GISÈLE BEN-DOR , conductor



AllMusic Review

Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla strove during the early part of his career to become a classical composer, writing music in conventional classical forms and traveling to Paris to study with the famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. (She told him to stick with the tango.) Various recordings, most notably those by violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, have offered the music of the mature Piazzolla in arrangements for classical ensembles, but only this novel release from Delos has explored manifestations of Piazzolla's work within a purely classical sphere. This disc includes an early work by Piazzolla for bandoneon (the Argentine concertina Piazzolla himself played) and orchestra, the Tres movimientos sinfónicos of 1953, together with a famous Piazzolla tango (Oblivion) and two pieces by contemporary Argentine composer Luis Bacalov. One of these is Bacalov's short theme from the hit Italian film Il Postino.

The other is an ambitious Triple Concerto for Bandoneon, Soprano, Piano, and Orchestra, composed in 2003. The work expands on several distinct Piazzolla styles and drops them into a four-movement orchestral framework. The second and fourth movements have texts by Bacalov himself, rather sentimentally evoking the tango and its world. It's good that Bacalov highlights the neglected vocal side of the Piazzolla tango sound, and the instrumental portions likewise have the authentic feel of Piazzolla's music. The writing for bandoneon, and the performances by Juan Jose Mosalini, can make you forget there's an orchestra there. The piece is something of a mixed bag, and it lacks the concision and the edge of Piazzolla's music, but tango fans should definitely hear it.

More interesting still are the Tres movimientos sinfónicos, in which Piazzolla's characteristic style is fully present in outline but is submerged under various strata of twentieth century orchestral style. Tango rhythms are tentatively presented at times, and it often seems as though they're straining to get out. The Presto marcato finale sounds something like Shostakovich might have sounded if he had grown up in Argentina, playing a bandoneon. The work is startlingly accomplished and makes you wonder what might have happened if Piazzolla had pursued this line of musical thinking. The small Santa Barbara Symphony under conductor Gisèle Ben-Dor, which has been working to encourage interest in tango music among classical audiences, deserves congratulations on this informative release and encouragement to make further recordings in the same vein.

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