Do dynamics shape any other musical idiom to the extent that they do tango? It’s this ability to swell a melodic line to just the right crescendo, then drop it back to precisely the right softness, that lends tango its almost exaggerated sense of drama. But if these dynamic shifts are too extravagant the music can become melodramatic, and instantly lose its most vital attribute of all: sensuality. Put a piano and bandoneon together, and being on the same page dynamically is pivotal, although not so the two instruments are just primitively swelling and ebbing in tandem.
During Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, here for instance, the piano (Daniel Rojas) plays the shy support, while the bandoneon (Daniel Wallace-Crabbe) kneads the dramatic contours. These two players hear this music with one set of ears; they slice staccato phrases with the same blade, and let legato ones breathe the same breath. I don’t recall encountering tango of this quality made in Australia since Jose Luis Betancor’s bandoneon wizardry was heard here in the 1990s. And blessedly the sighs of the bandoneon’s bellows have not been edited out. They are part of the music’s soul.