The explosion of interest in Argentine tango-classical fusionist Astor Piazzolla hasn't lost any steam, and the variety of Piazzolla discs on the market is proliferating. Here is a posh European recording, complete with audiophile sound, of one of the composer's most ambitious works, the Double Concerto for guitar, bandoneón, and orchestra (Hommage à Liège), joined with two other guitar concertos by Argentine composers influenced by Piazzolla. The Double Concerto stands up to formal presentation; with its lengthy guitar introduction and spacious final-movement fugue, it is one of Piazzolla's most successful attempts to transfer his art to the large-scale form of the concert hall.
Even when he was dressed up in a tux, however, Piazzolla put the rhythms of the nightclub into his music, and those rhythms are what are missing from this performance. Guitarist Edoardo Catemario and especially bandoneón player Michael Zisman, the latter schooled in Argentina in the Piazzolla tradition, give fine, passionate performances with a lot of rhythmic snap. But the Orchestra Vincenzo Galilei under Nicola Paszkowski is less successful. The orchestra is integral to the work -- it fills in for the rest of the tango ensemble in a typical Piazzolla piece, rather than just framing the efforts of soloists -- and there's a lumbering quality in the tango rhythms that slows the music down. A major attraction of the album is the chance to hear some newer orchestral tango music from Argentina, and in the Conciertango Buenos Aires of Tirao the orchestra seems more at home -- that work consists of a sequence of Copland-like Argentine rhythmic vignettes rather than a tamed explosion of tango energy. With the Concerto Serenata (Omaggio a Astor Piazzolla) of Oliviero Lacagnina the problems return, mitigated somewhat by Catemario's sprightly execution of the work's beautiful guitar writing. The album is indeed sonically rich, and the program a worthwhile one. But the performance of the central work offers a fresh illustration of how tricky it is to transfer Piazzolla to a purely classical context.