Well it is and it isn't. Driving ostinatos suggest a latterday concerto grosso, a Stravinskian neo-classicism - urbane, anonymous. But the bandoneon breaks in on the scene and it's as if the heart of the immigrant were being tugged homeward. Dissonances in the strings suggest alienation, and longing. It's a lonely town (aren't they all?); and we are so very far from home. This is the sexiest desolation in music. The slow movement is to Argentina what Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez is to Spain. But there are surprises aplenty, extraordinary colours, haunting, menacing colours (from just strings, piano, harp, percussion); even the ethnicity of the bandoneon is made to feel strange and out-of-kilter. But always, underpinning it all, is this driving determination. Destiny. It's there again in Tres movimientos tanguisticos portenos, but this time without the bandoneon.
You'll hear many indulgences (isn't the opening a dead ringer for Milhaud's Creation du Monde?) but no conformity. The swarthy Latino character makes melodrama of even the most popularistic elements. But that's the nature of the tango, and in Piazzolla it's all-pervasive. You can lose yourself in the slow movement - a long day's journey into some urban twilight. But then a climax of itchy percussion and overripe horns lights up the city skyline. It's Friday, it must be Buenos Aires. ES
A CD full of Argentinian tangos played with this kind of verve and style could have been a pure (or rather, impure) delight. But that isn't what we get; instead Pons and his ensemble present a tango-inspired Concerto, "the musical expression of the solitude of the individual at the heart of urban society".
Fair enough, one shouldn't blame the composer for such preposterous market- speak, but Piazzolla's Concerto for bandoneon evidently aims fairly high, which only makes its failure all the more dispiriting. It starts promisingly enough: pulsating, energetic rhythms, bright colours - the kind of throbbing dance background against which something vital and sexy could take off. But it never happens. Less than halfway through the first movement I was longing for a really good Latin tune - or even Hernando's Hideaway. It never comes, and the absence of anything approaching decent lyricism finally grows desperate in the slow movement, with its mechanical chord-sequences and bare scraps of cliched ornamentation a la Nyman. Is this the promised vision of urban alienation? I can't help feeling that a true Argentinian might at least have had a decent sing about it.
Emptiness continues to hold sway through the Tres movimientos tanguisticos portenos; and then suddenly comes relief in the form of five atmospheric, unpretentious and mercifully tuneful tangos, played for all they are worth by Mainetti, with moody introductions by pianist Lluis Vidal. At last, colourful, sensuous images dance in front of the mind's eye. As I said, if only it had all been like this. SJReuse content