Astor Piazzolla: in Portrait
LABELS: BBC Opus Arte
WORKS: Tango Maestro (extended version), a film by Mike Dibb
PERFORMER: Astor Piazzolla, Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo Ma, Joanna MacGregor
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0905 D
If you know only the music, you will be in for a shock from this absorbing compendium. The shock is twofold: that the vigorous, striking figure seen playing bandoneon in his final recorded studio concert should shortly be felled by a stroke, and that the creator of that searching, emotionally generous – all right, sometimes contrived and depressing – music left a legacy of intense personal exasperation. Such it ever was, perhaps, with driven artists. Over half the programme goes to Mike Dibb’s film Tango Maestro.
Talking heads include colleagues, family and acquaintances, plus some star-struck younger musicians (among them Yo-Yo Ma and Joanna MacGregor). Daniel Barenboim talks about studying at the same time with Piazzolla with Nadia Boulanger; drummer Leon Jacobson tells at length how shaking the great man’s hand gave him goose pimples, and very briefly about Piazzolla’s rare, and peculiar, use of percussion. There is an extra 50 minutes of interviews left out of the film. All this you’ll probably want to watch once, whereas the 1989 concert Tango Nuevo, in a remastered version, contains six performances of undying power and beauty, notable for superb cello counterpoints. It too includes interviews with Piazzolla, some of them repeated in Tango Maestro. Robert Maycock