Friday, July 08, 2011

Piazzolla for Violin, Brass, and Percussion -- Steely Passion

Piazzolla: Tangos for Violin, Brass & Percussion
Quintetto di Ottoni e Percussion Della Toscana
Andrea Tacchi, violin

Astor Piazzolla was an amazingly prolific composer who technically only wrote one type of music – the tango. I say technically, because this student of Ginastera and Nadia Boulanger took the form farther than anyone else before or since, developing it into a pliable frame for his complex musical ideas.

This new recording from Naxos features some of Piazzolla’s better-known works, arranged for brass quintet, percussion, and (for some pieces) violin. Reimagining Piazolla’s compositions with this decidedly classical contemporary mix of instruments offers new insights into the music.

I wouldn’t recommend this disc as someone’s introduction to Piazzolla’s music, but for those already familiar with his output, it should be a welcome addition to their collection.

The disc features “Las 4 Estaciones Portenas,” Piazzolla’s take on Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” The solo violin serves up most of the Vivaldi quotes, while the brass ensemble primarily play Piazzolla’s additions. The contrasting timbres make this well-known work sound fresh.

Also included are Piazzolla’s most popular work, “Oblivion” and the three tangos he wrote for Amelita Boltar.

The Quintetto di Ottoni e Percussion della Toscana plays with tightly-wound precision. Percussionist Roberto Bichi nicely balances his performance between a popular music style (suitable for the tango’s origins), and a controlled, yet expressive playing of a classically-trained musician.

I’ve heard some Piazzolla recordings that make pleasant background music. This isn’t one of them. The brass bring an immediacy to the music that cannot be ignored.  And that’s a good thing. Piazzolla imbued his compositions with the passion and fire that was always part of the tango. This recording brings a new perspective to the music while remaining true to that vision.

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