Live in Buenos Aires
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto for keyboard and strings in D minor BWV 1052 [20:24]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Concerto in D major for string orchestra (1946) [12:41]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Forlorn Hope Fancy arr. Joanna MacGregor [3:54]
Mr Dowland’s Midnight arr. Joanna MacGregor [3:05] ¹
Can She Excuse arr. Joanna MacGregor [1:15]
Egberto GISMONTI (b.1947)
Forrobodó [6:25]
Frevo arr. For piano and strings [4:58]
Osvaldo GOLIJOV (b.1960)
Last Round, for string ensemble [6:57]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Milonga del ángel, for piano, bass and solo violin [3:56] ²
Libertango, for piano solo [4:23]
Britten Sinfonia/Jacqueline Shave (leader/director)
Joanna MacGregor (piano)
Markus Van Horn and Roger Linley (bass duo) ¹
Joanna MacGregor (piano): Marcus Van Horn (bass) and Jacqueline Shave (violin) ²
rec. 3 May 2007 , Teatro Coliseo, Buenos Aires
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 68475-9 [67:57]

This, back in May 2007, sounds to have been an exciting night in Buenos Aires. The touring Britten Sinfonia, directed by their leader Jacqueline Shave, had joined forces with Joanna MacGregor to present a wide-ranging programme – Bach to Bandoneon, as it were, or Dowland to the Tango – and they presented it in sultry style in this live recording.

The Bach D minor concerto is played with an adept balance between personalised phrasing from MacGregor and directness, though the piano is slightly too forward in the balance. Shave keeps things spruce and supple with regard to string weight. The finale is taut, the performance never dull. Stravinsky’s Concerto makes an appropriate successor, its Arioso rather charmingly phrased. There then follows a series of pieces, variously arranged, that reveal the colourful instincts of the musicians, MacGregor in particular.

She has arranged three Dowland pieces. Forlorn Hope Fancy opens with her piano, and then the string orchestra enters, its textures cannily sounding much like an expanded viol consort. Mr Dowland’s Midnight takes its cue, perhaps, from the witching hour title, its ethos strongly jazz club tinged. Pizzicato basses are joined by MacGregor’s ‘comping’ accompaniment, the whole thing a much more tangential approach to the source material, more impressionistic cum jazz predicated. The last setting has an appropriately Britten-like feel, especially in the thrusting pizzicato, and unison/single line distribution.

From here on it’s Latino. There are two pieces by Egberto Gismonti. Forrobodó is a fluid and attractive piece, mainly piano to the fore with a string wash as support. Frevo is heard in this arrangement for piano and strings. It’s rhythmically vital, and someone can be heard vocalising along excitedly, like a female Thomas Beecham. Golijov is something of a Man of the Moment. His Last Round is another sawing, driving and energising opus for string ensemble that results in admiring applause. Piazzolla was, I suppose, a fairly obvious choice and his brace – both very well known – emerge well in these two forms, the first for piano, bass and violin, the second for solo piano. Milonga del angel, the former, works well, with Shave proving communicative of tone. The powerful, jazzy Libertango drives the audience wild.

Enjoyable and sassy.

Jonathan Woolf

Enjoyable and sassy.