Top Ear

Dutoit’s Tangazo

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Jeremy Lee writes

This is an album featuring some of Astor Piazzolla’s most delightful works:  the ubiquitous Adiós Nonino and Oblivion, as well as Milonga del ángel, Danza criolla, Tangazo, and Tres movimientos tanguísticos porteños.  A Double Concerto for bandoneon and guitar is also included, a beautiful and very catchy work (the final Tango reminds me of La Muerte del Angel) that endures repeated listening.  The soloists, Daniel Binelli on bandoneon and Eduardo Isaac on guitar, play with considerable virtuosity and flair, and it almost goes without saying that they encapsulate Piazzolla’s idiom in the most authentic, idiomatic manner possible.  Decca’s sound is very lush and clear, with plenty of presence.

I do, however, have a small caveat:  Dutoit and his Montreal orchestra.  The lyrical episodes are played unbelievably prettily by the rich Montreal strings, and this makes the melancholy melody of Adiós Nonino all the more poignant and the whole Oblivion gorgeous (the solo oboist plays ravishingly).  But in the faster episodes, there is some kind of mushiness in the texture that detracts from the biting rhythm Piazzolla really needs.  I suspect that this is less the fault of Dutoit and his orchestra than the orchestral medium itself.  The problem with a full-sized symphony orchestra in playing this kind of music is that, with the multitude of instruments used to create a rich, cushiony sound texture, the accoutrements of an authentic Tango Nuevo style — intimacy between instruments, tightly-knit and interweaving counterpoint, sharp and precise attacks, highly flexible tone color and strong rhythmic verve — is inevitably compromised.  And it’s not only Piazzolla — in fact, this limitation can be quite clearly heard in works as diverse as the orchestral arrangement (with saxophone soloist) of Milhaud’s Scaramouche (goodness the Brasiliera sounds clumsy!) and Gershwin’s Cuban Overture.  Dutoit is obviously enjoying himself, and the orchestra tries to play as sassily as possible, but the innate limitations of the symphony orchestra in creating a veritable Piazzollan aura may leave listeners wanting.

Even if I have reservations for half this disc, the other half is pure enjoyment, and for me that’s already worth the price of the whole disc (alright, I confess, I bought it second-hand).  But please at least spend a few moments (on Spotify, maybe) listening to the lyrical music (Adios, Oblivion), which is simply touching.  And do yourself a favor by listening to that Tango from the Double Concerto.  It rocks.


  • Album name:  Piazzolla:  Tangazo
  • Performers:  Daniel Binelli (Bandoneon);  Eduardo Isaac (Guitar);  Charles Dutoit (conductor);  Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
  • Label:  Decca 468 528-2
  • Sonics:  Stereo DDD
  • Total playing time:  75:47

Author: Top Ear

Musical hooligans.

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