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A Piazzolla Trilogy (Karen Gomyo)

Karen Gomyo (violin), Stephanie Jones (guitar); Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
Gomyo Piazzolla

Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (arr. Desyatnikov)*; Tango Etudes Nos 3-5; Histoire du Tango
Karen Gomyo (violin), †Stephanie Jones (guitar); *Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire
BIS BIS-2385 (CD/SACD)   63:03 mins

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Considering the power and ubiquity of his sad, smoky, bandoneon-haunted tangos, Piazzolla has almost reached the status of a brand name, one as easily recognisable as McDonald’s. But a booklet photo of him seriously frowning usefully reminds us that Astor Piazzolla, from Argentina, was also an actual person, with a pertinent biography attached: deformed right leg, early years in New York, life transformation in 1937 following a tango broadcast on the radio.

Piazzolla’s flesh and blood presence becomes even more apparent when listening to these vivid performances of several key works originally written for tango quintet, flute and guitar, or solo flute. All of them come enlivened by the expressive art of violinist Karen Gomyo, who gives the melodic lines a tang and flourish hard to match with the original instrumentations. Leonid Desyatnikov’s orchestral expansion of Piazzolla’s equivalent to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is particularly beneficial, glinting with colourful details pounced on by the Loire orchestra, and filled out with extra Baroque quotations niftily pinched from the master.

Histoire du Tango, with Gomyo partnered by Stephanie Jones’s lively guitar, combines individual musical pleasures with a tour of tango music’s varied 20th-century phases, from innocent cheerfulness through romantic ache to the jazzy and angular hybrids of Piazzolla’s own maturity. Meanwhile, the album’s heartfelt peak is reached in the fourth of the Bach-tinged Tango Etudes. Altogether a fiery, soulful and excellently recorded programme.

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Geoff Brown