Born in Argentina in 1921, Ástor Piazzolla grew up in New York before eventually returning to his homeland in 1955. One of the finest composers to have emerged from South America, he is best remembered today for his development of the tango – a product of the working-class suburbs of Buenos Aires, and a dance whose rhythm Piazzolla combined with his classical training as well as American jazz influences to achieve a highly personal style.
Piazzolla’s output is dominated by chamber music, and in this fascinating 2CD collection we encounter some of his most famous works within the genre. Effectively tracing the Argentinian’s career, the compilation contains such early gems as Tres Piezas Breves, a late-1940s composition documenting his attempt as a serious composer, as well as the renowned Adiós Nonino of 1959 that was responsible for raising Piazzolla’s reputation both at home and abroad. A range of pieces from the 1970s and 1980s also feature, many of which detail instrumentation the composer hadn’t tackled before – Histoire du Tango, for example, matched the flute and guitar, and its four movements equate to a musical microcosm in tracing the evolution of the tango.
By the time Piazzolla came to write Five Tango Sensations (1989), he was attracting the attention of internationally renowned musicians. Composed for the progressive Kronos Quartet, the late work shows just how much his style had advanced through its liberal use of the once-favoured 3+3+2 rhythmic cells, complex harmonies and virtuosic display. Despite this shift, however, Piazzolla never lost sight of the sensual, despairing emotion of the tango – an emotion that is the essence of this wonderful assortment of works, inspiringly performed by the Interensemble Padova.