Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Astor Piazzolla’s Best Tangos
Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (1967-1970) (I. Verano porteño [5:45]; II. Otono porteño [5:08]; III. Invierno porteño [3:53]; IV. Primavera porteña [4:59])
Balada para un loco (1969) (arr. Delle-Vigne) [4:14]
Milonga del ángel (1965) (arr. Delle-Vigne) [5:48]
La muerte del ángel (1962) (arr. Delle-Vigne) [2:08]
Resurreción del ángel (1965) (arr. Delle-Vigne) [4:46]
Chau Paris (1955) (arr. Delle-Vigne) [3:41]
Retrato d'Alfredo Gobbi (1986) (arr. Delle-Vigne) [5:04]
Adiós Nonino (1961) (arr. Delle-Vigne) [3:05]
La misma pena (arr. Delle-Vigne) [3:14]
Picasso (arr. Delle-Vigne) [3:56]
Guardia nueva (arr. Delle-Vigne) [3:43]
Sentido único (arr. Delle-Vigne) [3:35]
Aquiles Delle-Vigne (piano)
rec. 1989, EMS Studios, Brussels, Belgium. Originally CNR Records CNRCD-9306
NAXOS 8.572331 [63:46]

Google Astor Piazzolla and you’ll find many diverting YouTube clips, including one of the composer as soloist in his own Bandoneón Concerto. Picking items at random one is soon reminded of the vigour and variety of Piazzolla’s tango-inspired output; that’s encapsulated in Daniel Rivera’s coruscating account of Adiós Nonino, which has all the brio I hoped to hear in these arrangements by Argentine pianist Aquiles Delle-Vigne. Potential buyers need to be aware this is not a Naxos original, and was first released on an little-known label some twenty years ago.

The recording’s provenance shouldn’t be an issue, and it would matter even less if the performances were anything special; but the first of the Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Four Seasons in Buenos Aires) does not bode well. Rhythms are passable, but the piano sounds most peculiar; this is especially noticeable in louder passages, where the music is over-damped and diffuse. Even more distracting is the tendency for notes to crumble at the edges, not unlike the saturation one associates with cooking-grade tapes. Moreover, there’s a definite quaver to the piano tone at times, which is just bizarre. Sadly, the playing itself isn’t very distinguished either. Indeed, Delle-Vigne is so remote and his expressive range is so narrow that these individual seasons simply merge into one.

After such an uncomfortable start I did wonder if the pianist’s own arrangements would be any better. Perhaps the Balada para un loco (Ballad of a Madman) would give this recital a much-needed boost. To some extent it does; Delle-Vigne brings a degree of wistfulness to the opening bars but thereafter the music seems to collapse under the weight of its own introspection. As for that strange piano sound, it’s as annoying as ever. Not so much piantao, piantao, piantao (mad. mad, mad) as dull, dull, dull. And that’s true of the so-called ‘Angel suite’, where inwardness is replaced by diffidence. That said, there is more passion and fire in La muerte del ángel (The Death of the Angel), although it’s short-lived. Fine if you want to listen with the lights and volume turned low, but otherwise uninvolving.

The rhythms of Chau Paris (Bye-bye Paris) are nicely inflected; in fact, it’s one of the more successful and engaging arrangements thus far, despite Delle-Vigne’s frustrating aloofness. Oh, if only the playing weren’t so po-faced, and the portrait of band leader and tanguero Alfredo Gobbi so drably drawn. As for Piazzolla’s tribute to his late father, Adiós Nonino (Farewell Nonino), Rivera finds a vein of pathos here that simply eludes Delle-Vigne. That quality is also missing from La misma pena (The Same Sadness), although the perk of Picasso suggests wit and spontaneity are quite possible. But where are these qualities in the Parisian cheek of Sentido único (One-way Street)?

Major disappointments are rare, but this is one of them. Hand on heart, if this were a once-in-a-lifetime recital or an indispensable archive performance I’d happily ignore the poor sonics; but it’s neither of those things. Which begs the question: why did Naxos resurrect it in the first place? Frankly, I’m baffled.

Dan Morgan

see also reviews by Brian Reinhart and Bob Briggs

Frankly, I’m baffled.