In many ways, Astor Piazzolla has become the Vivaldi of our time. His music—largely composed in binary-form: ABA—is more popular than ever, causing all manner of arrangements of the original charts (most often for his quintet, cross-reference below) for full orchestra, string ensemble, piano trios as well as flute and guitar. His melodic skills are so strong that virtually any instrument that can carry a tune is able to not only to communicate the idea but also add a distinctive hue to the art. The rhythms are so infectious that audiences and performers alike are always finding new ways to hear and share his remarkable compositions.
This disc by the Cavatina Duo captures the very essence of the famed Argentinean’s craft. Eugenia Moliner breathes silvery life and light into every phrase whether roulade-rich declamations (the opening “Libertango” is superb) or deeply expressive (“Adiós Nonino” after a courageous beginning, the music goes right to the heart, beautifully demonstrating Piazzolla’s love for his father in a way that words never can). Guitarist Denis Azabagic draws an incredibly-varied spectrum of colours from his instrument: the harp-like first measures of “Oblivion” are a marvel of delicacy and control; eschewing strings for wood gives the third Tango-Etude percussive zest; the conversational tone of the fifth from that set provides an opportunity to share the melodic wealth.
The most extended work is Piazzolla’s masterpiece: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. Having savoured the original a few years back (with a film version of a live performance at the Montréal Jazz Festival in 1984) and just a few months ago hearing Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg soar through an arrangement for string orchestra in Toronto, it was like meeting an old friend wearing a new outfit with Sérgio Assad’s deft arrangement for the duo.
“Verano” (summer) was effectively balanced and had the only pitch blemish of the disc (the microphone placement was almost too close for comfort, allowing every breath and pad slap to further punctuate the music). A highlight of “Otoño” (autumn) was Azabagic’s solo turn that perfectly-ushered back the flute with the same gentleness of falling leaves on a calm day. Both performers excelled in the rhapsodic expansiveness of “Invierno” (winter) where all manner of techniques from flutter tongue to harmonics reconfirmed this season as the central figure of the group. What fun to hear Moliner morph her gleaming instrument into percussive mode as “Primavera” (where the composer’s admiration of French composers such as Debussy and Ibert informed parts of the score) brought the music and the disc to a most satisfying close. JWR