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Histoire du tango
Ástor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Histoire du Tango (1986) [20:17]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Canciones Populares Españolas (arr. Paul Kochanski, Jaume Torrent) (1914) [10:41]
Nicolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Sonata Concertata Op.61 MS 2 in A major (1804) [13:13]
Mosè Fantasia: Variazioni di bravura su “Dal tuo stellate soglio” – Variations on one string on a theme by Rossini, MS 23 (1818) [7:29]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen Op.20 (1878) [8:10]
Augustin Hadelich (violin)
Pablo Sáinz Villegas (guitar)
rec. 29 August-1 September 2012, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, USA. DDD
AVIE AV2280 [59:52]

This attractive concert-style programme spans almost two centuries from Paganini to Piazzolla, with Sarasate and de Falla in between. It’s quite fun. In the beginning I thought: “Why would someone be interested in hearing Paganini and Piazzolla together? It is either one or the other, depending on the mood.” However, as time went by, I discovered that I liked this disc exactly for this diversity: whether I am looking for virtuosity, tenderness or passion, it is all there; just select the track. I keep this disc in my car and return to it often. Even though it’s the programme that is the main selling-point here, the performances are also top-notch, with a full-voiced, eloquent guitar and a brilliant violin.

Piazzolla’s Histoire du tango is a series of musical snapshots taken along the path of the development of this dance from its cradle until our own time. The suite was originally written for flute and guitar, which were the first instruments of the tango. Bordello is a cheerful and welcoming place, but there are darker notes hiding in the corners. Café flows with twilight melancholy; it has one of Piazzolla’s memorable melodies, heartfelt and poignantly bittersweet. In this arrangement however the music lacks base and weight in the low register. Nightclub is insistent and intense. The musicians are not overly expressive and some kick is missing. It shouldn’t be too lean: it’s Piazzolla, after all. The result is beautiful and touching but somehow stays inside the square. Concert d’aujourd’hui sounds like a finale of a violin concerto – loud, with a strong obstinate beat and monotonous. The latter might well be an inherent feature of the music, as I haven’t yet met an interpretation of this movement that was not monotonous.

Out of the set of seven Spanish Songs five were selected for the arrangement. De Falla’s original piano accompaniment imitates the guitar so it is naturally ported back to this instrument. This series of scenes - the distressed El paño maruno, hypnotic Asturiana, happy Jota, tender Nana, and nervous Polo – is played expressively and with gusto. The violin sings beautifully, as befits music that was originally written for a soprano voice. This is an excellent performance, sensitive, thoughtful and involved.

Paganini’s Sonata concertata is full of Italian charm and the guitar gets to shine quite a lot. The opening movement is Mozartean, cheery and witty. The slow movement is gloomy and laments most eloquently. The finale is an energetic dance. The performers play with well-judged balance and blend.

Everyone knows the story of "Paganini and the One String", but not everyone knows what he was playing at the time. The popular opinion is that it was the famous last Caprice – so fittingly diabolic. A more informed opinion states that it actually was the Moses Fantasia for the G string, and that work is indeed astonishing. Augustin Hadelich plays with brilliance and panache, infallible precision and good humour. The ending is pretty much incredible.

In Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen Hadelich faces probably the biggest competition, albeit not with the same accompaniment. The work sounds really different without the orchestra, starting with the very first notes. This heart-on-the-sleeve music can pack more heart on the big-sleeve of the orchestra. On the other hand, the guitar is a natural accompaniment for Gypsy songs, and the greater freedom of two instruments allows for better rubato and a more improvisatory feeling. Although the guitar may not match the histrionics of the violin, Hadelich voices enough emotion for two.

The recording is very clear, the instruments are placed at the right distance, and all comes together well technically. Both musicians play excellently, both from technical and expressive point of view. The tone of the 1723 Kiesewetter Stradivarius is beautiful, and the voice of the guitar is full enough to support it. Overall, this is an enjoyable album that leaves the impression of a memorable concert.

Oleg Ledeniov


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