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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921 – 1992)
Tangata (1968) [7:04]
Escualo (1978/9) [3:23]
Libertango (1973)a [5:03]
Concierto para quinteto (1971)a [9:03]
Adiós Nonino (1959) [8:19]
Verano Porteño (1965) [7:29]
Mumuki (1980s)a [9:01]
Michelangelo 70 (1970)a [3:22]
La muerte del ángel (1962)a [3:38]
Soledad (1975)a [7:38]
Quatuor Caliente (Guillaume Hodeau, bandoneon; Cédric Lorel, piano; Michel Berrier, violin; Nicolas Marty, double bass); Vincent Maillard (vibraphone)
Recorded: Espace de projection de l’IRCAM, Paris, April 2004
AEON AECD 0424 [64:10]

Piazzolla’s family emigrated to New York in 1934. During the early 1930s he was engaged by the Frenchman Charles Romuald Gardès (better known as Carlos Gardel) who became the King of the Tango and who died in an air crash in Colombia. The young Astor should have been travelling with Gardel, but his parents prevented it. Piazzolla returned to Buenos Aires in 1937, at which time he studied with Alberto Ginastera and began arranging and composing. His Orquesta del 46 was formed in 1944 to perform his own compositions. In 1954 a symphony composed for the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra won him a scholarship to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. In 1955, he returned to Buenos Aires which he left in 1974 to settle permanently in Paris. Shortly before his death he was commissioned by the Paris Opera to compose a work on the life of Gardel.

All through his composing life, he developed his own brand of Tango, often known as Tango nuevo, incorporating various influences, from popular music and ‘serious’ music as well. This extended also to milonga, clave and other Afro-American rhythms. He transformed a low class, often vulgar music into a real, almost timeless art, often of a brutal or violent character - the original tango was a song of rebellion - often warmly expressive, but always without any hint of sentimentality and vulgarity. Most of his pieces were written for small bands in which he played bandoneon. He also wrote for film or ballet. His output includes some substantial works such as the Double Concerto for bandoneon, guitar and orchestra written for the Fifth International Guitar Festival in Liège, Tres movimientos tanguísticos porteños (1963) or Tangazo: Variaciones sobre Buenos Aires of 1970 (all three recorded by Charles Dutoit and his Montreal orchestra on Decca 468 528-2) as well as an opera.

All the pieces here, all fairly short, were written at various periods of Piazzolla’s composing life. Adíos Nonino of 1959, written in memory of his father, and La muerte del ángel of 1962 are among the earliest pieces. Adíos Nonino is one of his most popular, a deeply felt homage alternating vigorous writing and a fine lyrical theme. He made quite a number of arrangements including the orchestral version made in 1981 (also included on the Decca disc). Concierto para quinteto is a real miniature concerto for small ensemble written as a tribute and a farewell to his first quintet. It is – appropriately enough – a very brilliant, virtuosic piece. Verano Porteño is part of a suite Cuatro estaciones de Buenos Aires - a sort of Argentine Four Seasons. La muerte del ángel (as well as Milonga del ángel, also on Dutoit’s disc) is a movement from incidental music. Soledad originates from a score for a film directed by the French actress Jeanne Moreau.

These and the other pieces recorded here brilliantly demonstrate the breadth of Piazzolla’s approach of tango, to which he brought considerable imagination and in which he displayed a remarkable formal mastery. Strangely enough a number of these pieces are actually conceived as fugues.

These are fine performances recorded live and they obviously pleased the audience. I was quite pleased too, mind you. This release is the perfect complement to Dutoit’s symphonic readings. Both are well worth having. They clearly demonstrate the depth and utter seriousness of Piazzolla’s music.

Hubert Culot

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