Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Piazzolla’s Best Tangos (all arr. for piano by A. Delle-Vigne)
Las 4 estaciones portenas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) [19:45]
Balada para un loco [4:14]
Milonga del Angel [5:48]
La Muerte del Angel [2:08]
Resurreccion del Angel [4:46]
Chau Paris [3:41]
Retrato d’Alfredo Gobi [5:04]
Adios Nonino [3:05]
La misma Pena [3:14]
Picasso [3:56]
Guardia Nueva [3:44]
Sentido Unico [3:35]
Aquiles Delle-Vigne (piano)
rec. 1989, EMS Studios, Brussels, Belgium
Originally released in 1993 on CNR Records (Belgium) as CNRCD-9306

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 Seasons 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 Tangos, 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 and eleven 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 mood.

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 2010.

Brian Reinhart