Piazzolla - Ángel Suite, Bobiç - Liturgical Suite
Angelis - Bach - Paganini - Vivaldi
Romano Viazzani, one of the finest modern maestros of the accordion, released three solo accordion albums in 2007 on the ZZ Double Zed Music label. They should really be regarded as a 'boxed set', although each album is completely self-contained and works perfectly well on its own. Piazzolla - Ángel Suite / Bobiç - Liturgical Suite is the one in this series that we are concerned with here, and the most strictly classical one of them. The other two albums, also reviewed, are Encore and Viazzani takes Stok.
Together, the three albums present a wonderful variety of musical styles and a veritable feast of music per se, not to mention for the connoisseur of accordion music. These solo accordion albums by Viazzani have been long overdue, although he could of course be heard on two earlier albums with his own then ensembles, still available from ZZ Music, L'Orchestra Rara - I Primi 15 Anni (1995 - Cassette Only) and The High Society Dance Orchestra - Steps in Time (2000), as well as of course, best-known perhaps, on two albums with modern jazz giant Gilad Atzmon's extended Orient House Ensemble, Exile and Musik. But here, at last, we have three outstanding solo accordion albums by Viazzani, extending the relatively sparse catalogue of modern accordion recordings. It is fervently to be hoped that we will see more of the young maestro's recordings soon. What a pity the BBC so far never released a recording of the premiere of Romano Viazzani's accordion concerto, Valceno, performed by Viaccani himself with the BBC Concert Orchestra under Nick Davies at the 2001 London Accordion Festival.
The present recordings, it has to be noted, are also distinguished by the sheer technical quality of the recordings themselves. The richest and the most subtle, delicate sounds of Viazzani's beautiful, mighty Beltrami CVP7 piano accordion are captured with equal clarity and perfection. A real marvel in itself. You have to hear Viazzani live to fully appreciate how well the sound has been captured here. As if any excuse were needed - you really ought to hear this incredibly versatile master live, period.
Under review here is Romano Viazzani's Piazzolla - Ángel Suite / Bobiç - Liturgical Suite, an album firmly cast in the classical mould. The selection of composers and pieces is exquisite and contrasts Baroque with 20th Century and more contemporary works. In addition to those in the title, the composers represented are Bach, Angelis, Vivaldi, Piazzolla, and Paganini.
As brilliantly consistent as it is consistently brilliant, Piazzolla - Ángel Suite / Bobiç - Liturgical Suite is more than compelling. It is mesmerising. The opening two tracks, the Prelude No. 2 in C minor and Fugue No. 2 in C minor from Book 1, 48 Preludes and Fugues, of The Well-Tempered Clavier by J. S. Bach, have Viazzani starting as brilliantly as he means to - and indeed does - finish. His beautifully contrapuntal interpretation is probably closer to Bach's intentions than the pianistic interpretations one so often encounters today. In this it helps that the nature of the accordion is closer to that of the clavichord and harpsichord (and especially the organ, of course) than the piano in that unlike in the case of the latter, differential dynamics, or volume, cannot be achieved and the artist has to rely entirely on articulation instead.
Davor Bobiç's Liturgical Suite (The last days of Jesus Christ on Earth) of the title of this album provides the next three tracks. The emotional and spiritual intensity of this work are brought out to almost overpowering effect by Viazzani. Written specifically for accordion, the Liturgical Suite often lends itself to draw attention to the family resemblance of the accordion and pipe organ, and Viazzani exploits these opportunities with great finesse and to wonderful effect. Contemporary French composer Franck Angelis' contemplative Romance provides some much needed relief from the previous intensity and tension. Its dreamy mood is sensitively portrayed, without ever turning to the melodramatic.
'The Red Priest' Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons' first movement of Winter that follows is, in some ways, a 'killer track' among 'killer tracks'. I have heard a fair few interpretations of this on accordion in the past. However, none that could remotely hold a candle to Romano Viazzani's virtuosic and interpretative brilliance. Had 'Il prete rosso' been sitting in on Viazzani, I feel certain he might have often looked around wondering where the strings were hidden, or that he might have wondered whether Viazzani, Paganini-like, was perhaps in league with the devil himself. Here he portrays the sound of a complete Baroque orchestra, there of a solo violin so effectively as rarely heard from an accordion. The complete suite of four concertos that make up The Four Seasons would surely be something wonderful at the hands of as sensitive a master of the accordion as Viazzani!
The second title work is Astor Piazzolla's Ángel Suite. Piazzolla was not only one of the giants of the 20th Century but also the "creator" of Tango Nuevo. The latter, of course, has always been firmly associated with one of the favourites of tango in general, the bandoneon, a diatonic cousin of the (button) accordion. The phrasing imposed by the characteristics of the former as well its distinctive timbre are difficult to interpret successfully on the accordion; even more difficult is the successful solo accordion interpretation of Piazzolla's works, and sadly, many attempts I have heard left me unsatisfied. But no need to worry here. Viazzani carries it off beautifully. The Ángel Suite is one of Piazzolla's more sombre works, especially in the final Resurrección del Ángel which is frequently omitted from performances. Thus it is especially gratifying that Viazzani has chosen to present us with the full suite here, to glorious effect.
The album closes with some "light relief" in the form of Niccolò Paganini's Moto Perpetuo and a virtuosic precision fireworks display from Viazzani.
The sleeve notes in English, Italian, French and German provide excellent background to the pieces selected and their composers for those perhaps not familiar with them, as well as often accordion-specific notes.
Throughout Piazzolla - Ángel Suite / Bobiç - Liturgical Suite, Romano Viazzani displays a breathtaking virtuosic and interpretative superiority that will be hard to match. A very mature recording from this true maestro of the accordion, this is more than essential in any accordion or classical collection, or for that matter any good music collection.
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