Tuesday 28 February 2023

Intriguing reinventions: Danish accordion player Bjarke Mogensen's Album for Astor

Album for Astor: Bjarke Mogensen, Johan Bridger, Mathias Heise, The Danish Chamber Players; OUR Recordings
Album for Astor: Bjarke Mogensen, Johan Bridger, Mathias Heise, The Danish Chamber Players; OUR Recordings
Reviewed 27 February 2023

Danish accordion player Bjarke Mogensen & friends in striking modern reinventions of some of Piazzolla's classics

This new disc from OUR Recordings, Album for Astor features the Danish accordion player Bjarke Mogensen with Johan Bridger (vibraphone), Mathias Heise (harmonica) and members of The Danish Chamber Players in a sequence of modern interpretations of music by the great master of Argentinian Tango Nuevo, Astor Piazzolla.

The disc features Adiós Nonino, Vibraphonissimo, Café 1930 from Histoire du Tango, Tristango, Aconcagua, Fuga y Misterioso, Coral, Allegro Tangabile, Contramilonga, Novitango, and Despertar in new arrangements by Mogensen with a variety of line-ups from solo accordion to accordion and vibraphone, and accordion and harmonica, to accordion and chamber ensemble, some of the originals are songs but here presented in instrumental transcriptions.

We begin with Adiós Nonino written in 1959, a few days after Piazzolla's father's death using material from an earlier tango written in honour of his father. Presented as an accordion solo, it moves from free rhapsody to something more exciting. The sound world is distinctly modern, yet highly expressive.

Vibraphonissimo was written in 1986 for the jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton and was initially called Suite for Vibraphone and New Tango Quintet, here it is performed by accordion and vibraphone. At first, it seems like a vibraphone solo, but eventually, the accordion joins. Throughout, the music seems remarkable, nothing like what we might think of as classic Piazzolla and instead pushing the composer towards something more contemporary. Certainly very intriguing.

Café 1930 comes from the suite Histoire du Tango which was written in 1985 for flute and guitar but which has since been reworked in a variety of orchestrations and here we hear accordion and harmonica. This is not an obvious combination, but the haunting melancholy of the accordion combined with the almost wailing sound from the harmonica seems to work and is another intriguing reinvention.

Tristango, written in 1974 comes from the album Libertango which marked Piazzolla's move from classic tango to nuevo tango. Here, accordion, vibraphone and percussion bring a modern sound to the dark melancholy of Piazzolla's music. It isn't down and dirty, like the original, but it certainly engages in a new way.

Aconcagua is the nickname Piazzolla's publisher gave to his Concerto for bandoneón and orchestra which the composer premiered in Buenos Aires in 1979. Here, Mogensen plays his own arrangement of the first movement; this and the next five tracks are all for accordion and chamber ensemble. It is a fabulous moment on the disc, as the performers relish Piazzolla's complex textures and combine these with rhythm and drive, finding a large array of colours in the piece as well as a nice bit of sleaze.

Fuga y Misterioso comes from Piazzolla's Maria da Buenos Aires, though the fugue clearly owes something to his time studying with Nadia Boulanger. A lovely perky fugue, full of strong rhythms, and then a mystery section that is all colour and movement.

Coral is from the Suite Punta del Este, scored for bandoneón and chamber ensemble in 1982. The suite is named for a Uruguayan Summer resort. It is a complex and rather intriguing piece, and the sound world seems a long way from what we expect from Piazzolla, but it is full of strong orchestral colours.

The next two pieces, Allegro Tangabile and Contramilonga come from Maria da Buenos Aires, the first with an irresistible mix of the lyrical and the toe tapping, the second features Piazzolla's familiar throbbing melancholy, and seems to be music by him that we have heard in so many different contexts.

Novitango comes from Piazzolla's 1974 Libertango album, but here Mogensen expands the range of the orchestration adding colours to the spiky rhythms. In 1987, Piazzolla wrote Four, For Tango for the Kronos Quartet, then further works were interrupted by the composer's health problems but he wrote Five Tango Sensations for them, from which we hear Despertar as an accordion solo full or rich textures and profound melancholy.

This is an engaging disc, full of intriguing colours and unusual combinations, sometimes moving Piazzolla's sound world to new places. If you like your Nuevo Tango done traditionally, then this is not the disc for you, but if a series of modern, inventive approaches to the composer's music sounds intriguing, then this is just the thing.

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), arr. Bjarke Mogensen (born 1985) - Adiós Nonino
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Vibraphonissimo
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Café 1930 from Histoire du Tango
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Tristango
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Aconcagua
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Fuga y Misterioso
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Coral
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Allegro Tangabile
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Contramilonga
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Novitango
Astor Piazzolla, arr. Bjarke Mogensen - Despertar (cadenza)
Bjarke Mogensen (accordion)
Mathias Heise (harmonica)
Johan Bridger (vibraphone)
The Danish Chamber Players (Svend Melbye, flute, Som Howie, clarinet, Gunnar Eckhoff, bassoon, Stéphane Tran Ngoc, violin, Piotr Zelazny, viola, Tobias Lautrup, cello, Mette Franck, harp, Jakob Westh, piano)
Recorded September 2021 - Kumus Fgulsang, Norra Mellby Kyrka, & Sct. Jørgensbjerg Kirke

OUR RECORDINGS 8.226916 1CD [66:07]

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