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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Sense of Tango
Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (1965-70) [26:37]
Histoire du Tango: Café 1930 (1986) [6:50]
Five Tango Sensations (1990) [27:57]
Roberto Daris (accordion)
Trieste String Trio
rec. Artesuono Studio, Udine, Italy. No date given
BELLA MUSICA BM31.7043 [61:24]

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Tango has appeared, and continues to appear in many guises and settings – long may this state of affairs remain. The works on this disc have with the exception of the Histoire movement been arranged by Roberto Daris, who plays accordion as opposed to the more traditional bandoneon, and a string trio consisting of the conventional instrumentation: violin, viola and cello.
Purists may argue that “it’s just not the same” on accordion, but I have to say that the playing of Roberto Daris is stylish and idiomatic, and the average ear will probably be unaware that there is much difference. The pungency of sound in the melody lines is there, and Daris lards the music with appropriate bellow shakes – the instrument’s equivalent of vibrato. The ‘gap’ which exists between Piazzolla as a player, and any musician’s attempt to create a comparably expressive musical experience is recognised as a factor in preparing such recordings, and Roberto Daris is to be respected for his researching attitude toward the tango repertoire. His accordion certainly allows more extended chordal accompaniments and flexibility when working bass lines, something which helps a little with the fairly light accompaniment of the string trio. 
The booklet notes consist of some colourful impressions of tangos past, and Piazzolla’s idea of the tango as “Folkloric chamber music”, composer and player narrating the story of the tango as refined and cultured music, if with a past indelibly associated with impoverished circumstances and dubious morals. Piazzolla’s place as “a great reformer” is justly acknowledged, bringing the tango into the concert hall and elevating its status beyond that as an accompaniment for dance.
Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, which consists of four movements named after the seasons, captures that ambiguity which Piazzolla himself recognised: that the essential meaning of tango is lost once split from the moods and atmosphere of Buenos Aires. As chamber music it works supremely well, while the squeaks, scratching on the ‘wrong’ side of the bridge and tapping on woodwork all preserve the necessary tango pointers. The arrangement of Café 1930, is the penultimate of four movements which make up Histoire du Tango, originally for flute and guitar. There would have been more than enough space on the disc to have given us the other three movements. Five Tango Sensations comes closest to the original version, which was created for the Kronos string quartet. The trio and accordion preserves the intimate feel of dialogue and expressive line of the original while highlighting the lonely monologue of the solo melody. Unfortunately, it is in this work that one or two question marks arise concerning intonation in those all too fragile sustained chords.
In general this is a fine disc, superbly recorded and performed with sensitivity and an admirable lightness of touch. My only problem – which I am quite prepared to admit may well be down to personal taste – is that the ensemble is too light for some of the music. Cellist Tullio Zorzet does well with the bass lines, but the cello is essentially a melody instrument, and I miss the real ‘whoom’ and impact of a double-bass in this setting. The accordion can supply some chords and bass here and there, but again, the percussive quality and bass thud of a piano is something this music sometimes demands, to my ears at least.
To sum up, this is a highly enjoyable ‘chamber’ disc of some typically attractive and characteristic Piazzolla. It will certainly supplement and adorn any collection of the art of this kind of tango, but is probably more of a one for reflective moonlit nights than that of turmoil and smoky grit which brings tears to your eyes.
Dominy Clements

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