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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Sinfonia Buenos Aires, Op. 15 (1951) [25:55]
Concerto for Bandoneón, String Orchestra, and Percussion (1979) [22:10]
Mar del Plato 70 (c. 1965) (arranged for symphony orchestra, José Carli, 1995) [3:29]
Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (1965-1969) (arranged for symphony orchestra, Carlos Franzetti, 1989) [19:05]
Juan José Mosalini (bandoneón, Concerto)
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Gabriel Castagna
rec. Studio of Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Germany, 31 March-4 April 2006.
CHANDOS CHAN10419 [71:10]

Argentine composer Piazzolla is famous for his tangos. To typical classical music listeners he is probably most often heard in small pieces for piano or guitar. This disc — the second in a series of the composer’s orchestral works, of which I have not heard the first — is stunning proof that there is more to him than tangos. Yes, Piazzolla is a serious composer.
The movement from popular music to large-scale classical works was a calculated one on Piazzolla’s part. The Sinfonia Buenos Aires was the first fruit of this effort. Its twenty-five minute length, as well as its frequent use of woodwind color, place it in the same realm as Hindemith’s and Stravinsky’s forays into the genre. It is a highly dramatic piece, building up brass crescendos and percussion outbursts punctuated by elegies in the strings and lower winds.
The bandoneón is, according to the liner notes, “a fiendishly difficult member of the accordion family” on which Piazzolla became “the world’s leading virtuoso.” Juan José Mosalini, the soloist in the Concerto in this recording, must surely be considered a present-day contender for this title. Listeners will not forget the folk origins of the instrument: this is the composition on the disc that will most call to mind a sultry Buenos Aires night club. Yet Piazzolla’s writing and Mosalini’s playing make this truly a virtuoso concerto, rather than merely an evocative curiosity.
Mar del Plato 70 is a short, energetic symphonic dance inspired by the ocean resort area where the composer was born. Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (roughly, “four seasons in Buenos Aires”) shows little musical connection to Vivaldi’s work. Though originally written for his tango band, this work sounds like compelling film music. It consists of four emotional and at times dramatic vignettes. One could imagine it as music to anchor and carry us through a story whose plot we do not know.
One might wonder whether the Württemburgische Philharmonie Reutlingen, whose very name drips with Germnanness, has the feeling to pull off this South American music. No worries. Their palette of colors is broad, with each hue sharply-etched. Most importantly, they sound like they were born with the rhythmic snap and pulse necessary for this music.
Argentine conductor and musicologist Gabriel Castagna directs the whole effort with passion and expertise, as well as contributing to the booklet notes. I hope that Chandos keeps him on board for further recordings.
Everything here but the concerto is a world premiere recording. That, if I didn’t know better regarding the conservatism of most orchestral programming, would be shocking. Each piece here would be an exciting, audience-friendly addition to a concert program. Fans of accessible 20th century music need to have this disc, and I will eagerly seek out the first volume for my collection.
Brian Burtt


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