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BARTOK: Divertimento; Romanian Folk Dances; PIAZZOLLA: Les Cuatro Estaciones Portenas – Konzerthaus Ch. Orch. Berlin/ Sayako Kusaka – CuGate Classics

An interesting combination of composers on one disc.

BARTOK: Divertimento for Strings; Romanian Folk Dances; PIAZZOLLA: Les Cuatro Estaciones Portenas  (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) – Konzerthaus Ch. Orch. Berlin/ Sayako Kusaka – CuGate Classics multichannel SACD CGCO12-2 (3/4/16) ****:

The main selection here for me was the string orchestra arrangement of the Romanian Folk Dances, which is usually heard in the version for violin and piano.  These seven short selections are full of wonderful Romanian melodies and rhythms and are a joy to hear in these arrangements.

The Divertimento was written just before WW II and the music is symphonic in character, with three movements, as though Bartok was aware of the global disaster to come. Its last movement has some melodies and tunes that seem to have come from the Romanian Folk Dances.  

Piazzolla himself said the tango has much in common with contemporary classical music and that one can find reminiscences of Bartok and other composers in it, so this pairing is perfect. After his change of direction following the session with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, Piazzolla found his expression in the “Tango Nueva” which combined classical European music with Argentinian folklore and hints of jazz. His four portraits of Buenos Aires were composed an individual character pieces for his own quintet of tango players. The four pieces, in the style of Vivaldi’s model, are musical snapshots which capture the Argentine capital at different times of the year.

The sounds of the string orchestra are beautifully captured in the hi-res surround layer of this SACD.

—John Sunier

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