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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
María de Buenos Aires Suite [20:48]
Verano Porteño [8:58]
Milonga del Ángel [6:18]
Chiquilín de Bachín [4:49]
Libertango [2:46]
Oblivion [3:53]
Balada para un Loco [4:29]
Versus Ensemble; Enrique Moratalla (vocals); Maria Rey-Joly (soprano); Horacio Ferrer (reciter, sung and spoken texts)
rec. Caja Rural Auditorium, Granada, December 2006 except Milonga de la Annunciación from María de Buenos Aires Suite, rec. live, Tango World Meeting, Valparaiso, Chile, January 2007 
NAXOS 8.570523 [52:15]

There seems to be no sign of abatement of the pyroclastic Piazzolla lava flow from record companies great and small.  This latest Naxos contribution to quasi-bandoneon studies - there is no bandoneon on the disc - comes from the Versus Ensemble of violin, soprano/alto saxophone, piano, guitar, and double-bass. Piazzolla arrangements are by now commonplace so we shouldn’t be especially surprised by the line-up, effective as it is in its own way.
And the arrangements are certainly not without merit. It allows the violin to soar strongly in Milonga del Ángel and for the saxophone to rove over a pliant bass line. The finale of this has a good kick as well – bracing is the word.  The languid piano that introduces Verano Porteño presages a thinning of texture to the violin, which is in its turn assailed by the resurgent piano – the thing becoming infected with overwrought hyper-drive; plenty of pounding piano and Bach quotations.
Enrique Moratalla’s vocal on Chiquilín de Bachín has just enough nicotine-stained build-up to keep sentimentality at bay, though it’s a close run thing. As ever I am underwhelmed by Piazzolla’s great hit Oblivion, which I stubbornly persist in thinking just about the most tiresome thing I’ve ever heard. Certainly this arrangement does its best to keep lachrymosity at arm’s length. Balada para un Loco begins as a recitation by Moratalla over piano accompaniment, who then sings the remainder of the song. Granted the title is self-explanatory but this is still something of a hysterical arrangement.
By far the biggest piece here is the operatically inclined María de Buenos Aires Suite.  This is a strange old affair. The last piece of the five was recorded separately, at the Tango World Meeting, Valparaiso, Chile, whereas everything else was taped at Caja Rural Auditorium in Granada – though I should add that the aural difference isn’t especially noticeable. Moratalla reprises his role and he’s joined by classical soprano Maria Rey-Joly – the notes err in omitting her from the first song, Milonga Carrieguera, and they’re equally confusing about which numbers Horacio Ferrer recites, implying several – actually so far as I can tell only the last, recorded in Chile, which makes sense. The personnel attribution details really needed editorial tooth combing I’m afraid.
This left me apathetic. The arrangements are adequate but not especially imaginative, the playing is committed but not always wise. Rather like the hunting of whales I think it’s high time for a moratorium on discs of Piazzolla arrangements.
Jonathan Woolf


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