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Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, May 2011

My last encounter with the music of Astor Piazzolla was memorable, albeit for the wrong reasons; hence the I approached this new release with caution. I need not have worried, for within minutes I just knew this was going to be something rather special. Even the Naxos sound, usually somewhat variable, combines warmth and weight; this is especially welcome in the gaudy colours and wild rhythms of Op. 15, just one of Piazzolla’s many homages to the Argentine capital.

Inevitably, the tango—more specifically, the nuevo tango—lies at the heart of this symphony, and I was astonished at the Nashville band’s idiomatic playing throughout. As for conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, he holds it all together with great skill, so that even the more febrile passages are thrilling without ever becoming incoherent. And if you haven’t heard Piazzolla before this is the perfect place to start; it’s fiery, propulsive and, despite its insistent rhythms, the work doesn’t outstay its welcome. Indeed, the half hour seems to pass in a matter of minutes, largely because Piazzolla is so adroit at reinventing what is essentially a simple rhythmic idea.

The bandoneón, a kind of concertina popular in Argentina and Uruguay, brings street music to the symphony; it also gets an outing in the bright and breezy Aconcagua, which takes its name from an Andean peak. It’s a much more transparent work—no brass or woodwind—the surge and swell of Daniel Binelli’s squeezebox adding a real sense of wistfulness to this lovely score. And despite the work’s sometimes Bartókian rigour the central Moderato—complete with rippling harp—is surprisingly gentle and irresistibly mellifluous. The recorded balance is entirely natural, the bandoneón—sounding remarkably expressive in Binelli’s hands—always easily heard. The work ends with a witty little Presto, its jazzy inflections superbly shaped.

This really is a most engaging collection, the freshness and spontaneity of Piazzolla’s writing matched by the committed, idiomatic playing of all concerned. The violinist Tianwa Yang certainly makes a good impression in Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires). This is a much more imaginative, rhythmically alert arrangement…The sweet, sentimental sounds of the bandoneón are most artfully echoed on the fiddle, Yang switching from Vivaldian formality to urban insouciance with disarming ease.

In his review, BBr noted this collection would ‘please all Piazzolla lovers, and bring many more into the fold’, sentiments I’m happy to endorse. Musically and technically there’s absolutely nothing to criticise; factor in detailed liner-notes and a super-budget price tag and this really is a no-brainer.



Brian Wilson - Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, February 2011

I can’t put it better than Bob Briggs: ‘The performances are very good, and idiomatic. Binelli is a fine player and has the spirit of Piazzolla in his playing, Tianwa Yang has exactly the right swing, and delivers a splendid performance of this very attractive music. The Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero play to the manner born. The recording is very good, as one expects from Naxos, and the notes, though short, are worthwhile. This is a very exciting issue and would grace any record shelf. It will please all Piazzolla lovers, and bring many more into the fold.’ – see full review. The download is very good and comes with the notes to which BBr refers.

Some time ago I recommended a South American recording of Piazzolla, but that’s hard to obtain in the UK; these North Americans play just as well



Andrew Mellor
Classic FM, February 2011

Disc of the Month

Life in Buenos Aires is rather more relaxed than in Venice, and there performances reflect it. Soloist Tianwa Yang gets things going with a delicious violin sound and liquidly elastic lyricism thereafter. At their best the Nashville strings sound like firmly packed cigars: hot, smokey and impeccably shaped.




Andrew Mellor
Classic FM, February 2011

Life in Buenos Aires is rather more relaxed than in Venice, and there performances reflect it. Soloist Tianwa Yang gets things going with a delicious violin sound and liquidly elastic lyricism thereafter. At their best the Nashville strings sound like firmly packed cigars: hot, smokey and impeccably shaped.




Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, November 2010

It was Nadia Boulanger who said that when writing tangos Piazzolla was really himself: “Here is the true Piazzolla, “she said, “do not ever leave him”. Certainly if you hear some of his early piano works, they are not as representative of the man as his later work, but what of the early Sinfonia Buenos Aires? Piazzolla wrote this piece following five years of study with Ginastera, and it subsequently won a competition which gave the composer a scholarship to study in France. The first performance was conducted by Fabien Sevitsky, a nephew of Koussevitzky, who also administered the competition. He approved of the vocal opponents to the piece - “this is all publicity” he told the young composer. A calamitous opening gives way to a tango of symphonic proportions. There’s a good working out of the material and the whole makes a very satisfactory symphonic movement. The slow movement is a hotbed of sexuality in music and the finale contains some very exciting music but just isn’t quite up to the standard of the preceding movements. That said, there’s some very exhilarating and elemental drumming and blazing brass writing. The orchestration is brilliant throughout - Piazzolla said that Ginastera made orchestration “one of my strong points”. It’s a remarkably robust and positive work, full of colour and rhythm, with memorable tunes and, for such a young composer, it is amazingly assured in its intent.

Aconcagua, written nearly thirty years later, is an even more confident work, displaying the hand of a true master composer. Like the Sinfonia, there’s a wealth of colour and energy, with, perhaps, a slight Stravinskian feel to some of the gestures, but the music is always true Piazzolla. This is a real virtuoso Concerto in three movements with an accompaniment which perfectly complements the needs of the soloist - the ability to sound over the orchestra and sing freely without being engulfed in a thick background texture. Incidentally, Aconcagua is the name of the highest Andean mountain.

Piazzolla’s works have been transcribed for many and various ensembles and combinations of instruments. I have often felt that Leonid Desyatnikov’s version of Las Cuatro Estanciones Porteñas (The Four seasons in Buenos Aires) for violin and string orchestra, which he created for Gidon Kremer, to be one of the best. This is a nicely fun-packed version for Desyatnikov includes moments from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Mindful of the fact that Vivaldi lived in the northern hemisphere and Piazzolla in the southern, in Piazzolla’s Winter there is a quote from Vivaldi’s Summer. I have no doubt whatsoever that Piazzolla would have loved this.

The performances are very good, and idiomatic. Binelli is a fine player and has the spirit of Piazzolla in his playing, Tianwa Yang has exactly the right swing, and delivers a splendid performance of this very attractive music. The Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero play to the manner born. The recording is very good, as one expects from Naxos, and the notes, though short, are worthwhile. This is a very exciting issue and would grace any record shelf. It will please all Piazzolla lovers, and bring many more into the fold.



Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, November 2010

Bargain of the Month

It was Nadia Boulanger who said that when writing tangos Piazzolla was really himself: “Here is the true Piazzolla, “she said, “do not ever leave him”. Certainly if you hear some of his early piano works, they are not as representative of the man as his later work, but what of the early Sinfonia Buenos Aires? Piazzolla wrote this piece following five years of study with Ginastera, and it subsequently won a competition which gave the composer a scholarship to study in France. The first performance was conducted by Fabien Sevitsky, a nephew of Koussevitzky, who also administered the competition. He approved of the vocal opponents to the piece - “this is all publicity” he told the young composer. A calamitous opening gives way to a tango of symphonic proportions. There’s a good working out of the material and the whole makes a very satisfactory symphonic movement. The slow movement is a hotbed of sexuality in music and the finale contains some very exciting music but just isn’t quite up to the standard of the preceding movements. That said, there’s some very exhilarating and elemental drumming and blazing brass writing. The orchestration is brilliant throughout - Piazzolla said that Ginastera made orchestration “one of my strong points”. It’s a remarkably robust and positive work, full of colour and rhythm, with memorable tunes and, for such a young composer, it is amazingly assured in its intent.

Aconcagua, written nearly thirty years later, is an even more confident work, displaying the hand of a true master composer. Like the Sinfonia, there’s a wealth of colour and energy, with, perhaps, a slight Stravinskian feel to some of the gestures, but the music is always true Piazzolla. This is a real virtuoso Concerto in three movements with an accompaniment which perfectly complements the needs of the soloist - the ability to sound over the orchestra and sing freely without being engulfed in a thick background texture. Incidentally, Aconcagua is the name of the highest Andean mountain.

