RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Tiempo del Angel
Las estaciones porteñas: Verano [5:55]
Milonga del Angel [6:31]
Fuga y Misterio [4:05]
Melodia en La Menor [4:09]
Muerte del Angel [4:49]
Chiquilin de Bachin [3:56]
Las estaciones porteñas: Invierno [6:20]
Astoria (Isabelle Chardon (violin); Eric Chardon (cello); Leonardo Anglani (piano); Santo Scinta (percussion); Christophe Delporte (accordion))
No recording details supplied
FUGA LIBERA FUG603 [51:30]
The standout recording of 2010 for me was a disc of Piazzolla tangos performed by various combinations of piano and string quartet, led by the brilliant cellist Jan Vogler (see review). Less than a year on, I find myself presented with another Piazzolla recording of equal merit; this one from an even more surprising source: a Belgian group on a Belgian label.
The augmenting of the classical piano trio with the more traditional tango instruments of accordion and percussion gives the Astoria performances a more “authentic” feel than Vogler’s group, but does that make the Fuga Libera disc better? For tango traditionalists, undoubtedly yes, but for me, it is just different. In the past, I would run 100 miles from the mere thought of a piano accordion being taken out of its case, but two busking encounters - an extraordinary performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by a single accordionist in Munich, the other by a tango group in Rome’s Piazza Navona – have made me broaden my outlook.
This is the first of three Piazzolla releases by the Astoria ensemble on the Fuga Libera label, and for me, the standout, despite the absence of two of Piazzolla’s “greatest hits” Libertango and Adios Nonino, which are on the second release (FUG606, titled after the latter).
Considerable care has been taken in the track order to provide variety in tempo and mood, with the light and infectious works, such as Fuga y Misterio alternating with the sultry and melancholic, for example Milonga and Oblivion.
Contrabajisimo is by some way the most extended piece at over 11 minutes, and also the least typical, beginning as it does with almost three minutes of solo cello at the lowest end of its register with occasional “comments” from the accordion. The tango then emerges from this almost improvisational jazz episode, the slow central part being quite delicious.
Two of the four movements from Four Seasons have been chosen to bookend the disc, which is not heresy as Piazzolla didn’t write the four pieces as a set. I said in my Record of the Year summary for the Vogler disc that Winter (Invierno) was “beautiful beyond belief”, a view which I still hold with this very different arrangement. There is a more relentless rhythm driven by the accordion, sacrificing a little of the soulful beauty for a greater sense of the sensuality of the dance in a smoky Buenos Aires night club. The closing moments, pizzicato in the strings and in the highest register of the accordion are magical.
I have listened (time and time again) to this via the Naxos Music Library: the sound quality is exemplary in the streamed format through good computer speakers. I would expect the CD audio to be very good – I will find out soon enough. The NML subscription was to stop my CD storage from complete meltdown, but I still buy the very best ones.
David J Barker
Unless you have a complete aversion to the accordion and/or the tango, this is wonderful.