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Hora Cero
The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic
rec. 2-5 January 2016, Teldex Studio, Berlin
SONY CLASSICAL 88875 143462 [68:47]

I had somewhat mixed expectations of this CD. On one hand, I love the tango nuevo of Astor Piazzolla; on the other, I had recently been underwhelmed by a set of his works arranged for cello orchestra, led by star soloist Anne Gastinel (review).

It is unquestionably a challenge to take these works, written for ensembles with considerable tonal variety, and create arrangements for a dozen of the same instrument. The majority of this has been done by one of the 12 Cellists, David Riniker, who first presented a tango arrangement to his colleagues in 2001, and had it rejected for being “too difficult”. According to fellow member Ludwig Quandt, they felt that the tango was “new and strange, but we also felt that it would never let us go again”. More than a decade later, they felt confident enough to make this recording. The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic are the only ensemble allowed to include the orchestra’s name in theirs.

With the exception of Libertango and to a lesser extent Escualo, the Piazzolla selections are not among his well-known works. Without question, the highlight is Soledad (Solitude), which has a very similar feel to Invierno from his Cuatro Estaciones. The most unusual is Buenos Aires Hora Cero, which creates a vivid soundworld of the city at night, complete with sirens, footsteps and other convincing realised "noises". The cellists do a remarkable job in producing these sounds, which were undoubtedly written with piano, guitar and bandoneon in mind.

As I listened to this without knowing which track was playing, it was very clear which ones weren’t by Piazzolla. The difference in quality was very marked: the “other” works tended to be lighter, less varied and less interesting. What is missing is the powerful personality that infuses Piazzolla’s works. Stafano’s Milonguita is the best of them.

I still have reservations about such single-instrument tango arrangements, but this has persuaded me much more than the Gastinel recording mentioned above. The performances and the arrangements provide the necessary variety in most part, and the sound quality is exceptional. The notes are equally good.

David Barker

Horacio SALGÁN (b. 1916)
A Don Agustín Bardi (arr. David Riniker) [3:19]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Escualo (arr. Riniker) [3:33]
Duo De Amor (arr. Marijn Simons) [5:29]
Calambre (transp. Riniker) [2:41]
Lunfardo (arr. Harold Noben) [6:35]
José CARLI (b. 1931)
La Diquera (arr. Carli/Riniker) [1:52]
Pedro y Pedro (arr. Riniker) [4:10]
Decarísimo (transp. Riniker) [3:02]
Soledad (arr. Ludwig Quandt) [7:44]
Para Osvaldo Tarantino [3:19]
Revirado (transp. Riniker) [3:39]
Libertango (arr. Carli) [2:34]
Buenos Aires Hora Cero (transp. Noben) [8:04]
Caliente (arr. Riniker) [4:46]
Pasquale STAFANO (b. 1972)
Milonguita (arr. Riniker) [4:43]
Tres Minutos Con La Realidad (arr. Riniker) [3:17]



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