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Complete Music for Flute and Guitar
Irmgard Toepper (f)  Hugo German Gaido (g)
NAXOS 8.554760 [67:04]
Purchase from: Crotchet   Amazon USA

Like so many other 20th Century composers, once dismissed for writing music people might enjoy (see also my review of Nino Rota's Chamber Music) Piazzolla refused to follow fashion, basing as suited him, much of his music around the tango. He was Argentinean, born in 1921and had a diverse career ranging from jazz to cinema to the concert hall.

There are three works on this disc, each languid, light and lazily enchanting. Cinco Piezas for guitar is, in this performance, a work lasting some 19 minutes and while the rhythmic elements of the tango buried deep within any dance to this music would have to be very free. The Buenos Aires born guitarist Hugo Germán Gaido has a fluently understated musicality, and it is the subtle details such as his control over harmonics and stopped notes that reveals his mastery.

One might presume that 25 minutes of Tango Études for flute was stretching things, but the German flautist Irmgard Toepper captures the attention with her very forthright and confident playing, and with her atmospheric timbres. Perhaps inevitably, in their monophonic formality certain passages call to mind Bach partitas. Yet other sequences, perhaps with equal inevitability, summon images from Debussy.

The programme ends with the almost 22 minutes of Piazzolla's final word on the subject: Histoire du Tango, for flute and guitar, four movements charting the development of the form at 30 year intervals. The interplay between the two instruments, which is often sprightly and joyous, does make this the most accessible and interesting of the three works. Just try the infectious opening movement 'Bordel 1900', which develops into a memorable theme which you may find naggingly familiar yet frustratingly be unable to place. However, once again those hoping for anything in vaguely danceable tango form had better be very supple indeed. The more reflective and pastoral moments, especially the melancholy guitar passages remind me, of all things, of the one-time rock guitarist Anthony Phillips, who left Genesis after the band's second album (Trespass) in 1970, and who went on to make a series of mainly acoustic albums under the over all title of Private Parts and Pieces. Just listen to Café 1930 [4:15 - 4: 42], and if you are of a certain age and once fell victim to progressiverockfandom completedisographyitis you may recall that Philips made an album of duets - Private Parts And Pieces Part III: Antiques with Argentinean guitarist Enrique Berro Garcia. Yet the similarity extends to Philips overall style.

The barriers between musical genres are not as firm as once they were, such that these attractive works may not properly come under classical music at all. Some might find it on the edge of jazz, or folk, or even New Age. Given that the music has mutated from the tango's origins as an erotic dance in the brothels of Argentina a century ago, it might easily set the mood to many a romantic night. So yes, you may call it background music if you will, but it really must be something as obvious as the climate, because come the hot humid nights of early May this album suddenly came alive. When it is simply too hot and humid for bold European musical drama - music born of a cold climate - this proved ideal. Wait for a sultry summer night. Slip this in the CD player and catch the breeze.


Gary S. Dalkin


Gary S. Dalkin

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