In 1967, Argentine poet Horacio Ferrer sent a copy of his first published book of poems to Astor Piazzolla. The composer recognized a kindred spirit and proposed working together. Two months later, Ferrer finished the libretto for Maria de Buenos Aires and gave it to Piazzolla, who wrote the score. The work was first performed in Buenos Aires in May 1968 and then later recorded by Piazzolla.
Now the magic of that collaboration has been brilliantly evoked in a new recording, arranged by Leonid Desyatnikov and featuring violinist Gidon Kremer. Maria de Buenos Aires was called a "tango operita" by its creators, and it is in fact a showcase for every kind of tango. The piece also incorporates the waltz and the popular dance music called milonga, as well as rural music.
This provides the perfect accompaniment to a poetic libretto whose moods include slapstick as well as tragedy, violence as well as tenderness, and whose language is ripe with images ranging from the humble to the hallucinatory. The story of Maria is the history of tango. Born in the slums on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, "on a day when God was drunk," Maria grows up to fame in the city, attracting love and hatred in equal measure. Condemned to death by her enemies, Maria accepts her fate with defiance: "I'll be the remains of tangoed ashes. The bandoneon has a bullet in its breath to shout my death in the sound of a single shot." But her spirit is too strong for death to conquer, and in the end Maria is reborn.
In this sensitive and passionate recording, violinist Gidon Kremer and company bring this great work to a new generation of listeners. And they bring to their performance all the exhilaration and freshness of a new discovery. - Marty Lipp