Piazzolla’s works have been transcribed for many and various ensembles and combinations of instruments. I have often felt that Leonid Desyatnikov’s version of Las Cuatro Estanciones Porteñas (The Four seasons in Buenos Aires) for violin and string orchestra, which he created for Gidon Kremer, to be one of the best. This is a nicely fun-packed version for Desyatnikov includes moments from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Mindful of the fact that Vivaldi lived in the northern hemisphere and Piazzolla in the southern, in Piazzolla’s Winter there is a quote from Vivaldi’s Summer. I have no doubt whatsoever that Piazzolla would have loved this.

The performances are very good, and idiomatic. Binelli is a fine player and has the spirit of Piazzolla in his playing, Tianwa Yang has exactly the right swing, and delivers a splendid performance of this very attractive music. The Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero play to the manner born. The recording is very good, as one expects from Naxos, and the notes, though short, are worthwhile. This is a very exciting issue and would grace any record shelf. It will please all Piazzolla lovers, and bring many more into the fold.



Infodad.com, November 2010

PIAZZOLLA, A.: Sinfonía Buenos Aires / Aconcagua / 4 Seasons of Buenos Aires (Binelli, Tianwa Yang, Nashville Symphony, Guerrero) 8.572271
COATES, G.: String Quartet No. 9 / Solo Violin Sonata / Lyric Suite (Kreutzer Quartet, Chadwick) 8.559666

The inclusion of new music on the Baltimore Choral Arts Christmas recording opens up the possibility of handling musical gift-giving in a somewhat different way: by using CDs to expand the recipient’s auditory horizons, even if the discs are not overtly celebratory. Either the new Astor Piazzolla CD or the one featuring music of Gloria Coates could be an excellent choice along those lines—and thanks to Naxos’ usual budget pricing, neither represents a significant financial investment in case the gift proves less successful than the giver hopes. The Piazzolla includes a violin-and-strings arrangement of the composer’s best-known piece, Four Seasons of Buenos Aires—or, as it is properly called, Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas. Tianwa Yang, a very fine young violinist, does an excellent job with this work, bringing out its rhythmic qualities effectively. But it is the other pieces here that really make the CD unusual and a worthy gift, with Daniel Binelli doing an excellent job playing the bandoneón in both. From the symphonic use of the tango—which Piazzolla always handled so idiomatically and interestingly—to the dramatic virtuosity that pervades the Bandoneón Concerto, this is a CD filled with exotic sounds, interesting rhythms, intense emotion and tremendous verve. And yet the Coates CD would make an equally intriguing and colorful open-your-ears present. Coates is best known as a symphonist, but the sound palette of her ninth and most recent string quartet (2007) shows a masterful way with smaller forces as well. The very considerable technique required for the Sonata for Violin Solo (2000) makes for real ear stretching (complementing the finger stretching required of the performer), and the Lyric Suite (1996) is fascinatingly spooky, the music fitting very well with its movements’ subtitles from Emily Dickinson poems (the suite itself is called “Split the Lark—and you’ll find the Music”). Both the Coates CD and the Piazzolla recording offer gift-givers and recipients alike the chance to hear serious, interesting, unusual recent music (the earliest work on either CD dates to 1951), very well performed and recorded, and with considerably more staying power than even the best overtly seasonal recording is likely to possess.




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, November 2010

The works on this disc span much of Astor Piazzolla’s compositional career, from the Sinfonia Buenos Aires of 1951 to the Concerto of 1979. The latter has a title, “Aconcagua”, the highest peak in the Andes, but it was not given by the composer. All of this music is stunning, and it’s marvelously performed here. The best-known work, naturally, is an arrangement: Las Cuatro Estaciones, here in the version for string orchestra by Leonid Desyatnikov.

I have to confess that I prefer a more varied scoring in this music, but it would be very hard to beat this performance for clarity and beauty of texture. Tianwa Yang handles the solo violin part with aplomb, digging into the “dirty” sounds—the glissandos and other effects—with relish, but without ever coarsening her tone as so many others routinely do. There’s elegance here as well, and she finds it. The result is that the “Spring” fugato, for example, has amazing rhythmic definition but also a very welcome lightness and freshness.

