Tango Tango (XRCD24 review)

Performed by Viveza. Master Music MSXCD 99310.

Given the number of movies featuring or about the tango, the documentaries, and the slew of record albums in recent years devoted to the subject, I think it’s safe to say the tango is back. Or maybe it was never gone. Moreover, after listening for the last couple of years to a goodly number of CDs devoted to the material, it is this album, Tango Tango by Viveza, originally released by Omega Records in 1998, that I have enjoyed most of all. So it’s a double pleasure to welcome it back on a 2013 audiophile remastering from Master Music.

First of all, the program contains some of the best all-around tango tunes I’ve heard performed, starting with the most popular tango of them, Jacob Gade’s “Jalousie” and followed by my own personal favorites, the hauntingly beautiful “Tango in D” by Isaac Albeniz and the equally enchanting “Por Una Cabeza” by Carlos Gardel (think Scent of a Woman or the ending of True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis dancing to it through the closing credits).

The other dozen or so tangos cover the ground with representative works from the turn-of-the-century to compositions of more modern origin, with those aimed at purely commercial success to those by classical artists; with dances from Europe, Argentina, and America; and, of course, with pieces by the Grand Master of the tango, Astor Piazzolla, whose tunes include "Allegro Tangabile," "5 Ano Nacional," "Fin de curso," "El Goy," "4. El Boletin," and "Aplazado." These tangos are not only rhythmic and danceable, they're appropriately romantic, swaggering, haunting, sensuous, yet nostalgic. In addition to the numbers I've mentioned, we find Bernardo Stalman's "Viejas Ideas," Franz Grothe's "Shreib mir einen Brief," Bill Runge's "Astor," E. Fernandez-Arboz's "Tango," Russell Guyver's "Un Crimen Pasional," Danny Gould's "Dango's Tango," Eduardo Oscar Rovira's "A Evaristo Carriego," and Igor Stravinsky's "Tango."

As important as the material is, the small group of Canadian musicians known as Viveza (Spanish for “lively” or “vivacious”) play the tunes with an understated style that does them all proud. The ensemble comprises Gwen Thompson, violin, viola, and guiro; Robert Holliston, guitar and piano; Mark Koenig, violin, viola, and melodeon; Wilmer Fawcett, double bass and guitar; with special guest artiest Salvador Ferreras, percussion.

How good are these musicians? Ms. Thompson began her professional career in 1971 with a dual appointment as Professor of Violin at the University of Western Ontario and Concertmaster of Orchestra London. She was head of the String Department of the Vancouver Academy of Music for twenty-five years, as well as holding a teaching position at the University of British Columbia. Wilmer Fawcett recently retired as Principal Bassist with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra and Associate Principal with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Robert Holliston is the host of the Victoria Conservatory of Music's “Brown Bag Lunch” series. Also an active performer, he is currently Head of Collaborative Piano Studies at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, where he also teaches piano and music history. Salvador Ferreras frequents national radio as host and commentator. Mark Koenig passed away in 2006.

Yes, they are more than your average band. Their performances are certainly vivacious, but in a tasteful and restrained way.

Also of importance, the digital sound is smooth and natural, with the instruments well defined. In other words, the disc is wholly engaging on all levels. Rick Kilburn recorded it for XNTRiK Productions at the Western Front, Vancouver, BC in April 1998, and Master Music Ltd. remastered it in 2013. They transferred the sound from the master tapes to disc using 24-bit XRCD technology, the SHM-CD utilizing a polycarbonate resin substrate, and HR cutting. It all adds up to a superb rendering of the original sound.

Having the original Omega CD on hand for comparison helped me to determine the worth of the new Master Music edition. We take for granted these days that audiophile remasters in general show improvements, to one degree or another, in clarity, definition, smoothness, dynamics, even frequency range. What the Master Music iteration of Tango Tango also does is improve the music's dimensionality, its air and space and sense of depth. The instruments seem more fully separate from one another. Certainly, the added midrange transparency helps a lot in this regard, as does the extended treble and added bass tautness. To be sure, these differences are not night-and-day, and except on direct comparison one might not even notice them. Still, they all contribute to the recording's sense of realism and, thus, to the listener's enjoyment.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa