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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Tangos arr. José BRAGATO

Oblivion [6:06]
Esqualo [3:32]
Adios Nonino [10:01]
Libertango [3:36]
Mumuki [9:23]
Milonga en Re [5:02]
The Angel Suite [23:47]
Ave Maria [6:01]
José BRAGATO (b.1915)

Graciela y Buenos Aires [8:40]
Eduardo Vassallo (cello)
Cristina Filoso (piano)
Rec. CBSO Centre, Birmingham, UK in January 2004. DDD

Everyone knows that it takes "two to tango" but perhaps the origin of the tango – a backstreet dance from Argentina – is a little more obscure. All but one of these pieces is an arrangement of tango-inspired works by the Argentinian composer Piazzolla for the cello/piano twosome. Presumably they were originally conceived for larger forces although that is not made clear in the documentation. José Bragato, cellist and long time friend of the composer made the arrangements for the present performer. He also contributes the remaining work – Graciela y Buenos Aires, a piece which was reputedly written in a single day as a birthday present for a colleague’s daughter. The programme cleverly juxtaposes the short and riotous with passionate slow-burners.

Piazzolla endeavoured to take the tango away from the back street into the concert halls. He craved respect from the music establishment but met with little critical acclaim. After studying in Paris with Nadia Boulanger he returned to his Latin American roots to produce music which covers a whole range of emotions. The disc begins with the poignant Oblivion, apparently composed for an Italian version of Pirandello’s Henry IV. Esqualo is much more obviously dance music in a faster tempo and it opens with an unholy sounding slide upwards then downwards that almost sounds like a siren. Adios Nonino is the most profound piece here, an elegy written after the death of Piazzolla’s father. Beginning rather uncertainly with a long cello solo, the emotions then pour out in long passages of double-stopping before the piano enters and a more consolatory mood is achieved. Faster dance music is weaved into the structure before the deeply-felt conclusion.

With Libertango we are once again moving quickly around the dance hall before Mumuki returns us to a much more intimate environment. Milonga en Re is quixotic and followed by Bragato’s solitary composition. This is in two parts, initially reflective and then recreating a birthday party atmosphere. The Angel Suite is in four movements and derives from music written for a 1970s television series called The Angel’s Boutique. The concluding Resurreccion del Angel is notable for its passion and increasing urgency. The final work, Ave Maria was originally film music. It is in a simpler vein and provides a natural conclusion to the programme.

Eduardo Vassallo was born in Buenos Aires in 1961 and for the past 15 years has been co-principal cellist with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He obviously has this music in his soul, as does his compatriot Cristina Filoso. Their performances live and breathe the air of the music and are unlikely to be surpassed. They are well-balanced in a natural sounding recording. The documentation is rather disappointing; the essay jumps around and surely could have been more informative about the origins of the music. The back liner is constructed in a way that erroneously appears to indicate that Ave Maria is part of the Angel Suite. But these are fairly small blots – overall this is a disc to treasure.

"This music has to have dirt!" says Eduardo Vassallo. It also has atmosphere, passion and resonances from around the world and across the ages. Essential listening.

Patrick C Waller




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