The music of Argentine tango-fusion pioneer Astor Piazzolla has been arranged for various kinds of conventional classical ensembles since it exploded in popularity in the late '80s, but solo piano versions have been comparatively rare. The music seems to depend on contrasts between timbres, with rhythmic, melodic, and polyphonic lines underscored by different instruments. Yet part of the revelation of Piazzolla's greatness has come as his music has shown itself able to stand up to all kinds of treatments. This piano recording, apparently issued during the early phases of the Piazzolla boom, offers a curious take on his music, beginning with the bizarre and almost incomprehensible booklet notes. "Above all Piazzolla is a creator and not a commercial product; what he adds as aesthetic worth to the tango is immense," they begin, and the reader is told, without a word of elaboration, that Milonga del Angel "is undoubtedly Piazzolla's most inspired page." As with some but certainly not all classical interpretations of Piazzolla's music, the tango-rhythm element is diminished here. With just a piano, something has to give. Argentine pianist Aquiles Delle-Vigne sets out to perform a set of famous Piazzolla pieces (the Cuatro estaciones porteñas or Four Buenos Aires Seasons and other classical-type cycles) "as if they were written by Bach or Bartók," a wish expressed by Piazzolla himself, although a performance like this one does not represent exactly what he was talking about. The tango rhythms become abstract, and Piazzolla's dissonant harmonies and neo-Classic schooling come to the fore. Delle-Vigne is not an unsympathetic interpreter of Piazzolla, and in a somewhat chaconne-like piece such as Resurrección del Angel, track 6, he brings out details that even longtime Piazzolla fans may have missed. He respects the basically serious mood of Piazzolla's music. But in many pieces the listener will miss the bandoneón or one of its usual classical stand-ins -- clarinet or violin. The melancholy lyricism of Piazzolla, the Buenos Aires-at-midnight gloom, is missing from these performances, intriguing as they may at some points be.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim