The Soul Of Tango - Bakalov, Piazzolla / Ben-dor, Et Al

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PIAZZOLLA Buenos Aires. Oblivion. BACALOV Triple Concerto; 1 Theme from Il Postino Giséle Ben-Dor, cond; Santa Barbara SO; Juanjo Mosalini (bandoneón); Luis Bacalov (pn 1 ); Virginia Tola (sop 1 ) DELOS DE 3345 (58:20 )

This CD appears under the soubriquet The Soul of Tango . Its main plus is the world premiere recording of Astor Piazzolla’s Buenos Aires (at any rate, it is advertised as the premiere recording). Subtitled “Three Symphonic Movements,” this was among the first of Piazzolla’s serious works—for want of a better term. Composed in 1953, it had a number of performances, one under Igor Markevitch, and the piece subsequently won a major competition. That success spurred Piazzolla to relocate to Paris in order to study with Nadia Boulanger, aiming to become a strict modern composer. The revered French mentor told Piazzolla to stick to his tango-based music, but as we can hear in this performance, his orchestral skill and radical re-imagining of the tango in a broader context were already in place before he received Madame’s sensible advice.

Formally the work is straightforward, consisting of an opening Moderato, a lyrical slow movement, and a frenzied, rhythmic finale. The orchestration contains two bandoneóns (Piazzolla’s own instrument). While that distinctive timbre dominates, and the instrument even has solo passages in the second and third movements, it is mainly used as an important strand in the texture. Buenos Aires is more sinfonietta than concerto.

The other major work on this disc is the Triple Concerto by Luis Bacalov (b. 1933), an Argentine-born composer now living in Italy, best known for his film scores and a choral work, Misa Tango, that Domingo and Myung-Whun Chung recorded for DG. As well as substantial cadenzas for bandoneón and piano (the latter played here winningly by the composer), Bacalov’s concerto incorporates two settings of his own poetry, depicting impressions of “beloved” Buenos Aires. The composer is skilled at creating atmosphere and knows his way around an orchestra with the best of them, yet the 30-minute concerto has too many disparate elements to allow it to come together as a whole. The subtly rhythmic opening promises much, but is brought to a halt almost straight away by a free piano cadenza. Similarly, the soprano’s arioso postlude to the final movement seems tacked on. While every episode in this piece contains at least one attractive idea, one needs to think of it overall in terms of a tapestry rather than a classically structured concerto.

The bonus tracks are both haunting: Juanjo Mosalini’s sad sound is equally idiomatic in this arrangement of Piazzolla’s tango Oblivion , and in Bacalov’s European-tinged theme from Il Postino . (The composer won the Academy Award for that movie score in 1996.)

Performances and recording are first-rate. This is Ben-Dor’s territory, and she knows exactly when to move things along and when to languish. Recommended, primarily for Piazzolla’s breakthrough opus.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: DE 3345

  • UPC: 013491334523

  • Label: Delos

  • Composer: Astor Piazzolla, Luis Enriquez Bacalov

  • Conductor: Gisèle Ben-Dor

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Santa Barbara Symphony

  • Performer: Juan Jose Mosalini, Luis Enriquez Bacalov, Virginia Tola