Biber • Piazzolla
Biber: The Mystery Sonatas Nos 1-3, 9, 10 and 14; Piazzolla: Fuga y Misterio; La Muerte del Angel; Oblivion; Histoire du Tango, etc.
Julia Schröder (violin); Lautten Compagney/Wolfgang Katschner
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88985344082 68:05 mins
It takes two to tango they say. But who’d have laid money on those two being Heinrich Biber and Astor Piazzolla! Music festivals in the German-speaking world have a penchant for encouraging ‘conversations’ between the unlikeliest of bedfellows, so it’s no surprise that the intriguing face-off presented on this album, titled Misterio, first saw the light of day during Boswil Summer Festival. For violinist Julia Schröder, however, the conversation was up close and personal since it was through tango she regained her love of the Baroque after a crisis of musical identity.
A generous pinch of salt will help some of the booklet notes’ more contentious claims slip down, but if the pairing puzzles, it’s worth remembering that Piazzolla not only studied with Ginastera but was a pupil of that arch advocate for the neglected Baroque: Nadia Boulanger. And the ultimate proof of Misterio’s decidedly rich pudding is in the eating – or listening.
Even the opening continuo note recalls the exuberant opulence of Christina Pluhar’s group L’Arpeggiata, and Biber is treated to a well-upholstered, fiery virtuosity that draws on the experience of improvising around Piazzolla; Schröder and Lautten Compagney lay on quite a party for the last Sonata’s meditation on the Assumption of Mary into Heaven – and Piazzolla is invited. As for the tangos, ‘Oblivión’ coils itself around the ear like a languorous snake, and the bandoneon-replacing harpsichord adds a neo-classical bite to Piazzolla’s snappy counterpoint, though sometimes the re-imagining is a touch calculating and squeaky-clean. Purists (in both camps) will huff and puff, but there’s an intoxicating jeux d’esprit that more than carries the day.