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Gidon Kremer: Maria de Buenos Aires

In the years since his death in 1992, new tango king Astor Piazzolla’s reputation has soared, propelled by the momentum of reissues of Piazzolla’s own recordings as well as a flow of tributes by musicians intrigued into the service of his music. Last year, Gary Burton, who had worked with Piazzolla years back, paid homage. One of Piazzolla’s prime champions from the classical world has been the famed violinist Gidon Kremer, who has recorded tributes, and now has expanded our appreciation with Maria de Buenos Aires (Teldec 3984-20632; 48:42 and 45:45), an illuminating production of a little-known 30-year-old “operita,” with a libretto by Horacio Ferrer.

Kremer writes in the liner notes that he became obsessed with the project last year, and that the production of the work, represented in this fascinating two-CD set, has potent meaning for him. He writes: “I have recorded all the sonatas of Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann, all the Mozart concertos and virtually all of Schnittke’s concertos. But Maria occupies a special place in my life, just as it occupies a special place in musical theater.” That place is in the margins of theatrical convention, alongside such works as Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat.

The compact opera concerns the restless travels of the protagonist, caught between European and Argentine culture, here sung with seductive luster by Julia Zenko, with additional vocals by Jairo and Ferrer himself appearing as narrator. The story itself is one thing, a loose structure over which Piazzolla has fashioned a brilliant little hybrid of classical, jazz, and tango, in a happy merger. Kremer leads his group KremerATA, here heard in an expansive-sounding octet. No

Piazzolla collection is complete without it.

Originally Published