Piazzolla clearly had cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in mind when he composed Le Grand Tango in 1981. He dedicated the piece to Rostropovich and sent him a copy. The story told in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, is that Rostropovich had never heard of Piazzolla and never looked at the piece when it arrived. Others did play it. Carter Brey and Christopher O'Riley premiered the piece in the United States in 1987 or 1988 and their recording is still my favorite version. Rostropovich did eventually realize the importance of the piece and traveled to Buenos Aires in 1990 to review the piece with Piazzolla before he performed it in public. Rostropovich has recorded Le Grand Tango but to the best of my knowledge, it is only available in the boxed set of Rostropovich's full works.
While the piece was written for cello and piano, it has been played in many combinations. There have been 25 versions of Le Grand Tango posted on YouTube so far in 2009 - half of those are played by a cello/piano duo; the others are played on flute, violin, viola, contrabass and accordion - with piano as the other half of the duo. Today's video is the first to feature a piano/piano duo. Others have played in this combination and there is even a link which provides a two piano score for the piece (download at your own risk).
The pianists playing in today's video are Isolda Crespi Rubio and Ingrid Sotolarova performing in Portugal at a very recent recital. They are talented pianists but do not read the tango sensibilities in the piece nor do they successfully manage the dynamics in a way which reveals the conversation between the cello and the piano in the original. There are moments however, where they do bring things together in a way which suggests this could be a successful configuration for the piece. I would like very much to hear two pianists who have internalized Piazzolla's nuevo tango language play the piece - perhaps Pablo Zinger and Tim Ribchester?
It is one of Piazzolla's longer pieces and is divided into two videos. If they do not appear below, click here for part one and here for part two.
To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.