“Diablo Verde” = FALLA: Suite populaire Espagnole; PIAZZOLLA: Jeanne y Paul; El Pnenultimo; Milonga sin Palabras; Milonga en Re; GASPAR CASSADÓ: Requiebros; Danse du Diable vert – Duo AcCello – Pilfink Records JJVCD 9.70150 [Distr. by Albany], 61:36 ***1/2:
“Tango and Snow” [TrackList follows] – Folias Flute and Guitar Duo (Carmen Maret – flute, alto flute, and piccolo/ Andrew Bergeron – guitar) – Blue Griffin [Distr. by Albany], 47:00 ***½:
I have to say that on paper at least, the combination of accordion and cello sounds slightly unsavory. So I’m happy to report that as recorded on this Pilfink Records disc from Finland, the Duo AcCello (Pasi Hirvonen, accordion, and Erkki Hirvikangas, cello) sounds altogether natural and righteous. Duo AcCello got together in 2001, debuting in a concert that included Sofia Gubaidulina and Astor Piazzola, a pairing that makes sense since Gubaidulina often writes for the bayan, just as Piazzola wrote for another variant of the accordion, his own instrument, the bandonéon. Since that first concert, Duo AcCello has been branching out into “music ranging from Baroque to the modern.” Maybe I’m just a fuddy-duddy, but I’m glad the pair didn’t include any Baroque music here; I can’t see a Telemann duet or Handel sonata groaned and droned by accordion and cello. On the other hand, most of the music on the current disc has been heard in a variety of arrangements, including, in the case of Piazzola and Cassadó, arrangements that feature the accordion, so there’s nothing outlandish here.
Though I’d prefer hearing the very popular Falla work in its more usual incarnations for cello and piano (or vocalist and piano, if the sung texts are to be rendered), I’m surprised at how well most of these pieces sound on accordion and cello, especially the exciting final Jota. I’ll return to this performance whenever I want to hear something different, which it decidedly is. Even more telling, Astor Piazzola, to whom I’m usually lukewarm at best since tangos don’t do all that much for me, sounds very attractive in these arrangements, which take us back to the dancehall; I think I mostly object to Piazzola when he takes the tango to the concert hall, making it, for me, a musical oxymoron.
I haven’t heard much original music by the great Spanish cellist Gaspar Cassadó, who wrote mainly for his own instrument, so it’s high time I got to hear some. Again, even the Requiebros, originally for cello and piano, sounds surprisingly right on accordion and cello, while the wildly capering Danse du Diable vert sounds like Cassadó must have had this pairing in mind all the time. Thus Duo AcCello surprised me—pleasantly, as it turns out. Mostly, the two play with real spirit and aplomb, although Hirvikangas sounds taxed in Cassadó’s cello writing in the highest register. But overall, if you like Latin music and are a bit adventurous, this is the album for you.
My reaction to Tango and Snow convinces me even more that I’m not so averse to the tango as I am to the tango done up in black tie and tails. I’m much happier with tangos done by modest performing forces, tangos that remember their dancehall roots. These tango-inspired pieces for flute, alto flute, or piccolo and guitar are piquant, virtuosic, with lots of flutter-tonguing, double-tonguing, and quick melodic switchbacks for the flute, drumming and strumming for the guitar. They make for attractive, engaging listening, even if you’re more taken with the lively rhythms and bravura playing than by the melodies, of which there are often mere snippets, more in the nature of riffs on the tango. Such a number is the first, “Tango Destroyer,” and last, “Whiplash Rides.” Some of the slower numbers, however, spin out longer, more memorable melodies over a changing accompaniment much as Piazzola often does in his work. Of these pieces, “Adequate Condition Blues” is memorable for melding tango and blues. The title piece, “Tango and Snow,” also blends the usual driving ostinatos and syncopations with a cooler vibe, to interesting effect.
According to flutist Carmen Maret, this piece is close to Piazzzola’s own style “with its fast-slow-fast form, cadenzas, and chromatic bass line in the slow section.” “The Lemon Smugglers” is a milonga, the syncopated dance that was forerunner to the tango and of which Piazzola wrote a number (such as the two specimens that Duo AcCello plays on their disc).
Andrew Bergeron’s suite “Through the Rain,” made up of five short pieces, covers a varied sonic landscape, from the “Sound of Rain,” which is almost all musical sound effects, through the swooping “Downpour and Release,” to the mesmeric “After the Rain.” There’s really a lot to like here for enthusiasts of tango, blues, and jazz. Performances are suave and full of energy, the sound recording especially fine—only the rather short playing time is a mark against this disc.
Carmen Maret: Tango Destrroyer
Maret: Adequate Conditions Blues
Andrew Bergeron/Carmen Maret: Algonquin Vals
Bergeron: Tango and Snow
Bergeron: Full Long Nights Moon
Bergeron: Through the Rain
Maret: Pajaro Rojo Santo
Maret: The Lemon Smugglers
Maret: Cumparsita Cats
Maret: Whiplash Rides
In celebration of 150 Years, Vaughan Williams!