Tangos... & Something More (CD review)

Alicia Terzian, Grupo Encuentros. Navona Records NV6246.

According to Wikipedia, the "tango is a popular partner dance and social dance that originated in the 1880s along the Río de la Plata, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay. It was born in the impoverished port areas of these countries, where natives mixed with slave and European immigrant populations. The tango is the result of a combination of the German Waltz, Czech Polka, Polish Mazurka, and Bohemian Schottische with the Spanish-Cuban Habanera, African Candombe, and Argentinian Milonga."

That's good to know, as this album, "Tangos... & Something More," offers us tangos new and old, over a dozen of them presented in a variety of styles. Most of the styles, however, are of the "nuevo"  or "new tango" kind, the style popularized in the 1980's by Argentinean composer and player Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), represented on the program by three selections. The track listings are as follows:

  1. Roggero: "Mimi Pinzon"
  2. Mores: "Cristal"
  3. Piazzolla: "Picasso"
  4. Piazzolla: "Invierno Porteno"
  5. Terzian: "Argentino Hasta La Muerte"
  6. Castro: "Lloron"
  7. Tienssuu: "Tango Lunar"
  8. Demare: "Malena"
  9. Pedro: "En El Bar..Como Un Tango"
10. Terzian: "Un Argentino de Vuelta"
11. Cobian: "Los Mareados"
12. Piazzolla: "Verano Porteno"
13. Binelli: "Llamado de Tambores"

All of these numbers are expertly performed by Alicia Terzian and Grupo Encuentros. Ms. Terzian is an Argentine composer, conductor, and musicologist who formed Grupo Encuentros (Group Encounters) in 1979 to promote new music by Argentine and Latin American composers. Group members on the present album include Mara Blanco, mezzo; Claudio Espector, piano; Sergio Polizzi, violin; Carlos Nozzi, cello; Fabio Mazzitelli, flute; Matias Tchicourel, clarinet; Daniel Bilelli, bandoneon; and Ms. Terzian, conductor.

Alicia Terzian
The first selection, Aquiles Ruggero's "Mimi Pinzon," one of the oldest compositions on the program, sounds quite traditional, romantic and lyrical. The next one, Mariano Mores's "Cristol," shows us the contrasts in tango music, with vocals and background sounds and a less obvious tango rhythm. Then it's back to a more customary tango with Astor Piazzolla's highly melodic "Picasso." But possibly the most bizarre "tango" on the album is Jukka Tienssuu's "Tango Lunar," which is hardly recognizable as a tango so much as a collection of random sound effects and vocals linked loosely together in a semi-harmonic manner. Following that is one of the loveliest of tangos, Lucio Demare's "Malena," so there's a little "something more" here for everyone.

And so it goes. The questions being, are these dance numbers really "authentic," and is the playing "authentic," whatever that may mean? Certainly, the music, new or old, is squarely in the tango tradition, so, yes, it is authentic, no matter how odd it may seem. And, certainly, one cannot question the validity of an Argentinean ensemble playing Argentinean music, and they've been doing it for so long I don't see how anyone could question their legitimacy in the subject matter. That they play so effectively and effortlessly is like icing on the cake.

To quibble about so excellent a product seems unfair. Still, there was one thing I didn't care for; namely, Navona's packaging. The disc comes tucked into the sleeve of a cardboard fold-over case, and it is impossible to remove the disc without getting your fingers on the playing surface. I can understand that maybe the cardboard is cheaper than a plastic jewel box and that many companies follow this cardboard practice, but that doesn't make it a better choice for the consumer. End quibble.

Executive producer Bob Lord, engineer Andres Polizzi, and mastering engineer Jorge Da Silva recorded the music at a private studio in Buenos Aires, Argentina in August 2015. It's a small ensemble they're working with, and they handle it expertly. Each instrument, including the voice on several tracks, is realistically captured in a warm, lightly resonant environment. Although they are captured a tad close up, they have a fairly natural feel as well. Nicely done.

JJP

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

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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 John 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 simple-minded, 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 Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

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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