Conti writes in the sleeve notes that when she studied at the conservatory in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, she did not analyse a tango let alone play one; she herself dismissed tango orchestras and singers as “those old tango guys”.
It was only when she moved to the US that she discovered her home country’s own music via her New Yorker husband, who “went crazy” for tango.
“It was only then that I discovered, to my surprise, the enormity of the tango repertoire, its bewitching sounds, the sophistication of the writing, and especially the high degree of artistry and virtuosity of the tango performers,” she writes.
She became more knowledgeable and organised the first tango competition for musicians (not dancers) in New York City, under the support of the Consulate General of Argentina. As a classical pianist she herself didn’t play the tango until she inherited hundreds of rare tango scores from Mario Broeders, an Argentine composer who lived in New York.
She writes: “Playing tangos is not easy. It requires an understanding of the dance rhythms, applying the right mood and tempo to those very simple delightful tunes of the early 1900s, to the sophisticated, syncopated, harmonically inventive tangos of the later decades, and especially those of the 1940s and 50s, declared as the Golden Era of Tango.”
This CD is the start (one assumes by the title) of a compendium of all things tango, and in the sleeve notes she lists the composers, should you wish to know (naxos.com, search for the album).
Not having acquaintance with the originals we can only judge what we hear, and while Conti captures mood and tempo, it’s possibly a little polite for dancing, the classicist in her smoothing off any edginess. The playing is precise and clipped but it’s entertaining, and you don’t have to be fond of tangos to enjoy it; it’s not intense or difficult, thanks to her smooth delivery; a nice collection of piano music with an exotic air.
For the techies, she recorded this on a Yamaha Disklavier, which can save digital files and eliminates the distraction of extraneous noise (as well as freeing her up from the stress of reserving and paying for reserve studio time). She then sent the files to her engineer at Yamaha in New York, and he sent the edited files back for approval then – and this is pretty cool – a Yamaha Disklavier in New York reproduced the files exactly as she had played them in Buenos Aires, and this single take is what was recorded.
This is out now on Grand Piano, GP856.