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Queen Elizabeth Hall
03/03/1999 -  
Astor Piazzolla Two tango etudes, Milonga sin palabras, Rio Sena, Chiquilin de Bachin, Adios Nonino, Four for tango, Milonga per tre, Oblivion, Auscenias, Jeanne et Paul, Five sensations
Gidon Kremer (violin), Annette Bik (violin), Ula Zebriunaté (viola), Marta Sudraba (cello), Marcelo Nisinman (bandoneon), Eglé Spakalité (dancer)

Argentina and the Baltic are roughly Antipodes, which might explain the longstanding obsession with tango in the Baltic states. Gidon Kremer's intoxicating performances of Piazzolla's  music are spreading the infatuation to points in between in a kind of Dionysiac progress. The UK is already caught up -- this repeat visit to London, after a sold-out performance in last summer's South Bank Meltdown, is part of tour of six English cities.

Yet Kremer's own performance, at the heart of this programme, has an Apolline purity and beauty as well. Kremer makes the violin sing with a nearly human voice, in colour and expressiveness, with a chorister's top notes, Kathleen Ferrier's lower register, Carmen's mid-range. He began the concert with a lyrical solo étude. A characteristically breathless one followed, which with any other composer would have been difficult to top, but it was only a gentle introduction to Piazzolla.

In the rest of the skillfully organized first half, other voices joined in. First, cello and viola provided a dramatic background to the "song" of the the violin in Milonga sine palbras, then took a more competitive role in the manic Rio Sena, described by one member of the audience as "tangy", and finally shared the melodic work in the breathtakingly beautiful Chiquilin de Bachin. A second violin joined in for a set of trademark works, arranged with comparatively conventional tango effects and string quartet dramatics. The dancer Eglé Spakalité completed the team in the final Milonga per tre, adding spatial sense to the already physical and emotional impact of the musical dialogues.

The second part of the concert was slightly less cohesive musically, perhaps, but had a similar dramatic shape and focussed strongly on the feelings, physical, emotional and even spiritual, that are always implicit in the music. Marcelo Nisinman began with a solo bandoneon piece, Oblivion, then he and Kremer played two contrasting duets. The second of these, Jeanne et Paul, was richly romantic. The final set, Five sensations, was a tour de force of both composition and expression. Movements entitled Asleep, Loving, Anxiety, Despair and Fear, evoke those feelings not only within the tango form, but also using a range of styles and composition techniques from impressionistic snatches in Asleep to a pulsing fugue in Fear.

Although Kremer is the heart of the ensemble, his outstanding team of young musicians deliver more than worthy collaboration, and promise even greater things. Magic.

H.E. Elsom



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