Despite his long history with ECM Records, Argentinian composer and bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi has never released a live recording until now. These four new compositions are separate but equal parts of a larger work; in essence, the concerto that is El Encuentro. They were recorded with the Metropole Orchestra under the direction of conductor Jules Buckley for NPS Radio in the Netherlands. The soloists are Saluzzi, his brother Felix on saxophone, and cellist Anja Lechner. El Encuentro ("The Meeting") is a series of musical short stories that ultimately become an entire narrative. The opening work, "Vals de los Dias," is a waltz that, in the beginning, lets its colors get shaped by strings bowed and plucked, overlapping in a dark, harmonic swirl before Saluzzi enters to play just the skeletal melody with traces of a folk song before they take over again; only this time, they evoke the composer's notion of tango. Lechner makes a brief appearance before the entire string section begins a melancholy series of recollections of the aforementioned melody, and Saluzzi returns in earnest. The composition eventually moves through progressions and regressions until it reaches a dramatic climax. "Plegaria Andina" borrows a theme from an earlier Saluzzi album, Andina, from 1988. Here it is bandoneon and saxophone that introduce the piece, with Lechner entering just behind them, creating a mournful, restrained interplay that lays the foundation for a much more elegiac backdrop when the orchestra joins them about halfway through. Together they plumb a depth that frames the narrative that the remainder of the work rests upon. It is simple, yet poetic and deeply moving. "El Encuentro," the title composition, is filled with numerous textures, nuances, and timbres. It is abstract and declamatory with a beautiful middle section where Saluzzi solos in counterpoint with himself. The work concludes with "Miserere," where fragmentary melodies of folk songs and Argentinian popular song are touched upon with reverence and a proper sense of nostalgia. But this the notion of absence is ever present in Saluzzi's playing in the piece. The orchestra, by contrast, moves from pastoral meditations to sweeping washes of romantic innocence to sorrowful, near-droning abstraction as Saluzzi and orchestra come toward one another in a dialogue that is filled with loss and memory, tenderness and resignation, that ultimately becomes a broken, fragmented, but finally joined-together whole.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek