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Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, October 2010

Astor Piazzolla was unique. As Max Miller used to say, “there’ll never be another!” How true this is. Piazzolla was a man alone, possessed, a real trail-blazer. He was also a thoroughly nice chap. I had the great, good, fortune to meet him during his British debut, at the Almeida Festival in June 1985. That year the festival featured Tango and as well as Piazzolla and his New Tango Quintet, Yvar Mikhashoff introduced his International Tango Collection, which consisted of 48 virtuoso piano miniatures. I was there, paging turning for Yvar, and indeed, am the only person alive who was present at that meeting of minds, when Yvar played Conlon Nancarrow’s Tango, a work which to many would have borne no resemblance to the tango whatsoever. Astor listened carefully, and at the end threw his arms in the air exclaiming, “but it eeez tango!” He knew when a composer had broken the bounds of tradition and created something new. And Piazzolla should have known about turning a form on its head and re-inventing it for that is what he did with the tango, in the process inventing what is now known as New Tango.

Piazzolla’s musical pedigree is impressive. He studied with Alberto Ginastera, then in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, and it was she who recognised where his future lay, “She kept asking: ‘You say that you are not pianist. What instrument do you play, then?’ And I didn’t want to tell her that I was a bandoneon player, because I thought, ‘Then she will throw me from the fourth floor.’ Finally, I confessed and she asked me to play some bars of a tango of my own. She suddenly opened her eyes, took my hand and told me: ‘You idiot, that’s Piazzolla!’ And I took all the music I composed, ten years of my life, and sent it to hell in two seconds.” (from Ástor Piazzolla, ‘A Memoir’).

So, not for the first time, Nadia Boulanger sent into the world a major musical figure whose work, like that of Copland before him and so many afterwards, would enrich and delight us. Considering that he toured with a variety of ensembles it’s a wonder that he had the time to create a repertoire for them. Create he did, there’s an astonishing amount of music and much of it has been arranged for various combinations, from solo piano, as here, to string orchestra, soloist with orchestra and so on. If you’ve ever heard Piazzolla and one of his many ensembles playing his music then you’ll never want to hear this music any other way, for they are the very best expositions of the works, played by the people for whom they were created with the master in charge.

These versions for solo piano are very pleasing...this is a good introduction to Piazzolla’s music and with such good sound, and at the price, it’s a bargain! Afterwards, go out and discover the recordings of Astor and his New Tango groups.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2010

Appropriate that the roots of Astor Piazzolla’s symphonic works are also issued this month, but this time in piano arrangements of his most famous tangos. There is the much played Milonga del ángel, Balada para un loco, Adiós Nonino and Resurreción del ángel, together with Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons in Buenos Aries) that here sounds totally different to the version reviewed above in Desyatnikov’s arrangement. Indeed as we progress through the disc, the Argentinean-born pianist, Aquiles Delle-Vigne, stresses the quiet and laid-back nature of much that Piazzolla composed. He equally reminds us that the tango has sensually slow movements, and far removed from the all-action dance we see on the commercial stage. There is here a feel of improvisation, almost as a jazz pianist doodling on a favourite melody. I say that in praise, for pianists in bars and bordellos would have played while couples smooched their way through this sexual dance. His Milonga del ángel is played with a smooth finesse, yet when needed, as in Adiós Nonino, there is plenty of impact, First released in Belgium on the CNR label in 1993, I cannot recall a widespread distribution. Now living in that country, Delle-Vigne was taught by the great virtuoso, Gyorgy Cziffra, though he was a disciple of Claudio Arrau, and it is that latter influence you feel right through the disc. The piano, as recorded, does take us in that direction of the dance hall, but the sound is clean and perfectly delineated.

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