Saluzzi

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COMPOSERS: Saluzzi
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Kultrum: music for bandoneon and string quartet
PERFORMER: Dino Saluzzi (bandoneon); Rosamunde Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 457 854-2
Kultrum is destined to confound expectations. What began as an album of solo bandoneon music by the Argentinian Dino Saluzzi has evolved into a collaboration with the Munich-based Rosamunde Quartet. It is a fitting partnership, almost a homecoming: the bandoneon, invented in Krefeld in 1846, soon became the instrument of emigration, the voice for the songs of longing all over the New World. In Argentina the music of the German settlers began to fuse with that of the Spanish and Indian tribes, a synthesis that led to the Tango Nuevo of Piazzolla and rises to new levels of sophistication in the music of Saluzzi, with Piazzolla’s passing, now its greatest exponent.

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This is no ethnic wallpaper or classy improvisation. The density of texture and invention is immediately arresting. Snatches of German Romanticism blend into traditional gestures: the presence of the tango is deeply felt but mostly subsumed into sinuous narrative and the anguished harmonies of turn-of-the-century Vienna. The exposition of the opening work, Cruz del Sur has a rigorously classical development, melting into Borodin-like lyricism. Salon de tango turns and turns the dance around, while El apriete is built from hesitant exchanges of grinding dissonance. Throughout, the string players, all exceptionally fine, the cello outstanding, produce a timbral bloom which cloaks the bandoneon’s metallic keening in softness. Not that Saluzzi has just one sound, but an array of colours, from orchestral powered to an almost broken fragility. His genius presides, with the dignity, discipline and the very spirit of the dance. This may be neither fish nor fowl, but a rare and beautiful animal. Helen Wallace