The Bandoneón Concerto offers a perfect marriage of Piazzolla’s tango-saturated melos with large-scale form. It’s worth recalling that the composer spent several years studying with Alberto Ginastera, as well as Nadia Boulanger, and all of his music in whatever form betrays a very high level of compositional craft. Daniel Binelli plays the solo part extremely well, and he’s perfectly balanced against the larger ensemble. He also participates (to a lesser degree) in the Sinfonía Buenos Aires, in which the influence of Ginastera is very evident (and entirely welcome).

This early work is thrilling: a blend of Latin rhythm, soulful melody, explosive percussion, and now and then a touch of Stravinsky. The finale will blow you away, and there are some haunting timbres in the slow movement featuring the combination of bandoneón and woodwinds. The Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero plays all of this music with the necessary guts and also a welcome degree of polish. The players sound completely at home in the idiom, and Guerrero delivers bold, uninhibited interpretations across the board. This is just a great disc of colorful, distinctive orchestral music, and it belongs in every collection.



Cinemusical, October 2010

Astor Piazzolla’s music is the sort of exciting and engaging material that allows orchestras to incorporate 20th century music with a programmatic context perhaps less guiltily. The composer’s exploration of tango rhythms in the symphonic genre has yielded many fascinating works and we get three of his more familiar works performed here by the ever impressive Nashville Symphony and featuring one of the bandoneon’s most recorded classical performers, Daniel Binelli.

Piazzolla’s work was at times overshadowed by the more familiar Argentinean composer, Alberto Ginastera. Ginastera’s music is perhaps a distant influence in the Sinfonia Buenos Aires which opens the disc. The first movement is a loud and brashly dissonant piece with rhythms that suggest tango. There is a muscular assurance of orchestral color with much percussive writing and a slight role for the bandoneon. The instrument takes a more prominent role in the sinuous melodic material of the second movement. Again the textures are dense with fascinating wind touches and amazing incorporation of mallet percussion and semi-Impressionistic flourishes. Again the rhythmic ideas tend to find their roots in folk dance, but it is less overt here until it appears in a lush central section. The 1951 work is perhaps a fine example of a composer working towards a style that had been quite popular in the 1940s with American symphonic music, and is impressive because one is assured that Piazzolla’s decision to turn away from this style to embrace his own voice more. It was something already suggested by his then teacher Nadia Boulanger. Still, this is a powerful and exhilarating work.

The 1979 Concerto for Bandoneon and String Orchestra comes from one of the composer’s most fruitful periods. The three-movement work explodes in its opening bars with great energy that allows the soloist to cut through the ensemble. The slower sections are beautifully dreamy here and the alternation between major and minor tonalities is given its expressive best by Binelli. The rich string sound of the Nashville symphony provides a gorgeous backdrop to Binelli’s performance in the “Presto” third movement as well. The timings here are a bit longer than a couple of other releases of this work that are perhaps due to the slower sections, but these interpretations are tremendously engaging and well-shaped.

There has been growing popularity in Leonid Desyatnikov’s arrangement of Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas (or the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires). This work has begun to programmed as part of concerts with the Vivaldi concerti. It is Desyatnikov that has inserted some of the Vivaldi quotations to connect it to the earlier piece. Piazzolla’s work began as separate stand-alone pieces and slowly evolved into the four-movement work we hear in this release. It allows for an intriguing mixture of the Baroque and the Tango. The performance here by Tianwa Yang is appropriately fiery and manages to give the music its due with expressive playing and neat articulation.

Giancarlo Guerrero is entering his second season with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra after a fruitful tenure as Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra. If this disc is any example of the music making that has continued to blossom there since Kenneth Schermerhorn’s tenure we can continue to expect great things. This is a demonstration class release that essentially covers the same territory as a 2007 Chandos release at far lesser cost. But even with that recording in your collection, this Naxos disc will further convince you of the amazing communicability of these amazing works.



John Pitcher
Nashville Scene, October 2010

The posthumous reputation of Astor Piazzolla, the great Argentine composer who died in 1992, seems to increase with each passing year. His renown will no doubt grow more with the release of the Nashville Symphony’s latest recording.

