Finlandia Records are
to be congratulated on releasing Piazzolla
Passage, a recording of tango music
for accordion and piano the vast majority
of which was composed by Astor Piazzolla
with two pieces from accordion soloist
Johanna Juhola and one work by Tobias
Born in Argentina in
1921 Astor Piazzolla was four when he
and his family emigrated to New York
City returning in his fifteenth year.
Who was to know just how inspired was
his father’s decision to purchase the
eight year old Astor a second-hand bandoneón
from a pawn shop and that he would become
the most renowned tango musician and
composer in the world.
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 was borrowed from many
places and cultures. This is all part
of the tango’s mystery and seduction.
Its image is that of a dance so unashamedly
sensual in character which epitomises
the glamour and elegance of high society
with women wearing glittering evening
dresses and 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 underclass; such as the
seedy brothels of the Argentinean seaports
of Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
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 nuevo tango, music
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 style
conceived in the bordellos and more
suited to the pavements rather than
the salon in the chaotic tableau of
Buenos Aires life.
Astor Piazzolla and
the word ‘tango’ are synonymous. Having
based virtually all his works on the
tango he achieved towering artistic
heights and met great critical acclaim.
World famous 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 but
thanks primarily to the music of the
classically trained Piazzolla it is
enjoying another major international
renaissance and is currently extremely
fashionable, certainly in the UK.
Astor Piazzolla’s appealing
S.V. P./Avaruustango (track 7)
and Dando (track 10) shows romance
and aggression which is blended so effectively
almost turning to ecstasy. In Bandoneón
(track 8) there is a really steamy atmosphere
and impressive rhythmic combinations
over the incessant pounding of the piano.
Tobias Morgenstern’s Pechvogel (track
4) is sexy and sultry with its twisting
rhythms and shows considerable invention.
My particular favourite is Johanna Juhola’s
lyrical, longing and reflective composition
Milonga Sylvia (track 5).
Do not think for a
minute that Tango music has to be played
by Argentinean or Latin-American performers.
It is an easy trap to fall into and
I am as guilty as most in wanting my
Elgar played by an English orchestra
and conductor and my Ravel played by
a French Orchestra… etc. etc. Winners
of the 2002, International Astor Piazzolla
competition in Castelfidardo in Italy
the duo Milla Viljamaa and Johanna Juhola
are described rather pretentiously in
the booklet notes as ‘urban-fusion folk
musicians of the young generation’.
Never fear, the gifted duo are absolutely
magnificent and their exceptional playing
fired my imagination in transporting
me to the bustling and vibrant atmosphere
and often visceral pictures of life
on sultry Buenos Aires streets. Not
an easy thing to do on a very wet and
extremely blustery day in a small seaside
town near Blackpool.
As a traditionalist
I was rather disappointed that Johanna
Juhola has chosen on this recording
to use an accordion rather than the
traditional bandoneón, an instrument
that Piazzolla played so expertly. The
booklet notes contain rather meagre
information and I would advise that
a magnifying glass is kept at hand to
read the ridiculously small print.
This splendid recording
is guaranteed to delight lovers of the
tango and convert many others. Excellent
sound quality from the Finlandia engineers.