Astor Piazzolla: Complete Recordings with Gidon Kremer
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Never the last tango in Buenos Aries

Violinist Gidon Kremer has released an 8-CD set of tango music composer Astor Piazzolla’s complete recordings (Nonesuch). Most of the titles recorded in the 90s in the years after the legendary composer’s death. The musical range and musicianship of this collection is remarkable and credit to Nonesuch for the recording quality, packaging and definitive recordings, beautifully recorded, befitting the composer and the musicians.

People think of tango, the dance, as pretty much one thing, until they experience the genuine article and realize that it is an ever evolving genre. The same with the music and this collection is a penetrating musical journey of discovery of tango music in its many evocations. In fact, the music of tango tells lover stories, without pause, but Piazzolla’s presents a panoramic landscape and musical language. The musical range and musicianship of this collection is remarkable and one is lured to compulsive listening. Intoxicating would be an apt description, but inadequate.

Even the familiar cabaret tango on Tango Ballet, for instance, has such breadth, the opening numbers Kremer’s violin seems possessed and the vibrancy conjures those couples in lethally lurching across the dance floor. But by the time the Concerto Del Angel starts with the bandoneon noir, sultry piano and the sweated violin, this blooms into an intense chamber orchestral. The disc that is titled Homage to Piazzolla contains some of the composer’s most famous music including his masterpiece Oblivion.

Perhaps the most stunning disc in this collection is the “Astor Quartet/Live at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio” Kremer, and his ensemble – Per Arne Glorvigen, bandoneon; Vadim Sakharov, piano and Alois Posch, double bass – in a live set recorded in Toronto in 1997 and broadcast on CBC Radio. Kremer opens with the Tango Etude and the 14 tracks are a soundtrack tour of Buenos Aires, the birthplace of tango – with such narratives as the “carnavale” atmosphere of Concert d’aujourd’hui, followed by the supple waltz-tango Vardarito to Sakharov’s basso key intro for Jeannie y Paul unspools as a steamy orchestral ballade – just a mention a few tracks.

Maria de Buenos Aires, a “tango operita” has the ingredients of a classic opera, but as Kremer notes is essentially a “new genre.” Maria, sung with tragic intimacy by Julia Zenko, tells of a haunted love, and a cast of mythical local characters. The libretto, by Horatio Ferrer, who also singspeaks the darkly role of El Duende, which contrasts his choral segments sung by the fiery choir, Coral Lirico.

El Tango also from 1997 is the gold standard featuring Kremer, Glorvingen, Posch and sublime guitar accompaniment by Odair and Sergio Assad. The title tune is also the name of a poem by Jorge Luis Borges and is sung-whispered by the great basso nova star Getano Veloso. Vocalist Milva’s two songs Preludio para el ano 3001 and Che Tango Che are salon songs sung with indelible operatic passion by Milva.

Tracing Astor goes to the Piazzolla compositional DNA in such visceral pieces as Chilquilin de Bachin with violins circling like free dance moves and the sotto voce narration of Ferrer. Both Piazzolla and Kremer are masters of the musical fait-accompli and this recording is a prime exemplar of that. On “Violoncelles, vibres!” is a cinematic musical drama of string dialogues with Kremer’s chamber ensemble Kremerata Baltica and cellists Marta Sudraba and Sol Gabetta.

One of the most unexpected disc is Eight Seasons a musical expansion of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Kremer’s interpretation not back off tour de force playing, then Piazzolla providing the extra season in Buenos Aires movements. A riveting movement comes after Vivaldi’s breathtaking “Summer” Presto and Piazzolla’s “Autumn” builds tango-baroque variants, the contrasting atmospheres are completely synergized. Kremer speaks of these two ‘genius’ composers in a time traveling musical dialogue, and the results are not abstract at all, more like undiscovered country.

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