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CD Review: Tango Nuevo, Music of Astor Piazzolla
Sylvie Proulx, guitar with Robert Aitken, flute and Joseph Petric, accordion


Verano Porteño (transcription, S. Proulx, based upon arrangement by A. Canteros)

Histoire du Tango - Suite for Flute and Guitar
Concert d'aujourd'hui

Invierno Porteño (transcription, S. Proulx, based upon arrangement by A. Canteros)
Tango #3 (Brouwer/Piazzolla)
Adios Nonino (arr. A. Carlevaro)

Double Concerto for Guitar and Bandoneon

total time: 55:35
released: 1996

label: Zorro Productions CD1192
For information contact:
Classical Canada Concert Management
Attn: Ruth Taylor
23 Kenway Road,
Toronto, Ontario M8Z 4W7
Phone: 416-239-1747
Fax: 416-237-0973

Review by Gregory A. Vozar:

Music is the most marvelous and flexible of languages. Without doubt it is one of the central facets of the human gem, for there is virtually no culture on earth that does not express itself in a medium that can be reckoned as musical. Of course, not all these diverse means of expression are equally sophisticated; this should not be too great a surprise because music does not always serve the same purpose within each ethnic group. In most societies, the music that is generally described as "classical" is for the most part ceremonial. It fulfills a socio-religious niche within the culture and remains fairly static, changing only when the formal or ritualistic requirements change.

By contrast, the concert-music tradition of Western Europe has spread far beyond its cultural crèche and undergone constant transformation over time. It has served many masters: the sacred, the patrician and the plebeian, yet has never been ritualized into any single shape or form. Its very genius is its malleability and seeming lack of inertia. Indeed, it keeps pace with the growing organism of human culture. Today, concert music has become so diverse that if defies any single definition of style, manner or technique. The Twentieth Century has invited composers to experiment and stretch the envelope of creativity into ever-broader forms.

Tango Nuevo is a good example of this process. The late Argentinean composer and bandoneonist, Astor Piazzolla, was its creator. He wove a number of musical strands into a unique plait: the traditional dance rhythms and instruments of his culture's tango argentino, a touch of the avant-garde and the improvisational freedom and pulse of American Jazz. Since his time, a few other composers have adopted Piazzolla's child with good results, but he was the one who gave tango nuevo its primary voice. In more recent years, his music has achieved greater international recognition, wider acceptance and been championed by a number of fine musicians, one of the most recent being the 'cellist, Yo-yo Ma.

The CD Tango Nuevo: Music of Astor Piazzolla is primarily the work of Canadian guitarist Sylvie Proulx. She brings a cool elegance to his music, as well as a surprising degree of maturity and loving conviction to her art. Her soloist companions on the album, flautist Robert Aitken and accordionist Joseph Petric, do creditable justice to the music as well.

One of the first things I noticed about this album is its apparent Canadian accent. This was my reason for opening this review with comments about the flexibility of the musical tongue. I have spent some time listening to Piazzolla and other Argentine musicians play Piazzolla, and there is a peculiar Latin passion to their playing that I might be tempted to say is lacking here. Only, Ms. Proulx's playing hardly wants for passion! There is quality of strength in her readings of these Piazzolla works that sets them apart; it is simply a different kind of passion than I have heard when South American musicians play tango nuevo.

Perhaps I could best describe this as classical tango nuevo, for there is an almost Mozartean clarity to the ensemble textures and solo playing, an elegance of phrase and cleanness of execution in every piece. Yet never once does this CD suffer from stuffiness; rather there is a very northern kind of freshness and crispness to the interpretations-a printemps québècois for the ear!

The sound of the bandoneon is so central to this music (it was Piazzolla's instrument) that I do miss it in the Double Concerto for Guitar and Bandoneon. Joseph Petric does an admirable job of rendering the music on his accordion, but the accordion's tone color lacks the soulful qualities of the concertina-type instrument. Alas, since the 1970's the bandoneon has become an exceedingly rare bird, and players are today few and far between. Hopefully, with the increased focus on Piazzolla's works, others will take up this difficult instrument and explore its sonorities.

In summation, I like this Argentine music with a French-Canadian accent. At times looking at the familiar from a different angle will reveal details previously unseen, and so it has been for me here. Guitarist Sylvie Proulx has shed new light on what had become somewhat familiar and standard; I have experienced the music anew because of this. I hope that if she loves Piazzolla's music as much as I, she will not stop with this recording.

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