I will freely admit to approaching this album with skepticism.
Astor Piazzolla’s Argentinian tangos are rich, colorful
works imaginatively scored for various traditional ensembles
of tango instruments, and the thought of hearing them on a lone
piano was not all pleasant. Surely we would miss the liveliness,
the temperament of the dance; surely we’d miss hearing
the violin, the bandoneón, the double-bass. A few months
ago I reviewed a piano transcription of Vivaldi’s Four
and said that all it did was make me wish that I
was listening to the original instead. Wouldn’t it be the
same with a piano version of the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Happily, no! This is an excellent, totally enjoyable album of
music that sounds incredibly fun to play. The Argentinian pianist
Aquiles Delle-Vigne is a veteran of the tango, and has created
arrangements that are idiomatic, convincing, playful, and soulful
too. This is a pianist’s love-letter to the tango, and
hard to resist.
Though this album is entitled Astor Piazzolla’s Best
, that label is a bit of a misnomer; certainly some
of my favorites are absent (most notably “Oblivion” and “Libertango”).
But Delle-Vigne’s selection of an hour of fine music offers
a wide and diverse survey of the Argentine composer’s output,
comprising the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
shorter works. And more may not necessarily have been better:
even by the end of this hour-long program, listening fatigue
starts to set in due to the unavoidable sameness of rhythm and
Especially noteworthy is Delle-Vigne’s touch in the most
tender moments of this music. The beginning of “Winter” (from
the Four Seasons
), and the “Milonga del Angel” are
special delights, Delle-Vigne’s playing poetic and melancholy. “Balada
para un Loco”, too, is especially convincing, as is the
wonderful (and very rare) “Chau Paris”, an exuberant
little romp through cheerful French influences. He is not quite
as charming in the louder, faster sections, like the opening
of the Four Seasons
’ “Summer”, but that
is because, on the piano, the tango is by necessity less about
dance and passion and more about intimacy and mood. Music, as
a fellow listener told me, to put on during a romantic dinner.
The sound, close and somewhat boomy, would be all wrong in Chopin
or Mozart, but is acceptable for this music. It seems rather
more a jazz recording than a classical one, the piano’s
bright tone better-suited to a nightclub than a recital hall.
Perhaps this is a factor of the recording’s age: it was
made in 1989 for the Belgian record label CNR and has been brought
over to Naxos for reissue. Audiophiles will recoil, but then,
is the recorded sound not at least appropriate to this genre?
As mentioned previously, listener fatigue may set in for those
who aren’t able to listen to a solo piano playing an hour
of seductive tango music. But, since this is currently an MP3
download album only, the cure is simple: listen in separate sittings.
Piazzolla’s spirit is well-served in these transcriptions
and performances, and, if the selection is not of his “Best
Tangos,” that just means there is much new here to discover.
As a part of the Naxos Digital imprint, this album is currently
only available for download at the website Classicsonline, where
it sells for rather less than the price of a physical compact
disc. Naxos informs me that a standard CD will be issued in autumn