Piazzolla Works for Accordion and Orchestra
For most listeners familiar with Astor Piazzolla’s music, its sound world centres around the accordion, using the term in its widest sense of a family of squeezeboxes including the bandoneón, which was the composer’s preferred instrument. Accordionists can be thankful to James Crabb for his sympathetic arrangements of five of the shorter items here (all receiving their first recordings) and non-specialists can take considerable delight in the sheer exuberance of his performances – as in Tanguedia, for instance.
Crabb faces stiff opposition from Mika Väyrynen in the two largest works here, the set Tres Tangos and the marvellous Aconcagua concerto, named from Argentina’s highest peak, as well as in the ubiquitous Oblivion. The Finn’s account, accompanied by Atso Almila (no mean composer himself, incidentally), of Tres Tangos deeply impressed me and still does overall, but there is no denying the seductiveness of Crabb and Tognetti’s version. Listen to the opening of the Allegro moderato First: where Väyrynen and Almila are straight-forward (and none the worse for that) the Australian pair sidle in as if from a nightclub, beautifully supported by the Chandos recording. Crabb lingers overlong in the central Moderato but his finale is fleet and vital. In Aconcagua, I still prefer Väyrynen’s interpretation, but the Chandos sound is superior. The monumental coda, to a typical Piazzollan rhythm, is electrifying.
A word is needed here about the Australian Chamber Orchestra and pianist Ben Martin, whose contributions, far from just mere accompaniments, are a major factor in this programme’s success.