Piazzolla: Buenos Aires – Carrefour, Per Arne Glorvigen (NorthWest Classics NWC 205275) (Stereo-only SACD)
Audio system: Sony ES, Placette, Rogue, Meadowlark, Cardas
Northwest Classics is based in the Netherlands . At present, they have very limited international distribution and availability. Titles can be ordered directly from their website. The service is quick and professional.
Admittedly, I have very little experience upon which to base a judgement of this music or performance. These pieces by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) are orchestrated for marimba quartet (including a variety of non-pitched percussion) and the most "Tango" of instruments, the bandoneon (sounds similar to an accordian). The project of orchestrating Piazzolla's music is explained by Carrefour: "Sonority and melody are Carrefour's primary concerns, and therefore as a marimba ensemble we experience music making more intimately connected to the piano or the human voice than only to percussion instruments. For us every possible rhythmic impulse comprises myriad opportunities to play with the subtle and complex colors encapsulated in a single vibration… These ideas perfectly served the music while at the same time shedding new light on these timeless pieces." As someone who until this recording never gave Tango a second thought, I can say that the results are very engaging. Pieces such as " Buenos Aires hor cero," " Soledad ," and "Anxiety (from 5 Tango Sensations)" are intricate and exciting music that move far beyond the newcomer's obvious expectations of "dance music." The sheer range of sounds, the fluidity with which they are integrated, and the particular sonic characteristics of the marimbas make for a distinctive and memorable performance. One interesting thing to note is that this is the first recording a new musical instrument, the "Grubbophone," which is described as having a "sound color between that of a marimba and a double bass, but with a much lower range."
Sonic curiosity was the reason I ordered this SACD, and I was not disappointed. The "Producer's note" got me excited right away: "…The pieces recorded on this SACD have a wide dynamic range from the whispering and barely audible to the loud and brash." Initial caution is advised when setting the playback volume. Basically, the sonics on this SACD qualify it as a true audiophile reference recording. If you are auditioning audio gear, it is one of three or four SACDs you should have with you. The dynamics are absolutely stunning. They are not big swells of sound like one gets with orchestral music, but rather the kind of exhilarating transient dynamics that I would guess are only possible with expertly recorded pitched percussion. The background is absolutely black. In fact, it is actually spooky. Despite the fact that the mechanical sounds of the bandoneon are retained for authenticity (the bandoneon is featured on about half the tracks), the overall sound has an almost eerie quality of emerging out of, and receding back into, nothingness. That said, the recording achieves a very good sense of depth in the few places where the music is given a context of extra-musical sounds, such as the lead-in to " Buenos Aires hora cero." The different sounds blend and integrate in ways that enhance the musical collaboration, and yet retain their distinctive sonic and spatial characters.
Recommended for Tango fans and general music lovers; highly recommended for curious audiophiles.
© Lyle Crawford