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Dip Your Ears, No. 169 (Artemis Tango)

available at Amazon
The Piazzolla Project
Artemis Quartet

Concierto para quinteto

You might have thought that the train for Piazzolla recordings by classical musicians had left quite a while ago. However the Artemis Quartet went tangoing their way into the tasteful crossover limelight with this 2009 disc on Virgin Classics [now Erato]: “The Piazzolla Project”. The name reminds me of something pompous the Emerson Quartet might do, but the content is of such quality that the transcriptions for Piano Quintet, Piano Trio, and String Quartet are good listening any time, unfazed by the coming and going of tango fads. It had to be done then, too, because before long the Quatuor Èbéne, then fresh on Virgin Classics [now Erato], would be going to record similar crossover material with which they already regaled audiences.

It’s all there: Estaciones Porteñas, Piazzolla’s homage to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. La Muere del Angel and the rest of the Angel Suite, which everyone has played, from Emanuel Ax (“Los Tangueros” with Pablo Ziegler), to Gidon Kremer, to the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic. Fuga y Misterio (from “Maria di Buenos Aires”), that has been brought to us by the likes of LAGQ and Imani Winds. None of that gets old, because it’s fabulous music.

The Concierto para quinteto, the one rarely recorded work, is the most charming of them all. And while the Artemis Quartet and wonderful pianist Jacques Ammon interpret and play Piazzolla in a way that remains solidly in the classical concert realm, their passion and virtuosity brings them close to the free-wheeling, almost improvisatory spirit that lies at the core of the music.

Among the classical-Piazzolla discs I most cherish are Barenboim’s “Mi Buenos Aires Querido” and Josep Pons’ orchestral disc on Harmonia Mundi. The Artemis Quartet, led by their long time Piazzolla adoring and performing cellist Eckart Runge, has a good shot at joining them.

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