Astor PIAZZOLLA (1924-1992)
Aconcagua; concerto for bandoneon, percussion, and string orchestra (1979) [24:12]
Richard GALLIANO (b. 1950)
Opale Concerto, for accordion and string orchestra (1994) [20:41]
Jovica Ivanović (accordion), Ukrainian Chamber Orchestra/Vitaly Protasov
rec. December 2018, Large Concert Studio of Ukrainian Radio, Kyiv
NAVONA NV6317 [44:56]
Richard Galliano has long been a vibrant presence on the European scene, in particular, moving between classical and jazz ensembles with great facility and stylistic ease. As a performer he stands in relation to the accordion in the same way that Astor Piazzolla did to the bandoneon, taking the instrument, and the contexts in which it’s placed, in nourishing new directions. That he has worked with a raft of leading jazz players, from Ron Carter and Chet Baker to Jan Garbarek and Wynton Marsalis, gives some indication of his versatility as does the fact that he worked with Piazzolla himself, as well as with Juliette Gréco and Charles Aznavour. He is a chansonnier on his instrument and as both performer and composer always generates great, sometimes bittersweet melodies and often mines his Mediterranean background – like the great French violinist Zino Francescatti he is of Italian parentage.
His Opale Concerto for accordion and string orchestra dates from 1994 and is in three movements. As a master of the new French musette school – a later counterpart of Piazzolla’s Neuvo Tango – Galliano’s music is replete with abrupt rhythms and lashing strings, music of furious energy, some of which sound Balkan-Mediterranean in inspiration, along with organ-like sonorities. The slow movement offers a simpler narrative with two openly romantic-nostalgic themes, filmically beautiful, and suffused with a Left Bank spirit. Along the way Galliano ramps up the colour quotient, with a subtle balance maintained between the solo instrument and the orchestral strings. The finale is a passionate and youthful affair, slowing for a nostalgic B section with echoes of the slow movement – mysterious and warm.
The young Serbian accordionist Jovica Ivanović is equally successful with Piazzolla’s Aconcagua to which brings acute articulation and elegance. Once again, the young string players of the Ukrainian Chamber Orchestra bring a tight, bright aural sound world and they embody Piazzollan languor in the opening movement’s central panel, switchbacking to slashing vitality. High romance is a feature of the slow movement – the allure of loneliness – and well terraced dynamics ensure that the music’s message comes across with vitality. So too in the angularity of the finale, exciting but controlled, Ivanović’s accordion providing sterling service for the intended bandoneon.
There are pertinent notes in the gatefold and a well calibrated recording ensures that this brace of concertos comes over in the best light. Only the short measure counts against it.