Celebrating Pizzolla, the latest offering from the Neave Trio, is every bit as spirited as I anticipated. The violin, cello, and piano format suits the composer’s beautiful and distinguished Argentinian tangos nuevos, four of which open the album in arrangements by José Bragato, a cellist and composer and onetime colleague of Astor Piazzolla’s. Presented as a suite, “Las cuatro estaciones porteños” encompass the wide emotional range the music suggests – plucky, anxious, romantic, melancholy.
Together the three musicians craft the feel of a much larger band. Violinist Anna Williams and cellist Mikhail Veselov take turns evoking the bandoneón through a combination of technique and imaginative force. Pianist Eri Nakamura summons orchestral depth, by turns dark and brilliant, from the keys. I have never ceased to marvel at the splendid variety of verdant life Piazzolla could summon from tango’s roots. New arrangements and superbly sensitive performances like these continue to nourish that thriving forest a quarter-century after his death.
Piazzolla’s songs are less frequently recorded than the tangos, so the trio’s inclusion of new arrangements of some of them is most welcome. Arranger Leonardo Suárez Paz is a son of violinist Fernando Suárez Paz, who played in the composer’s ensemble for a decade. Some of the composer’s spirit seems to have seeped into the next generation. Joined by mezzo-soprano Carla Jablonski singing mostly in her lower register, the trio brings five of the songs to new life, including a powerful, somewhat modernistic take on “Yo Soy Maria” from Piazzolla’s operetta Maria de Buenos Aires.
Jablonski’s honeyed tone and Suárez Paz’s more sedate style give these tracks a more homey quality than the tango recordings. A Schubertian pianism gives way to a dramatic Weill-esque flair in “El Gordo Triste.” Eerie suspense and an insistent beat energize “El Titere.” The instrumental introduction to “Oblivion” is one of Suárez Paz’s finer moments. Jablonski’s vocals are low in the mix, drawing attention to the arrangements and giving parts of the recordings the flavor of quartets more than songs, but I find that suits the material well.
In the liner notes Laurie Shulman quotes Jablonski: “What makes playing this music so special is that it is always alive and present.” So true. The album closes with an original and rather operatic piece of modernism composed by Suárez Paz. It opens with a kind of minty cadenza for violin and cello, and goes on to pay tribute to the great Astor Piazzolla, whose spirit lives on and on.