Ksenija Sidorova - Piazzolla Reflections - Gramophone

The sound of the bandoneón – penetrating, plaintive and pulsating with emotion – is the sound of the Argentine tango itself. The accordion’s tone is considerably more suave and is only an effective substitute when the performer has the technical chops and force of personality to make the tonal difference seem inconsequential. Latvian accordionist Ksenija Sidorova has both qualities and then some.

Chau Paris, the opening selection, was first recorded by Piazzolla in a miraculous 1955 session with string orchestra. Sidorova presents it in a quartet arrangement by Claudio Constantini (the pianist here who, it turns out, is a bandoneón player himself), and the group’s performance has all the elegance and sweep of the original. Violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky shows his understanding of tango style in several numbers – try ‘Soledad’ (from the Suite lumière), for example, where he adds the occasional expressive rasp to his sweet, silky sound, like an old tango singer with nicotine-stained fingers.

At the programme’s heart is a riveting interpretation of Piazzolla’s Bandoneón Concerto. Sidorova gives real urgency to the motoric rhythms in the outer movements, while her rubato in lyrical passages can be daringly free yet feels utterly natural – listen, say, to the lyrical interlude at 3'13" in the finale. Thomas Henglebrock has the Hamburg orchestra staying with her every step of the way. Sidorova blazes in Libertango, too, the one other orchestral selection (a kind of bonus track recorded in 2012 for Champs Hill), though here her fire is almost smothered by John Lenehan’s overly elaborate arrangement.

The pieces not by Piazzolla are where the disc’s title, ‘Piazzolla Reflections’, comes in, for nearly all of them mirror some aspect of the tanguero’s music. The lonely cantilena in Bach’s transcription of the Adagio from Marcello’s Oboe Concerto connects Piazzolla to the past and his classical influences, while a work such as Sergey Akhunov’s Two Keys to One Poem by J Brodsky illuminates unexpected links with Russian melancholy.

Brilliantly played and intelligently programmed, this beautifully recorded album is Sidorova’s best yet, and the most satisfying Piazzolla disc to come my way in quite some time.

01 February 2021