps a piano, a double bass or cello, and the bandoneón. Any augmentation of players is possible and typically instruments such as the clarinet, drum, trumpet can also be included in the ensemble. Since the late 1930s it has been common to include singers as part of the ensemble. It is however the bandoneón that principally gives the tango ensemble its characteristic tone colour. This instrument has keyboards on each of its two sides and between them is the bellow. Different sound effects can be created by pushing and pulling the bellow. Incidentally, the bandoneón, actually originated in Germany and is a close relative to the accordion.

On this release Tango Dorado use two bandoneóns, with two violins, piano, jazz guitar and double-bass. There is a male and female vocalist in some of the tracks and the sound of dancers can be heard too. On a personal note I did not like the inclusion of the jazz guitar in the arrangements; its dominance, together with the use of a piano, tends to make the sound too reminiscent of the inane background music played in 1960s and 1970s cocktail bars. The arrangement of the opening section of Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel is a good example of both the distinctiveness and the intrusiveness of the jazz guitar.

World famous classical guitarist Andrès Segovia (1893-1987) is reported to have stated about the tango, “what mysterious music and what exceptional poetry”. The tango’s popularity and status has fluctuated greatly over the years. However thanks primarily to the music of the classically-trained Piazzolla, the tango is enjoying another major international renaissance and is currently extremely fashionable throughout Europe. There is hardly a week that goes by without a new tango recording being released.

Piazzolla based virtually all of his prolific output on the tango, achieving towering artistic heights and garnering great critical acclaim. Born in Argentina in 1921, he was four when he and his family emigrated to New York City returning in his fifteenth year. How inspired was his father’s decision to purchase the eight year old Astor a second-hand bandoneón from a pawn shop. Who was to know that he would become without doubt the most renowned tango musician and most performed tango composer in the world.

Adios Nonino is the Piazzolla work that is most likely to be encountered. At over eight minutes it is a substantial score and displays the composer at his finest for sheer invention and heady atmosphere and also at his most varied. Listening to Piazzolla’s Balada para un loco, with the expressive vocal from Claudia Copier, one can imagine being in a night club bar in Buenos Aires. The jerky and infectious rhythms of Federico’s Saludos makes it difficult for one to sit still. La Cumparsita by Matos Rodriguez is the most performed tango of all time and is provided here in two versions. La Cumparsita is for me the quintessential tango work; almost like a soundtrack for the dance floor. I can easily imagine two dancers in intimate embrace, moving seductively across the floor. The romantic yearning of the vocal work from Richard Prada on Absurdo by H, and V. Exposito is memorable. Other highlights include Piazzolla’s Zum and Tangata and Bardi’s Gallo Ciego, all of which go some way to demonstrate the mystery of tango.

The Brilliant Classics label have unfortunately let themselves down, yet again, with appalling booklet notes. The brief texts are written in what seems to be Dutch without any English translations. There are several annotation mistakes as well. Furthermore I have yet to receive a Brilliant Classics set that has not had part of the jewel case damaged.

It is difficult to make relative comparisons between the merits of various tango recordings as they vary greatly in terms of musical transcription, the chosen instrumentation, whether singers are utilised etc. Tango Dorado play with an abundance of heart and soul and with the true spirit of the Tango. A fine release that will provide considerable pleasure.

Michael Cookson


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