“Piazzolla & Passion” – Eckart Runge, cello/Jacques Ammon, piano – [TrackList below] Ars Musici AM 1244-2, 58.3 min. [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The Piazzolla Project – Concerto for Piano Quintet; Seasons in Buenos Aires for Piano Trio; Fuga y Misterio for Piano Quintet; Suite del Angel for String Quartet – Artemis Quartet/Jacques Ammon, piano – Virgin Classics  5 099926 729206, 59:52 [Distr. by EMI] ****:

Eckart Runge is the cellist in the Artemis Quartet and pianist Ammon is involved in both of these CDs, so that makes them an appropriate pairing.  Only half of the ten selections on the cello/piano disc are by Piazzolla but all four works on the second album are by the creator of the New Tango. Cellist Runge describes in the second CD’s notes how he was bowled over when first hearing the music of Piazzolla in the mid-80s, finding it combined the incredibly beautiful with the terribly sad.  He sees tango as a bridge between two worlds, and even traveled from Europe to Buenos Aires to get more into the music and to study with Piazzolla. He found Piazzolla one of the most exceptional musician/composers of the century because he had the courage to find a personal blend between the traditional and the modern, creating a new aesthetic form.

Runge feels the sound of the cello has an affinity to the human voice, and finds it interesting that Chaplin – whose work also combines sadness and joie de vivre – also played the cello. Pianist Ammon was born in Santiago de Chile and is one of the top pianists in his home country. The other five selections on the first CD tie in well with the Piazzolla theme. In his Piece en Forme de Habanera Maurice Ravel used a dance which became the Milonga – a precursor of the tango. The famous aria from Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 illustrates Piazzolla’s own fascination with J.S. Bach and employing elements of his works in his own. The work by Alberto Ginastera appears because Piazzolla studied with that composer.  The major work on this CD is The Grand Tango by Piazzolla, which he actually wrote for cello and piano – one of his few works of “classical” music. Its episodic structure shows the varying moods and vitality of tango – sometimes languorous and at other times violently passionate – especially the fiery closing with a great upward glissando.

The opening work on the second CD was written by Piazzolla for his celebrated Quinteto Nuevo Tango ensemble (bandoneon, violin, doublebass, guitar, piano) in classical form. The cycle of the seasons is perhaps his best-known set of pieces. It was a sort of tribute to Vivaldi and of course pays homage to his native city Buenos Aires. The city’s port district, La Boca, was the birthplace of tango. The literal translation of Otono Poreno, then, is an allusion to “Autumn in Buenos Aires, the city of the tango.” One of the composer’s best-known works is his Milonga del Angel, a movement of his Suite del Angel. Piazzolla used the symbolic figure of the angel as a bringer of hope and faith in tune with the original idea of the tango as an expression of longing. The angel was a mystical symbol of hard times, and  – with some of the negative response to his trying to change the traditional tango – came to symbolize the composer’s artistic legacy. Runge and Ammon collaborated in the arrangements of all the music, and are successful in that one doesn’t really miss the bandoneon, doublebass or guitar.

TrackList for “Piazzolla & Passion”: 
PIAZZOLLA: Fuga 9; Milong en Re; Le Grand Tango, Oblivion; Adios Nonino; RAVEL: Piece en Forme de Habanera; VILLA-LOBOS: Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5; FALLA: Ritual Fire Dance; GINASTERA: Puena No. 2 Homage to Paul Sacher Op. 45 for cello solo; GRANADOS: Danza Espanola “Andaluza”

 – John Sunier