A cool 60s New York take on Astor Piazzolla from Claudio Constantini, Federico Lechner, Antonio Miguel and Daniel Piazzolla at the Wigmore Hall.
A challenge for any reviewer who does not have an encyclopædic knowledge of a composer’s works is when there are no programme notes to a concert, and the announcement of the names of pieces is not always audible. As a general statement around Friday evening’s performance of ‘Piazzolla x100’ at Wigmore Hall, then, what can be said is that the four instrumentalists performed just over an hour of works by (mostly) Astor Piazzolla that were enjoyable to listen to and executed with style.
The four performers celebrating Piazzolla’s centenary as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival were the composer’s grandson, Daniel ‘Pipi’ Piazzolla (percussion), Claudio Constantini (bandoneón), Antonio Miguel (string bass) and Federico Lechner (piano), and their style took the composer’s original jazz / tango / classical fusion and, drawing inspiration from the composer’s upbringing in 1930s New York, they accentuated the jazz element of the works to bring to an audience numbers that still had echoes of their Argentinian roots, but carried a more cool 1960s New York late hours vibe.
“…enjoyable to listen to and executed with style”
The opening trio of pieces – the three movements of Piazzolla’s Serie del Angel suite – set the tone for the rest of the concert, and demonstrated perfectly the sudden volte-faces in tempo and mood that mark out Piazzolla’s fusion style. Slow, smoky bandoneón solo passages underlaid by brush cymbal and bluesy piano suddenly mutated into up-tempo sections with busy piano, striding percussion, and those rhythmic ‘chugs’ that accordions are so good at. The downward sliding bass portamento bringing the first movement (‘Milonga del Angel’) to a sagging close was beautifully observed.
And so it continued across the hour: some first-rate playing from all four performers that not only demonstrated a high degree of intuitive co-ordination, but allowed each of them to shine. Those single held notes from the bandoneón that grow in volume and intensity (a lovely one of these in Chiquilin de Bachin) were delivered with absolute understanding of the idiom by Constantini, who also gave us a beautifully haunting solo piece by Carlos Gardel, Piazzolla’s teacher. The other three artists also had their time in the sun, as the pieces chosen allowed for some agile bass work from Miguel, a breathtakingly lengthy, complex hepcat piano improvisation on a left-hand ostinato passage from Lechner, and a stellar percussion riff from Piazzolla (grand fils) at the opening of the final work.
All in all an enjoyable hour or so’s music, and a great way to open a Friday evening, but… next time, guys… a side of A4 on what you’re playing? Thanks.