A UNIQUE COMPOSER: ASTOR PIAZZOLLA; Death of the Angel
The MHS Review 406, VOL. 12, NO.10• 1988
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Lovers of the guitar and the sensual music of Spain will be happy to see that the Society is taking a trip to the land of the tango and castanet on this new recording of guitar music.
Astor Piazzolla is a modern Argentinian master of music that combines a folk sensibility with the rigors of classicism. He captures the flavor of traditional Spanish music by taking recognizable forms (particularly a favorite dance style, the tango) and introducing harmonies and rhythmic manipulations that show his indebtedness to 20th-century classical, jazz, and popular idioms--indeed all of the elements that make up the best of contemporary music. Piazzolla has composed for quintet, octet, and chamber orchestra in the classical vein, and has also written compositions for folk instruments including the popular bandoneon, a Latin American accordion recently featured in the smash Broadway show Tango Argentino. Piazzolla has even written an opera, in addition to scoring many popular films.
On this recording the focus is on the guitar, perhaps the most popular instrument in the Spanish idiom. The player is Jorge Oraison, born in 1946 in Montevideo, Uruguay. A recognized master of the instrument, Oraison began his studies with Jose Tomas. In 1971, he won the Silver Medal in the 13th Concours International de la Guitare in Paris. Soon thereafter he made a permanent home in the Netherlands, where he took the position of professor of guitar at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Today he is a well-known figure on the European concert scene, performing the works of many contemporary composers.
This recording is divided into two parts. One presents a series of individual compositions originally written for other instruments that have been arranged for the guitar by Oraison. These include La muerta del angel (The death of the angel), the title selection. This tango reflects in miniature much of Piazzolla' s uniqueness as a composer. While drawing on traditional sources, from its title with its mysterious religious connotataions to its sinuous melody, the piece also features unusual harmonies and breaks in the rhythm that would be unheard of in the strict traditional tango.
The other part presents Piazzolla' s first suite actually composed for guitar, the Cinco piezas para guitarra, dating from 1980. The opening "Campero" is based on a traditional Spanish dance form, the rnilonga, a flowing, light dance. The second, third, and fifth movements are all inspired by the traditional tango. The fourth, the melodic ''Trist6n, '' draws on Spanish folk sources but is not specifically aligned with a single dance form.