Giancarlo Guerrero

Piazzolla: Sinfonia Buenos Aires; Bandoneón Concerto; La Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas

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Most presentations of Astor Piazzolla's music by classical ensembles rely mostly on arrangements, but this release by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra comes up with an unusual program relying mostly on orchestral music by Piazzolla himself, and it hangs together nicely. The first two works on the program come respectively from near the beginning and near the end of Piazzolla's career, the two periods from which most of his works in the classical concert tradition arose. The little-heard Sinfonía Buenos Aires, Op. 15, from 1951, has a contemporary idiom reflecting Piazzolla's studies with Alberto Ginastera, but what's most notable is the prominent bandoneón part and the hint of tango flavoring throughout. The slow movement in particular sounds as though it lies partway down an imaginary road connecting French romanticism to tango, and one can almost hear the famous event of a few years later when Nadia Boulanger heard Piazzolla play a scrap of tango and told him it was the music that was most truly his. The Concerto for bandoneón, string orchestra, and percussion of 1979, dubbed "Aconcagua" by a publisher after the name of South America's highest mountain, is a more common item but still deserves wider exposure; more than any other Piazzolla work it explores the relationship between the tango and other African-derived rhythms in its colorful percussion part. The work is given a thoroughly idiomatic performance by Argentine bandoneón player Daniel Binelli. The sole arranged work is the set of Cuatro estaciónes porteñas (The Buenos Aires Four Seasons) in the rather whimsical version for violin and string orchestra by Leonid Desyatnikov. This arrangement, which incorporates quotations from Vivaldi's Four Seasons concertos, sort of breaks the mood, but it's hard to resist the ebullient performance by young Chinese violinist Tianwa Yang, whose comfort level with Western-hemispheric idioms is impressive. Taken as a whole the program is both fresh and fun, and it speaks well for young Venezuelan-American conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and his efforts to put classical music back on the map of Music City, U.S.A. The sound, recorded at the orchestra's Schermerhorn Symphony Center, is solid.

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