Prom 64: Tantalising Tango

Dimas
Sones de mariachi
Falla orch. Berio
Seven Spanish Popular Songs
Ginastera
Estancia – Suite
Moncayo
Huapango
Piazzolla
Concerto for bandoneón
Fuga y misterio *
Romance del diablo *
Tangazo
Plaza
Nocturna *
Salgán
A fuego lento *

Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano)

Horacio Romo (bandoneón)

BBC Concert Orchestra
Miguel Harth-Bedoya

Tango Quartet: Horacio Romo (bandoneón), Cynthia Fleming (violin), Christopher Westcott (double bass) & John Alley (piano) *


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 7 September, 2002
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London


I thought of the headline waiting for a tube at Paddington, an indication that I was going to this concert optimistically and unbiased. Now, I’m angling for a complementary case of a particular canned drink!

The tango craze, the dance that is, passed me by. I had expected the RAH to be full – it wasn’t – and I had anticipated a more vibrant evening in terms of atmosphere. Is the tango’s soulful, intoxicating, sexy close-harmony dancing really for the Royal Albert Hall’s vastness? Is not the Mexican fiesta negated by a concert’s formality? Ah, for the RAH’s former status of hot, sweaty tinderbox, which might have localised this event! (The new air-conditioning is successful.)

The versatile BBC Concert Orchestra played with characteristic commitment and resource to Peruvian-born Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s dynamic, choreographic communication. Poor programming allowed the exuberant Huapango and the harmonically fickle Sones de mariachi to cancel each other out. In Mexico, several beers and a Chilli con Carne later, who cares about the order; in Kensington, Falla’s settings would have slotted well between señores Moncayo and Dimas’s picture-postcards. The evening’s best music, by far, Falla’s original piano part now enjoys an authentic-sounding and classy orchestration by Luciano Berio that is more Falla than Berio excepting a few subtle buffo touches from the Italian master. Ann Murray’s warmly communicative singing was a pleasure.

So too Horacio Romo’s exhibition on the bandoneón – beyond criticism – as he seduced and shimmied his way through Piazzolla’s concerto. Standing, right leg perched on a box, shoe-shine style, Romo’s raised knee balanced his box of tricks as his athletic, masterly hands squeezed and extended the panels and digitised the keys of the accordion-like instrument. Shame about the piece though, which lacked anything memorable over its 20-minute span and suffered a limited palette of strings, percussion and under-used harp and piano. I wonder if Berio’s thought of writing for bandoneón – a Sequenza – if anybody can, it’s him.

The pieces for ’tango quartet’, platform logistics aside, would have contrasted better between Tangazo and Estancia. The group played uninhibitedly led by the now seated Romo. The music still resistible, the Bachian fugal writing of Piazzolla’s Fuga y misterio impressed, and even I responded to the nostalgic if overlong Romance del diablo, although not to its commercial seam; I understand why the old-guard of Tangoists (!) didn’t take to Piazzolla’s new methods. Julián Plaza’s up-beat Nocturna suggests that Argentina doesn’t sleep – while the flame of Horacio Salgán’s A fuego lento burns rather brighter than the title suggests.

The concert fusion that is Tangazo grows from its subterranean opening to colourful scoring and a seeming bid to write for a TV series; its 14 directionless minutes peter to a cop-out. Ginastera’s gaucho-and-pampas Estancia ballet is mostly fast, loud and aggressive as sectionalised here. Despite impressive techniques this wore rather thin before the end and even the one ’relaxed’ number has climactic intensity just around the corner. ’Less is more’ may not be an Argentinean characteristic.



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