GISÈLE BEN-DOR , conductor



The Miami Herald
Thursday, April 11, 2002

Symphony's tribute was just `glorious'

By James Roos

''Glorious'' is not a word I use often. But the concert that capped the New World Symphony's weeklong tribute to Astor Piazzolla and nuevo tango at the Lincoln Theatre Saturday night was glorious. Gisele Ben-Dor, the Uruguayan-American conductor, jumping in for the indisposed Robert Spano, did a terrific job because conducting to her doesn't seem a ''job,'' but rather a calling to perform music exactly as it's supposed to sound. Ben-Dor, who persists in rescuing ailing conductors (she has also stepped in for Daniele Gatti and Kurt Masur in recent seasons) is intimate with Ginastera's works, and if not a Piazzolla expert too, she did a fine job of fooling everyone in earshot. One of the great tricks in conducting any music is getting rhythmic inflections and tempos just right, both crucial in Ginastera's early folkish music like the four dances from Estancias. Ginastera, a Piazzolla teacher, was a sort of Bartok of the Pampas, smelting indigenous Argentine music into dances evoking Land Workers, a Wheat Dance, Cattlemen and the crucial Malambo, a challenge to the virility of the proud gaucho, who stomps his opponent into the ground with foot taps of machine-gun rapidity. If the pace isn't frenetic, it just isn't the malambo, and Ben-Dor and the musicians understood that.

The breathless pungency of the piece was tremendous, as was conductor and orchestra's virtuosic grasp of the syncopated, irregular meters painting the cattlemen and the comparative serenity and lyricism of the Wheat Dance. But the sparks that flew in the Malambo set the tone for the entire concert. The Piazzolla pieces were choice. Daniel Binelli, Piazzolla's bandoneon partner here in 1989 (at a concert arranged by risk-taker Mary Luft shortly before the master's crippling stroke), joined Martin Mastik, in the stately Double Concerto for Guitar, Bandaneon and String Orchestra. Piazzolla's compact sublimation of tango, is introduced by a ruminating guitar, then moves in quiet colloquy between the two instruments, eventually erupting in Piazzolla's swooping, streaking chromatic harmonies and emphatic signature chords.

Binelli played the Punta del Este Suite, too, with penetrating emotional grasp and the most passionate conviction in phrasing, breathing life into each bar as if he, rather than Piazzolla, wrote it. The suite's second movement pays tribute to the Bachian chorales once played on the bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument, invented for use in organless churches. There was also evocative hommage to Piazzolla from Osvaldo Golijov, whose Last Round for strings was a darkly pensive paen, and Tangazo, that slowly unfurling, then swirling ''Big Tango'' for orchestra came off with stylish brilliance. Still, the highpoint was the deeply nostalgic Adiós Nonino Piazzolla penned on the death of his father, and played with supreme poignancy and rhapsodic tenderness by Binelli.

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