Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Piazzolla grab-bag, but beautifully played

From October 29, 2010:


The Nashville Symphony Orchestra really showed their stuff in Latin American repertoire with their highly-regarded Naxos recording of the complete Bachianas Brasileiras of Villa-Lobos in 2000 (conducted by the late Kenneth Schermerhorn). This new Naxos disc brings this strong tradition to the most important orchestral works of Astor Piazzolla, under the direction of Nashville's dynamic Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero.

The Sinfonia Buenos Aires was written under the influence of Piazzolla's teacher Alberto Ginastera. Though this rather episodic work doesn't share Ginastera's formal mastery, it's a sprawling, colourful symphonic work (or rather, three symphonic movements). The Concerto for Bandoneon is, I think, more successful. It may, in fact, be Piazzolla's best orchestral work, partly because it's scored for strings and percussion only.

The final work on the disc is Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires), in a version for violin and orchestra made by Leonid Desyatnikov after Piazzolla's death. Though I'm not a complete musical purist - I love Charlie Parker's sessions with strings, for example - I'm not a fan of this particular pastiche. Piazzolla's nuevo tango style is itself a melding of traditional tango, Baroque, and jazz styles, so it's natural to experiment with new orchestrations. But I much prefer this music in a bandoneon-led small group. That said this version is very well played indeed, with Tianwa Yang providing some hair-raising turns on her violin.

Thomas May's thoughtful liner notes include a wealth of pertinent information about Piazzolla's life and music. This is just one of the areas in which Naxos excels. The label has raised the art and business of classical music to a very high level, especially considering the state of today's musical commerce.

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