> Piazzolla Tangazo [JW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Adios Nonino*
Milonga del angel*
Double Concerto for bandoneon and guitar*+
Tres movimientos tanguisticos portenos
Danza criolla

Daniel Binelli, bandoneon*
Eduardo Isaac, guitar+
Louise Pellerin, oboe^
Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal
Charles Dutoit conductor
Recorded Eglise St-Eustache, Montreal 18 May and 18 October 2000
Decca 468 528-2 [75.47]


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Still the Piazzolla bandoneon keeps rolling. After celebrity excursions from Yo Yo Ma, Barenboim and Kremer, not to mention innumerable arrangements and reinterpretations, comes this sumptuous and beautifully recorded programme from Montreal. The notes speak of tango nuevo as a compound of chromaticism, dissonance and jazz elements though you will be hard pressed to extrapolate much jazz from the fabric of the scores – unless you count some innocuous sounding runs from solo instruments. In fact chromaticism and dissonance are not the first things to spring to mind either; I would cite a filmic imagination, textured sonorities, a quixotic structural sense, an occasionally inspired lyrical gift and some rather stale romantic rhetoric.

That said the music begins unforgettably with Piazzolla’s most widely known and triumphant piece, Adios Nonino, a tribute to his father. The 1981 orchestration opens with some all-purpose abrasion, percussive clatter, staccato piano (much employed in the orchestral texture here and elsewhere) before opening out into a tune of decisive beauty and tranquillity. Milonga del angel is evocative but essentially filmic. The move from a winsome introduction to a more harmonically animated and austere middle section is certainly welcome but the Francophile leanings of the composer are always present (the fact that he studied, briefly I believe, with Boulanger is probably irrelevant here) inasmuch as the lyric impulse is towards the status of a glorified chanson. The three movement Double Concerto was premiered by the composer himself in 1985. The fusion of bandoneon – the mid nineteenth century German square button accordion – and guitar is effective; the first movement is withdrawn, the second rather frisky and the finale has a nice passage for solo violin with momentum increasing to the conclusion but the thematic material itself is threadbare and the whole piece lacks any kind of direction or distinction. Oblivion derives from a film score and features a winding oboe figure and bandoneon quasi-extemporisation – attractive in its way but slight. The Tres movimientos tanguisticos portenos are of a more rewarding stamp. There is some surprisingly fluent writing here from woodwind, excellently taken runs from the Montreal players, intriguingly apposite textures (brass, tambourine, percussive piano writing) and jaunty rhythms. The central movement however bursts into what sounds like some Turkish belly dancing music, an exoticism too far for me, in the context. Nevertheless there is some heady and surging music in the piece, and the focus of the disc as regards sheer compositional craft as well as being of itself evocative both in texture and in mood. Danza criolla is propulsive and colourful and replete with drum splashes, brass interjections and piano outbursts. Tangazo, premiered in 1970 and sans bandoneon, is a fourteen-minute single movement piece that embraces a range of moods and rhythms; I can’t say I found it structurally convincing but it is certainly colourful.

Doubtless there will be more Piazzolla recordings soon – I am jaundiced enough to see him as a milch cow for the majors – and eventually, in time and inevitably, his reputation will stabilise. But when I look at the domestic catalogues and see barely anything by another composer of accordion music, amongst many other things, the Czech Vaclav Trojan I am afraid I begin to despair. Piazzolla’s is an amorphous and limited talent, recycled to breaking point; Trojan, like Piazzolla, a film composer and lover of tunes, lies forgotten whilst the modish World Music bandoneon just keeps rolling along.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Ian Lace


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