Piazzolla: Michelangelo ’70; Milonga for Three; Butcher’s Death; Marejadilla; Tango apasionado; La Camorra II; Milonga del Angel; Fugo 9; Verano del ’79; Coral

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Piazzolla
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Michelangelo ’70; Milonga for Three; Butcher’s Death; Marejadilla; Tango apasionado; La Camorra II; Milonga del Angel; Fugo 9; Verano del ’79; Coral
PERFORMER: G-String
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6423-2
Daniel Barenboim was born in Argentina and spent the first nine years of his life there. The musical flavour of that childhood, it seems, has never been forgotten. This collection of tangos, then, which was recorded with bandoneón player Rodolfo Mederos and bassist Héctor Console in Buenos Aires in October last year, is first and foremost an exercise in pure nostalgia for Barenboim, who has not been heard on disc in such relaxed form as a pianist for a long time. Arrangements of two songs by Carlos Gardel, one of Barenboim’s early idols, are included – the achingly sentimental El día que e quieras, already recorded by both Domingo and Carreras, and the same composer’s Mi Buenos Aires querido.

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It is not a problem to categorise those as popular songs, pure and simple, but in the rest of the world explored here the dividing line between art music and popular song is frequently blurred. There is no doubt, for instance, that Astor Piazzolla’s reinvention of the tango, the way in which he expanded its rhythmic vocabulary, is fascinating to follow in the seven numbers of his here, whereas a short piano piece by the ‘serious’ composer Alberto Ginastera just oozes sugary sentiment. In the end, though, precisely what this music is doesn’t matter: it is consistently delightful, full of subtle variety , and in these performances winningly well played.

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It is all certainly much more fun than G-String’s ten string-quartet arrangements of Piazzolla pieces, which mean well but end up conveying a desiccated impression of the composer’s imagination. The arrangements, by the quartet’s cellist Mike Rutledge, are deft and idiomatic, but in comparison with Piazzolla’s usual sound world, and especially the sweet-sour tang of his beloved bandoneón, the sound of the strings seems hopelessly prosaic and strait-laced.