Anyone who thought the tango boom was a fad has been disabused of that notion by the growing number and variety of tango-related recordings. The music of Astor Piazzolla, the Argentine explorer of the meeting point between tango and classical music, has been performed by groups closely modeled on Piazzolla's own and arranged for conventional classical orchestras and small ensembles. Performers have delved into the tango's international fame (it's a little-known fact that many polka albums in the old Eastern style contain a tango or two), and composers have written new music taking off from where Piazzolla left off at his death in 1989. But Magnetique Tango is a unique project. Its liner notes are in German only, but the back cover tells you what you need to know: these are original tango compositions by pianist Peter Ludwig. They are for cello and piano, and Ludwig is joined by cellist Anja Lechner, his partner in a concert duo called Tango Mortale.
Other contemporary tango composers have expanded Piazzolla's tonal language, but Ludwig does something different: he keeps for the most part to the diatonic framework of the popular tango but expands the textural and expressive range of the music. His 12 tangos are diverse in mood and structure, and they manage the difficult task of breaking up the instrumental texture while still keeping to the fixed rhythm that is the essence of the tango. Although there's nothing here on the fusion-ingenuity order of Piazzolla's tango fugues, these tangos develop over time; they are chamber compositions built on a tango basis. They end in various ways, the minimalist Fatique, track 12, peters out fascinatingly.
Tango enthusiasts should check this out; it's something genuinely new. It doesn't really have the characteristic Buenos Aires zero-hour tango mood, so those browsing for tango albums might look to Piazzolla's own recordings before investigating this. But the continuing expansion of the tango sphere in concert music is becoming a noteworthy phenomenon in itself, and this disc makes a significant contribution.