Piazzolla and Monteverdi. What?!
In [a recent review]Misterio — Baroque Review featuring the music of Astor Piazzolla, known composer of nuevo tango music, I had some reservation of the music being performed on baroque instruments. Its pairing with Biber, too, tested my taste. And after that, I didn’t see me purchasing another collaborative Piazzolla album coupled with another baroque composer. No, I hadn’t known at the time of this earlier, 2012 recording by Cappella Mediterranea. If the other coupling tested my taste, this one has changed it.
Piazzolla-Monteverdi. Una utopía argentina. Leonardo García Alarcón - Cappella Mediterranea - Editions Ambronay.
The opening is entitled a “Sinfonia” from L’Orfeo, Monteverdi’s opera of 1607. Note, not the opening Toccata, but the Sinfonia that appears in the opera before Chi Ne Consola, Ahi Lassi? Oddly enough, there’s an accordion there. In fact, it’s the first thing you hear. Then, the ensemble moves away from Monteverdi then takes up Bach! They take a short segment from his Ricercar à 6 from the Musical Offering BWV 1079 before their adoption of Dormo Ancora from Il tirorno d’Ulisse in patria. Hearing the bandeón in the Bach makes me shudder with pride. I feel as if I’m not in South America but rather in Paris. Yeah, with lute under that. It’s weird.
The ensemble meanders from the baroque to the modern baroque, such as what we get with Romance del Diablo when the baroque guitarist puts his instrument away and plays a jazz guitar. Violin, as we might expect for Piazzolla includes healthy vibrato.
By the time we arrive on track 5, put all the baroque nonsense behind. This is straight-up Piazzolla. Muerte del Ángel, full-on, and so well done. It’s a good track to talk about the acoustics and the sound quality. It’s close. This is no concert hall. Maybe a jazz club vibe, but we’re in the front row. I like it.
Full-on period baroque comes in with Vi ricordi, O boschi ambrosia from L’Orfeo (save for the bandeón which somehow, we’ve accepted, fits in).
My favorite two tracks are Monteverdi’s Lamento della ninfa featuring Mariana Flores and the following Piazzolla hit, Michelangelo 70. After listening to this album over and over for a week, I accept it. It fits. They’ve done it.
Some quirks nevertheless stand out. The volume of some of the tracks, especially with the male vocals, seems unbalanced (read: LOUD) compared to the rest of the album. I don’t care for the speaking that opens track 9, Balada para un Loco.
That’s it. This album is out there, but it’s a testament to all of us who like baroque music. With musicians such as these, they’re caring for the spirit of the music by both composers while at the same time fully creative members themselves in the music making and program. I have little doubt that classical music is in good hands. Aside from something by Christina Pluhar (I like Christina Pluhar), how many albums combine cornetto, guitar, and dance rhythms with a name like “Monteverdi” on the cover?
And it works. (Their performance of Michaelangelo 70 is superb.) This is quality music and an album you ought to experience.