Interest in Piazzolla's music is constantly on the increase; this
is the third CD that has come my way during the last couple of
years. It is also the first with a string quartet playing his
music. Piazzolla didn't compose much for that medium, but in the
late 1980s he met the Kronos-Quartet and this resulted in two
works: Four for Tango and Five Tango Sensations.
The latter is with bandoneon and is a piece that he also recorded
with the Kronos. It is also the only music on this CD - together
with tracks 10 and 11, which are bandoneon solos - that are Piazzolla
originals. The rest of the music was arranged by violinist Markus
Fleck, except Milonga del Angel (tr. 4), which is an arrangement
by Sergej Drabkin.
The Five Tango Sensations were very much written
with the bandoneon as the centre of attraction with the strings
primarily serving as backdrop. It is true that there are some
string solos and in the rhythmic pieces, Anxiety and
Fear, the strings are required to play what in jazz terms
could be labelled riffs. The first two movements, Asleep
and Loving, are, as the titles indicate, slow and soft.
Despertar is gloomy with a long yearning violin solo,
and the final movement, Fear, starts in high spirits,
gradually becoming more and more frenetic and dissonant.
The arrangements for string quartet alone are in several
cases rather artful and intricately constructed. The Fuga
with its jagged rhythms is clearly related to both Bach and
Bartók. Michelangelo is partly atonal while Drabkin's
sole arrangement, Milonga del Angel, is the most 'traditional'
tango music on the disc. String quartet lovers will find a lot
to admire here, even though I believe that Piazzolla might have
had something less sophisticated in mind. The playing is excellent
and Michael Zisman has the right rhythmic lilt; Piazzolla would
have been deeply satisfied. In the final number - the encore
if you like - clarinettist Nina Janssen joins the quartet, playing
with beautiful tone and warmth. The recording is worthy of the
occasion and Markus Fleck's liner-notes shed some light on the
The standard string quartet repertoire will, I hope,
never become redundant, but it is always fascinating to make
discoveries off-the-beaten-track. I hope the CasalQuartett will
go on exploring untrodden paths.