New 5 star review from Fanfare
December 2, 2022
ALBUM FOR ASTOR
PIAZZOLLA Adiós Nonino. Vibraphonissimo. Café 1930. Tristango. Aconcagua (first movement). Fuga Y Misterio. Coral. Allegro Tangabile. Contramilonga a la Funerala. Novitango. Despertar (cadenza). ● Bjarke Mogensen (accordion); Johan Bridger (vibraphone); Mathias Heise (harmonica); The Danish Chamber Players ● OUR RECORDINGS 8.226916 (66:07)
I’m quite in love with this unexpected and delightful album. It is not only a fitting and loving tribute to Astor Piazzolla, it is a creative and inventive introduction (at least to this listener) to the accordion. Ever since I had a crash course on the important contributions of Argentinian composers, I’ve been quite interested in Piazzolla and especially the sound of a bandoneon. I only really learned about Piazzolla from several early Fanfare interviews with musicians like pianist Nancy Roldán and violinist José Miguel Cueto for their all Piazzolla album, Piazzolla Here & Now, and pianist Rosa Antonelli, who is such an advocate of Latin American composers. Antonelli released an album in 2019 appropriately titled Bridges, demonstrating the links between European composers like Chopin and Argentinian composers like Ginastera and Piazzolla. When I asked Antonelli about her approach to the music of Piazzolla, she specifically mentioned the sound of the bandoneon and her method to try and recreate that instrument’s temper in her own playing at the piano: “The glissando for me is like the production of what a bandoneon does with the air, it prolongs the vibration in the piano.”
It is interesting that Antonelli mentions vibrations in the sense of the bandoneon, because like the accordion (and the harmonica, and in a similar sense for the vibraphone), this instrument produces sound when air is pushed through a series of reeds, which vibrate as the accordion player pushes the instrument together or pulls it apart. The ability to suspend that sound, to draw it out and let it sing, while simultaneously creating textures and layers, seems unique to the metallic and mechanical tones of the accordion and bandoneon (a cousin of the concertina), as well as the harmonica and vibraphone.
Accordion player Bjarke Mogensen has helped preserve a bit more of the unique ingenuity of Piazzolla’s music, organizing an album that celebrates Piazzolla the bandoneon player and arranging pieces for small chamber ensemble—the brilliant Danish Chamber Players—duos and accordion solos. One of my favorite pieces on the album is Café 1930, which Mogensen arranged for accordion and harmonica, performed by world renowned harmonica player Mathias Heise. Heise’s harmonica is enigmatic—twangy and light, singing and capable of such a soft sound—and he brings this piece to life. Likewise Johan Bridger’s vibraphone, especially on the second track Vibraphonissimo, adds such a layer of mystery and dappling and ringing tones—quite metallic and pinging, but the vibraphone seems to soften the density and heaviness of the accordion.
Another favorite track in is Tristango. On this piece, Mogensen demonstrates the texturing and layering capacity of the accordion. The instrument breathes almost like an organ, dark and building chords that hover below as the melody flows above, a slow and methodical tango. Mogensen’s accordion is stepping carefully, delicate and pulsing notes that all at once feel fresh, nostalgic for a Buenos Aires of the past, and expressive of Piazzolla’s enduring legacy. Jacqueline Kharouf
5 stars — Lovely Accordion Album Pays Tribute to Piazzolla