Adios Nonino (Orch. Luis Bacalov)
Libertango (Orch. Luis Bacalov)
Anna Maria Martinez (mezzo), Placido Domingo (tenor), Hector Ulises Passarella
(bandoneon), Luis Bacalov (piano)
Chorus and Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Myung-Whun
recorded 2/1999 in Rome at the Auditorio di Via della Conciliazione.
DG 463 471-2 [53.48]
If you were a recording executive of a German Company approached to produce
a disc in Italy by a Jewish Argentinian resident in Italy, of a religious
mass written in the form of a tango, and have the whole lot conducted by
a Korean conductor, what would you do? Probably not bother. However, DG has
had the idea of using one of its best selling artists, Placido Domingo to
front this disc. Domingo has well known Spanish/South American sympathies.
I hope that this issue becomes popular. It is highly entertaining once you
have got past the initial feelings of conservatism which many of us "classical
buffs" are prone to deny.
The main work is the Misa Tango written in 1997, and this recording
was made about the same time as the European premiere in 1999. Apart from
the tango rhythms throughout the work the other distinctive features are
the prominence of the bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument which has come
to represent the sound of the tango.
The Mass is in the usual sections although the composer has chosen not to
set the whole of the text. This is explained by the rather pretentious sleeve
note. The composer wanted the work to be accessible not just to Christians
but to other faiths as well. The Mass is set in Spanish (reflecting the
composer's South American origins), so if you are a Tibetan Buddhist, I can
see no help whatsoever by changing the text and translating it into Spanish.
No matter, this is probably more a case of my displaying crustiness rather
than anything else.
Bacalov has also composed film scores and has received an Oscar for one of
them. This shows me the source of the main drive for this music. What we
hear are rhythms of the tango and these are 'justified' in the pretentious
sleevenote as a reaction to Christianity driving out all dance from the liturgy.
'Justification' of this type is quite unnecessary if the music is interesting
and enjoyable. With its film music atmosphere you know what to expect.
There are no competitive recordings to compare. Notwithstanding, the performance
seems to be first rate, with the Italian choir managing the Spanish text
closely enough not to cause major problems, and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra
dancing along with sufficient abandon for the music not to sound inhibited.
Placido Domingo sounds his usual superb self, and is complemented by Ana
Maria Martinez who is likewise first class. The disc is completed by three
short tangos - all very pleasant to listen to and should give much enjoyment,
supplemented as they are by the composer on the piano.