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Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Hommage à Liège – Concerto for bandoneon, guitar and string orchestra [15:48]
Escualo [3:40]
Tanguedia [4:38]
Adam SZMEREK (b.1948)
Fantazja for accordion and chamber orchestra [9:27]
Concerto for accordion and chamber orchestra [16:40]
Elwira Śliwkiewicz-Cisak (accordion)
Jakub Niedoborek (guitar)
Tanguillo Quintet
Lublin Chamber Orchestra/Piotr Wijatkowski
No recording information available
DUX 1278 [50:25]

It is commendable for the Warsaw-based Dux label to have introduced the work of Adam Szmerek to the catalogue. So far as I can see, his music has not been released on CD before; at least not outside his native Poland (and I’m not sure anything’s been released there commercially). Whether it really possesses anything other than curiosity value – his is not a name we know – is another matter, and I have to confess that neither of his works included in this disc really shouts out to me that they are deserving of close scrutiny. In fact, they seem rather a derivative hotchpotch of light music, dance ideas, slightly jazzy harmonies and pleasing-on-the-ear instrumental effects. I’d love to say that this is a musical voice worth exploring; but I’m not convinced. If you like this kind of music, I would have thought you could get plenty of it just by hanging around hotel lobbies or up-market wine bars.

The single-movement Fantazja opens atmospherically enough with the solo accordion accompanied by gently shimmering strings and a cicada-like intermittent percussion click. It breaks into a dance which immediately tells you why this music has been paired with that of Piazzolla, but it does not last. In the spirit of a true fantasia it jumps abruptly from the quasi-tango music to something in the nature of a cross between a sailor’s hornpipe and a hangover from the 1920s dance halls. The Accordion Concerto is a set of tea-room dances, without the distinguishing marks of tempo indication or descriptive titles, but opening with a mock tango, passing on to a smoochy number and ending with a lively dialogue mostly between piano and accordion with an astonishingly weak central episode. This is all nice, harmless stuff; but offers little in the way of musical interest.

How refreshing, then, to be confronted by the angular rhythms and aggressive harmonic posturing of Piazzolla in the two brief dance pieces and even more so in the unpredictable double concerto. Written for the 1985 International Guitar Festival held in Liège, it is understandable that the guitar dominates, opening the first movement with an improvisatory solo to which the accordion adds its voice about half way through. The second movement is a typical tango movement with its characteristic intakes of breath and slightly ominous minor tonality, but only the finale is titled Tango. Here we are in the familiar world of Piazzolla with, for once, the accordion taking command of the pulsating, hypnotic onward driving rhythms.

In all this music Piotr Wijatkowski shows a splendid grasp of the idiom and his players respond often with considerable alacrity. The playing is disciplined, but has about it a welcome sense of free-spiritedness. Jakub Niedoborek’s playing in the Piazzolla concerto helps make this a highly recommended version, and while Elwira Śliwkiewicz-Cisak’s accordion seems rather brighter and more insouciant than the usual bandoneon of Piazzolla performances, she is clearly a gifted virtuoso and delivers everything with easy fluency and a certain panache.

Marc Rochester



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