The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Hugo Diaz
Master of Bandoneon
Tango Argentino, Baroque Classics

CD Image

total time: 41:07
Released in 1993
Review number and date: No. 41, March 1997

label: ARC Music (EUCD 1151)
PO Box 111
East Grinstead
West Sussex RH19 2YF
Great Britain

Eiffestr. 422
2000 Hamburg 26

PO Box 11288
Oakland CA 94611

  • Nelson/Mora: Margerita Gauthier
  • Cobian: Mi Refugio
  • Dames/Manci: Fuimos
  • de Caro: Loca Bottemia
  • Piazzolla: Adios Nonino
  • Arolas: La Cachila
  • Bineli: Paris desde aqui
  • Frescobaldi: Aria de Baletto
  • J.S. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in CM
  • Cobian/Cadicamo: La Casita de mis Viejos
  • Marconi: Encuentros

Review by Henry Doktorski:

Bandoneonist Hugo Diaz was born in 1947 in Montevideo, Uruguay and studied Tango and classical bandoneon with professor Charlos Belozo and Maestro Marino Rivero. He has played regularly for Uruguayian Television and has concertized in Latin America and Europe with his tango group—Trio Hugo Diaz.

As explained in the CD booklet notes, the bandoneon is an instrument which is extremely difficult to play. Most instruments are single-action, that is one pitch is sounded on the press and another on the draw. In addition, there is no logical order to the arrangement of the sounds during opening or closing on the button-board. (If one wants to master the instrument, one must learn two completely different systems.) Finally, the long snake-like bellows are difficult to control.

Due to these difficulties, most bandoneonists (including the celebrated Astor Piazzolla) play for the most part only while opening the bellows; they use a large air button to quickly shut the bellows between phrases, so they can then start the next phrase while opening the bellows again.

However, not so with Hugo Diaz; he is considered a master of the difficult art of playing bandoneon while both opening and closing the bellows. Currently there are only a few bandoneonists in the world who are accomplished in this, such as Alejandro Barletta (the father of the classical bandoneon) and his pupil Rene Marino Rivero.

This recording of solo bandoneon contains an interesting mix of Baroque classics and tango classics. In my opinion, Diaz really shines in the tango pieces; his performances are exciting, sensitive and interesting. In my opinion, his tango arrangements are art-music in the highest sense; his performances are like chamber music: wonderful duets between the right and left hands.

On the other hand, the two Baroque pieces were uneven. Granted, Diaz performed the monumental eight-and-one-half minute Frescobaldi Aria skillfully and brought out the contrapuntal voices nicely, yet I was uninspired by his performance. The Bach Prelude and Fugue was the weakest piece on the album; at times his right hand and left hand were out of sync with each other. Despite Diaz's abilities and reputation, he needs to go back to the woodshed to hone his technique if he wants to play Bach successfully. Any self-respecting organist would not dare to include a performance like that on a CD for the world to hear; he would be laughed at.

Despite this drawback, the tango pieces are beautiful and I recommend this album for all lovers of tango art-music. The CD booklet notes are well-written and are printed in German and English.

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