Piazzolla: Tango Suite; Café 1930; Milonga del ángel

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COMPOSERS: Piazzolla
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Tango Suite; Café 1930; Milonga del ángel
PERFORMER: Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Sergio & Odair Assad (guitar), Kathryn Stott (piano), Nestor Marconi, Astor Piazzolla (bandoneón), etc
CATALOGUE NO: SK 63122
Astor Piazzolla (1921-92) may not feature much in standard reference books, but he used the tango, most potent and suggestive of Latin American dance forms, as the basis for music of remarkable expressive range, harmonic daring and rhythmic invention, which was always informed by his own classical training in Europe.

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Yo-Yo Ma’s homage follows on from discs by Barenboim and Kremer which have raised Piazzolla’s profile immeasurably, but though Ma works with several of Piazzolla’s regular sidesmen, the playing seems ersatz, recreating the sound-world faithfully, but lacking the acerbic snap that Piazzolla gave all his performances.

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As the Milan Sur discs demonstrate exhilaratingly, under Piazzolla’s command the music took off; his phrasing and shading of those sinuous melodies and the almost telepathic flexibility of rhythm and tempo among the members of his band give each piece a wonderful ambiguity. Three of the releases catch Piazzolla’s quintet in its various incarnations: his music was always evolving, always trying to squeeze something more from the genre. That is demonstrated most graphically by the performances on ‘Concierto de nácar’, when he appeared in Buenos Aires’s main classical concert hall with a group of instrumentalists as well as a full orchestra; the music transcends the bounds of its genre, and its relationship to the European mainstream, to Bartók and Stravinsky especially, becomes clear.