The worldwide growth of interest in Astor Piazzolla's music may have slowed somewhat, but part of the appeal of his works lies in their protean adaptability to almost any instrumental combination, and performances by new groups continue to appear. This one, by the Netherlands' Isabelle van Keulen Ensemble playing a variety of Piazzolla favorites, seems straightforward enough, but actually no one has released one quite like it. Van Keulen's group is a quartet, with violin (van Keulen herself), bandoneón, piano, and double bass. This is smaller than any of the groups that would have played this music originally, and the effect is fascinating. The double keyboards capture virtually all of the harmonic-motivic content of Piazzolla's compositions, but the added improvisatory elements on electric guitar (in his famous quintet formations), jazz saxophone or flute, drums, and other instruments are missing. The result is a sort of distillation of Piazzolla's compositions, more "classical" in its effect even than Gidon Kremer's best-selling Piazzolla recordings, which have a good dose of fantasy overlaid on the music. The selection includes a good number of the best-known Piazzolla compositions; the most famous of all, Adiós Nonino, is not included, but that one has been recorded in plenty of other places. For newcomers to Piazzolla the best place to start is still probably with his own recordings, but this intriguingly dispassionate version will be of interest to those looking for ways to present Piazzolla in classical concert settings.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim