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January/February 1997

Gidon Kremer
Hommage a Piazzolla
Nonesuch Records

Maybe it's an expected fate, but nuevo tango titan Astor Piazzolla's reputation has never been so strong, it seems, as it has in the years since his death in 1992. Assorted live and studio recordings of the Argentine bandoneon player's own music have been released, as well as recordings by those paying homage to his passionate artistry. Now comes another reverent homage to Piazzolla, courtesy of violin virtuoso Gidon Kremer. Hommage a Piazzolla (Nonesuch 79407; 71:54) is a compelling recording of
Piazzolla pieces, mostly in small group settings for violin, bandoneon (Perne Arne Glorvigen, doing an admirable job filling big shoes), guitar, bass and piano.

It's a strong ensemble affair, but clearly the protagonist is the bold Kremer, who imbues Piazzolla's music with proper degrees of intellect and a heaving heart. Musicians in the classical field who dare to cross over to other realms of expression can face skepticism on the part of observers, not to mention real challenges of idiomatic purity. The eclectic-minded Kremer seems to have no such translation problems here: in fact, he makes a persuasive case for Piazzolla's claim to "serious" music respectability, from the ground up. That's especially true of the album's closer, "Le Grand Tango," arranged by the acclaimed Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina for violin and piano (Vadim Sakharov). In the growing ranks of Piazzolla tribute projects, this is a must-to-own item.

Originally published in January/February 1997
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