About this Recording
8.573315 - DI MARINO, R.: Bandoneon Concerto / PIAZZOLLA, A.: Oblivion / 5 Tango Sensations (Chiacchiaretta, Croatian Philharmonic, Vaupotić)

Roberto Di Marino (b. 1956): Concerto for Bandoneon and String Orchestra
Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992): Five Tango Sensations • Oblivion


The music on this disc is centred on the bandoneon—a type of concertina which is especially popular in Argentina and Uruguay. It forms an essential instrument in most tango ensembles from the traditional ‘orquesta típica’ of the 1910s onwards, as well as folk-music ensembles of Lithuania. The instrument was so named by the German instrument dealer Heinrich Band (1821–60) and was originally intended as an instrument for the religious and popular music of the day, in contrast to its predecessor, the German Konzertina. German sailors along with Italian seasonal workers and emigrants brought the instrument with them to Argentina in the late nineteenth century, where it was incorporated into the local music scene—above all the tango. The evolution of this instrument and its repertoire is evident from the works recorded here.

The Italian composer Roberto Di Marino was born in Trento on 10 March 1956. He received musical training at the Conservatory of Trento where he graduated in composition, choral music and choral conducting, as well as jazz and arrangement for wind-band. As a composer he has won several competitions, including first prize at the Concorso Nazionale di Composizione per banda ‘Diapason d’argento’ (The ‘Diapason d’argento’ National Composition Competition for Wind Band) held in Gonzaga in the province of Mantua. He teaches at the Conservatory of Verona and lives in Garniga Vecchia (Trentino-Alto Adige), where he spends most of his time composing and arranging music. The Concerto for Bandoneon and String Orchestra was first performed on 29 April 2013, at the Chiesa di San Giovanni in Lucca, with Cesare Chiacchiaretta as bandoneon soloist and the Orchestra Sinfonica Città di Grosseto conducted by Miran Vaupotić. This falls into the customary three movements. The first movement begins haltingly on strings, against which the soloist unfolds a moodily ambivalent theme typical of its genre. This soon takes on greater animation as the soloist and rhythmically syncopated strings engage in increasingly energetic dialogue, following which there is a cadenza that makes full use of the instrument’s capabilities. Soloist and strings then reunite for the lively closing pages. The second movement opens with a wistful theme for the strings, whose atmosphere is duly taken up by the soloist while the music evinces numerous harmonic subtleties. At length a plaintive culmination is reached, with the soloist then having a speculative transition into a resumption of the initial theme on the way to a resigned ending. The finale commences with a graceful theme on strings, over which the soloist has a livelier idea whose rhythmic pulsation galvanizes the music into greater activity. A more restrained theme provides for expressive contrast, but the livelier theme is rarely out of the picture and, after a cadenza with elements of both themes, steers the whole work on to its decisive close.

Ástor Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata on 11 March 1921 and died in Buenos Aires on 4 July 1992. He enjoyed a lengthy and increasingly high profile as a tango composer, as well as bandoneon player and arranger. His output transformed the traditional tango into a new style termed ‘nuevo tango’; one incorporating elements drawn from jazz and classical music. As a virtuoso bandoneon player he regularly performed his own compositions with a variety of ensembles, notably the Quinteto Nuevo Tango which he led from 1979 to 1991. Piazzolla’s prolific number of original compositions (some 750 in all) incorporate diverse influences, while retaining at their core an essential and unmistakable Argentinian identity. His output includes an opera, music for the theatre, film scores, concertos, chamber music and songs—as well as many instrumental pieces available in a variety of solo arrangements for piano, bandoneon and guitar. The two works on this recording demonstrate the expressive range and depth of his compositions in the tango idiom.

The history of the tango extends back to the nineteenth century, having strong associations with both the Andalusian tango and the Cuban habanera. It found a fertile home among the slums of Buenos Aires in the early twentieth century. Later, owing to the influence of tango masters such as Carlos Gardel, the dance became esteemed throughout the world though it was sometimes considered risqué or even immoral by the authorities. Piazzolla’s concept of the tango saw a progression beyond its initial dance form toward a more developed medium such as conveys subtle elements of pathos and passion, longing and sensibility. In 1982 he recorded the album Oblivion for the film Enrico IV, directed by Marco Bellocchio, and the title-track soon became established among his most popular and enduring tango creations. It opens hesitantly on lower strings, the soloist stealing in with a haunting melody that draws a greater emotional response from the strings as their dialogue unfolds in a restrained though inwardly intense manner before the piece finally concludes on a note of pensive uncertainty.

The Five Tango Sensations, once described by the composer as ‘a musical farewell to life’, were written after Piazzolla had experienced a serious illness. They were first performed by the composer and the Kronos String Quartet at Alice Tully Hall, New York on 25 November 1989. Although these five pieces can (and often have been) performed as individual items, they are best experienced as a continuous sequence in which the diverse emotions indicated by their movement titles take on greater impact heard within the wider context—so making for a cohesive entity that (not for the only time in Piazzolla) might be termed ‘symphonic’.

Asleep opens with questioning phrases from the soloist which duly receive a thoughtful response from lower strings. The music rises in a gradually accumulating wave of intensity, before falling back as the divided strings take over the main theme which rises in intensity before this leaves the soloist musing over ghostly tapped sounds and eerie tremolo strings. Loving centres on a measured theme for the soloist, with the lower strings maintaining a regular pizzicato motion while upper strings provide an atmospheric backdrop. A central section features the soloist over pizzicato strings, briefly taking on greater animation prior to the return of the initial theme. Anxiety then ups the greater emotional response with its charged dialogue between soloist and strings, the former latterly reduced to single pulsating chords while solo strings respond with aspects of the theme. This alternation continues in a subtly varied form through to a rapt exchange between soloist and cello then on to the teasingly quizzical close. Despertar starts with an elaborate unaccompanied passage for the soloist, the strings at length entering with impassioned phrases on violin which soon spread across the ensemble as a whole. The mood remains restless and uncertain, and the string writing notably plangent, until the music has reached its sombre ending. Fear then makes for an unexpectedly upbeat rounding-off with its vaunting theme for the soloist and lower strings, increasing all the while in impetus as they engage in often intricate interplay. At length the strings surge forth with the main theme in rhythmic unison, ensuring a decisive conclusion.

Richard Whitehouse

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