Duo Praxedis - Piazzolla. © 2021 Ars Produktion

CD Spotlight

A Mother and Daughter Duo

SIMON FARRUGIA finds 'El Gran Astor' superbly expressed in this new album by Duo Praxedis

'The freshness of sound presented in this album gives a new dimension to Piazzolla's music ...'


The Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player Astor Piazzolla, born in 1921 and known in his native land as 'El Gran Astor', revolutionised the traditional tango into a new style – nuevo tango. Piazzolla innovatively incorporated elements from classical and jazz music. There is a general consensus among his biographers that Piazzolla's compositions amount to three thousand pieces, five hundred of which were recorded by him. Piazzolla impressively composed over three hundred tangos and fifty film soundtracks. Some of his orchestral works include: Concierto para Bandoneón, Orquesta, Cuerdas y Percusión; Doble-Concierto para Bandoneón y Guitarra; Tres Tangos Sinfónicos; and Concierto de Nácar para 9 Tanguistas y Orquesta. In addition to these compositions, one cannot fail to mention that Piazzolla also composed music in song-form compositions, like Balada para un loco and Adiós Nonino. Most of these compositions are still very popular among the general public.

Showcasing his musical prowess as an excellent bandoneonist, Piazzolla performed most of his own compositions with various ensembles: initially with the 1946 Orchestra, and subsequently with the 1955 Octeto Buenos Aires, the 1960 First Quintet, the 1971 Noneto, the 1978 Secondo Quintet, and the 1989 Sextet. Notably, Piazzolla also performed with several world-renowned musicians, such as the jazz saxophone player Gerry Mulligan and the cellist Yo-Yo Ma. One of Piazzolla's characteristic performance ensembles was the quintet, comprising a bandoneón, a violin, a piano, an electric guitar and a double bass. Piazzolla's music has been arranged and performed widely by numerous musicians. Duo Praxedis's new album Piazzolla: Works for Harp & Piano is one such presentation of Piazzolla's musical world which enchants both ear and soul.

The mother-and-daughter duo, composed of Praxedis Hug-Rütti (harp) and Praxedis Geneviève Hug (piano), is known as Duo Praxedis and it has been performing since 1996. Performances include international music festivals - the Esterházy Festival Eisenstadt and the Engadin Festival - and recordings for Guild, Paladino, Preiser and ARS Produktion. Duo Praxedis has released several notable albums, such as Dreaming and Histoires für Harfe & Klavier - a two-CD album. Now, Duo Praxedis is presenting this magnificent CD album with complete recordings of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, produced by Christopher Alder. The album consists of two CDs, each containing nine tracks, with a total playtime of 1 hour and 43 minutes of superb music. Some of the recorded tangos include Le Grand Tango, Violentango, Libertango, Fuga y misterio and Oblivion. The selection of Piazzolla's compositions on this album is outstanding.

Duo Praxedis opens this album with Le Grand Tango (written in 1982), which expresses the spirit of the nuevo tango, containing a signature blend of traditional tango and jazz-inspired syncopation. Interestingly, this composition was not performed until 1990 (recorded in 1996) by the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovish, whom Piazzolla wrote it for. Although this composition is structured into a single movement, Le Grand Tango has three extensive sections. It opens with 'tempo di tango' (the domination of accented tango rhythms), moving to the second section, 'libero e cantabile', which is highlighted both on the piano and the harp. The third and final section is marked by a humorous spirit, indicated as 'giocoso', which the Duo Praxedis makes sure to achieve. These two musicians triumph in presenting a quite challenging composition; the use of harmonies, dissonance, pulsing, syncopations and glissandi are all highlighted in this opening track.

Listen — Piazzolla: Le Grand Tango
(CD1 track 1, 2:00-2:48) ℗ 2021 Ars Produktion :

Adíos Nonino, which is also performed by Duo Praxedis, is an elegiac remembrance of Piazzolla's father, who died when Piazzolla was attempting to tour in Central America (1959). The bandonenoist's son Daniel recalls that, upon returning to New York: 'Dad asked us to leave him alone for a few hours. We went into the kitchen. First there was absolute silence. After a while, we heard dad playing the bandoneón. It was a very sad, terribly sad melody. He was composing Adiós Nonino'. The combination of the piano and the harp interpreted by Duo Praxedis brings to life this sincere and sorrowful emotional moment which Piazzolla went through. Duo Praxedis also manages to perform the improvisatory introduction in such a way that it evokes a sense of lament throughout the work.

Listen — Piazzolla: Adíos Nonino
(CD2 track 3, 0:38-1:31) ℗ 2021 Ars Produktion :

The Libertango (published in 1974) is enthusiastically performed and marvellously recorded by Duo Praxedis. It is perhaps one of the most well-known compositions by Piazzolla, which rewarded several other famous artists. For instance, Yo-Yo Ma performed this composition on his Grammy award-winning album Soul of the Tango, and Grace Jones's eighties' song I've Seen That Face Before is based on it. The compositional structure of the Libertango is in ternary form. This compositional piece is claimed to be derived from the tresillo rhythm. In essence, the harmony of this composition comprises II-V-I progressions in minor mode, in addition with several short ornamental modulations in which there is no appearance in shifting to a new key area.

Listen — Piazzolla: Libertango
(CD2 track 5, 0:00-0:59) ℗ 2021 Ars Produktion :

Duo Praxedis polish their high ability in musicianship and conclude their album with a Piazzolla composition that is rife with complex emotions, Oblivion. This is a very haunting and atmospheric piece by Piazzolla, which is well portrayed by the piano and the harp. Acute attention was not only given to the melody, but also to the underlying harmony and rhythm.

Listen — Piazzolla: Oblivion
(CD2 track 9, 1:58-2:58) ℗ 2021 Ars Produktion :

Yo-Yo Ma believes that Piazzolla's music is endlessly passionate, full of yearning, and at the same time tremendously contemporary. Indeed, there are many versions of Piazzolla's voluminous music catalogue by several prominent musicians. Duo Praxedis's Piazzolla: Works for Harp & Piano is a brilliant new addition, which contributes to Piazzolla's musical legacy as a bandoneonist and composer who successfully combined tango with the contemporary. The freshness of sound presented in this album gives a new dimension to Piazzolla's music, while simultaneously preserving what Piazzolla originally composed. This album is worth a listen. In other words, Duo Praxedis will give you the right opportunity to re-discover the twentieth century Argentine tango composer.

Copyright © 30 August 2021 Simon Farrugia,








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