The disc, recorded for the Naxos label last year at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and released last week, surveys the great Piazzolla’s remarkable career. It includes the “Sinfonía Buenos Aires,” a relatively youthful piece that receives an elegant and refined reading from the Nashville Symphony and its music director, Giancarlo Guerrero.

The CD also features a mature masterpiece, the Concerto for Bandoneón, String Orchestra and Percussion, “Aconcagua.” This amazing piece manages to refine the music of the Argentine street into high art without losing any of the street’s gritty sensuousness. Bandoneón player Daniel Binelli delivers a performance that is both breathtakingly virtuosic and unfailingly sensitive.

Piazzolla’s “Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas” (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) may have found inspiration in Vivaldi’s baroque violin concertos. But there’s nothing antiquarian about The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, which includes some of the sexiest tangos in the repertoire. Violinist Tianwa Yang and the Nashville Symphony give glistening performances.



James Manheim
Allmusic.com, October 2010

Most presentations of Astor Piazzolla’s music by classical ensembles rely mostly on arrangements, but this release by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra comes up with an unusual program relying mostly on orchestral music by Piazzolla himself, and it hangs together nicely. The first two works on the program come respectively from near the beginning and near the end of Piazzolla’s career, the two periods from which most of his works in the classical concert tradition arose. The little-heard Sinfonía Buenos Aires, Op. 15, from 1951, has a contemporary idiom reflecting Piazzolla’s studies with Alberto Ginastera, but what’s most notable is the prominent bandoneón part and the hint of tango flavoring throughout. The slow movement in particular sounds as though it lies partway down an imaginary road connecting French romanticism to tango, and one can almost hear the famous event of a few years later when Nadia Boulanger heard Piazzolla play a scrap of tango and told him it was the music that was most truly his. The Concerto for bandoneón, string orchestra, and percussion of 1979, dubbed "Aconcagua" by a publisher after the name of South America’s highest mountain, is a more common item but still deserves wider exposure; more than any other Piazzolla work it explores the relationship between the tango and other African-derived rhythms in its colorful percussion part. The work is given a thoroughly idiomatic performance by Argentine bandoneón player Daniel Binelli. The sole arranged work is the set of Cuatro estaciónes porteñas (The Buenos Aires Four Seasons) in the rather whimsical version for violin and string orchestra by Leonid Desyatnikov. This arrangement, which incorporates quotations from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos, sort of breaks the mood, but it’s hard to resist the ebullient performance by young Chinese violinist Tianwa Yang, whose comfort level with Western-hemispheric idioms is impressive. Taken as a whole the program is both fresh and fun, and it speaks well for young Venezuelan-American conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and his efforts to put classical music back on the map of Music City, U.S.A. The sound, recorded at the orchestra’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, is solid.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2010

There seems to be different commercially interests in Astor Piazzolla, one faction seeking to establish him as a ‘classical’ composer, the other taking him back to where his music originated. Everything he composed was based on his native South American dance, the tango, though at times it is difficult to recognise. At the age of 20 he studied privately with Alberto Ginastera, the Sinfonía Buenos Aires coming from the beginning of his ‘classical’ period. With the colourful use of the orchestra he composed a big hard-hitting three-movement score with much use of percussion in an exciting finale. Texturally the score is quite complex from a composer just coming to classical form. The Bandoneon Concerto is one of my favourite Piazzolla scores. Something akin to a piano accordion, the bandoneon was a German instrument that was imported into Argentina and became so linked with the tango you can almost smell the steamy atmosphere of the dance halls. Tuneful and foot-tapping, the piece should be your introduction to the serious side of Piazzolla. The version of Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) is a hybrid construction made by Leonid Desyatnikov. Spread over some years, it was Piazzolla’s response to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Desyatnikov later fashioning a virtuoso four-movement violin concerto by making a number of his own additions. The result is a high-voltage score with an abundance of catchy tunes. The twenty-two year old Tianwa Yang—whose Sarasate disc on Naxos I enthused about—is both spectacularly brilliant and so in tune with the catchy and jazzy rhythms. The Nashville Symphony, under their recently appointed conductor, Giancarlo Guerrero, confirm they are a premier league outfit, the sound coming from a UK top recording engineer, Tim Handley.






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