BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921 - 1992)
Sinfonia Buenos Aires, op.15 (1951) [26:20]
Aconcagua, Concerto for bandoneón, strings and percussion (1979) [24:58]
Las Cuatro Estanciones Porteñas (1964/1970) [28:20] (arr. L Desyatnikov)
Daniel Binelli (bandoneón), Tianwa Yang (violin)
Nashville Symphony Orchestra/Giancarlo Guerrero
rec. 21-22 November 2009, Laura Turner Concert Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. DDD
NAXOS 8.572271 [79:38]
It was Nadia Boulanger who said that when writing tangos Piazzolla was really himself: “Here is the true Piazzolla, “she said, “do not ever leave him”. Certainly if you hear some of his early piano works, they are not as representative of the man as his later work, but what of the early Sinfonia Buenos Aires? Piazzolla wrote this piece following five years of study with Ginastera, and it subsequently won a competition which gave the composer a scholarship to study in France. The first performance was conducted by Fabien Sevitsky, a nephew of Koussevitzky, who also administered the competition. He approved of the vocal opponents to the piece - “this is all publicity” he told the young composer. A calamitous opening gives way to a tango of symphonic proportions. There’s a good working out of the material and the whole makes a very satisfactory symphonic movement. The slow movement is a hotbed of sexuality in music and the finale contains some very exciting music but just isn’t quite up to the standard of the preceding movements. That said, there’s some very exhilarating and elemental drumming and blazing brass writing. The orchestration is brilliant throughout - Piazzolla said that Ginastera made orchestration “one of my strong points”. It’s a remarkably robust and positive work, full of colour and rhythm, with memorable tunes and, for such a young composer, it is amazingly assured in its intent.
Aconcagua, written nearly thirty years later, is an even more confident work, displaying the hand of a true master composer. Like the Sinfonia, there’s a wealth of colour and energy, with, perhaps, a slight Stravinskian feel to some of the gestures, but the music is always true Piazzolla. This is a real virtuoso Concerto in three movements with an accompaniment which perfectly complements the needs of the soloist - the ability to sound over the orchestra and sing freely without being engulfed in a thick background texture. Incidentally, Aconcagua is the name of the highest Andean mountain.
Piazzolla’s works have been transcribed for many and various ensembles and combinations of instruments. I have often felt that Leonid Desyatnikov’s version of Las Cuatro Estanciones Porteñas (The Four seasons in Buenos Aires) for violin and string orchestra, which he created for Gidon Kremer, to be one of the best. This is a nicely fun-packed version for Desyatnikov includes moments from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Mindful of the fact that Vivaldi lived in the northern hemisphere and Piazzolla in the southern, in Piazzolla’s Winter there is a quote from Vivaldi’s Summer. I have no doubt whatsoever that Piazzolla would have loved this.
The performances are very good, and idiomatic. Binelli is a fine player and has the spirit of Piazzolla in his playing, Tianwa Yang has exactly the right swing, and delivers a splendid performance of this very attractive music. The Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero play to the manner born. The recording is very good, as one expects from Naxos, and the notes, though short, are worthwhile. This is a very exciting issue and would grace any record shelf. It will please all Piazzolla lovers, and bring many more into the fold.
A very exciting issue.