NAXOS' highlight release for October 2017 is a very special recording titled Legacy, featuring violinist Tomás Cotik and pianist Tao Lin, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Astor Piazzolla’s death. This album includes some of the composer’s most memorable works, like the Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, Milonga del ángel, Adiós nonino, and Balada para un loco. Other featured artists include singer Alfredo Lerida, percussionists Alex Wadner and Bradley Loudis, and double bassist Jeffrey Kipperman. Cotik and Lin previously collaborated on the popular Piazzolla album Tango Nuevo, in which Fanfare wrote “lovers of tango music will definitely want this fascinating disc.”
Nuevo tango master Astor Piazzolla (born 11 March 1921, died 4 July 1992) packed a lot of living into his writing and his playing.
Tango is the music of Buenos Aires, but the man who would challenge so many of the traditions and clichés within tango, and in doing so create the revolutionary Nuevo tango, was not even a porteño, as the inhabitants of Buenos Aires are called. Astor Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, a resort town on the Atlantic coast of Argentina, about 250 miles south of Buenos Aires. When he was just four years old, his family moved to New York’s Lower East Side, then a tough neighbourhood populated by gangsters seemingly from every denomination. Astor was short and walked with a limp due to a congenital condition, so he fought his way to respect. The other kids called him ‘Lefty’, acknowledging his punch.
He grew up listening to Italian songs, klezmer music, jazz and, late at night, the tangos his father played at home to alleviate his homesickness. Piazzolla hated tango, but when his father bought him a bandoneon, the button squeezebox that is the quintessential instrument of tango, he set out to learn it ‘just to please him’, he once said. There were no bandoneon teachers around, so he learned the instrument by playing transcriptions of Bach, Schumann and Mozart. He was 13 when he met the iconic tango singer Carlos Gardel, in town to shoot a couple of movies for Paramount. After hearing him play, Gardel famously told him ‘Mirá pibe, el fuelle lo tocás bárbaro, pero al tango lo tocás como un gallego’ (‘Look kid, the squeezebox you play great, but the tango you play like a gringo’).
Piazzolla was still very much a gringo when the family returned to Argentina in 1937, three years later. Even his Spanish was not that good. While in Mar del Plata, he took bandoneon lessons and also heard violinist Elvino Vardaro’s sextet on the radio. His modernist approach awakened in him a new interest in tango. In 1939, he left Mar del Plata to try his luck in Buenos Aires. He joined the orchestra of the great bandoneonist and composer Anibal Troilo, and after a four-year apprenticeship, he left to form his own orchestra.
But playing tango for the dancers in a cabaret was never Piazzolla’s goal. He studied with composer Alberto Ginastera, wrote music for film and won a classical music competition that led to studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger in 1954. Whatever musical technique she taught him, the most profound impact was her blessing of his tango. He didn’t have to be a classical musician to write serious music, he could be Piazzolla. So, upon his return to Buenos Aires in 1955, he formed his Octet, which marked a before and after in tango history.
“an excellent violinist”
“Las versiones son óptimas por la compenetración estilística del dúo y la prestancia instrumental del admirable violinista”
“My first chamber choice for the year. ”
“Everyone who plays these works should hear these exemplary performances...you will never hear these Telemann Fantasias played so well ”
“I was immediately impressed by their virtuosity and also their understanding of Piazzolla’s music. I was anxious to see them perform in person”
“there is no question that this disc is, by some distance, Naxos's best Piazzolla recording ”
“excellent violin playing...extremely enjoyable interpretations of music that I love”
“The BBC Music team’s current favourites”
“None of these pieces has ever sounded quite like this before.”
“Some of the music is sultry while other works are fast, rhythmic, and ornamented to show the exquisite virtuosity of Cotik”
“should leave listeners almost breathless…a vibrancy and attention to detail...strong individuality and… vitality”
“Cotik phrases this music with such feeling, making you wonder if it could possibly sound better in any other performance.”
“I’ve had a listen to a few alternatives…including Isaac Stern with Daniel Baremboim and Lydia Mordkovitch, but this duo pretty much ticks all the boxes”
“Cotik and Tao Lin have…honored not only their professions as musicians, but the memory and work of Franz Schubert”
“recreating the visceral charge of Piazzolla’s legendary quintet concerts and recordings”
“this is clearly a team to watch. I am sure we will be hearing good things from them in the future”
“an exemplary presentation of some marvelous music”
“The technical qualities of the recording - which is on the NAXOS label, by the way - are excellent.”
“exceptional...Piazzolla can be played differently than this, but provably not better.”
“this superbly produced Schubert disc…comes warmly commended”
“un trabajo de mucha calidad, por la originalidad de los arreglos y especialmente porque se trata de un excelente instrumentista”
“Evocative concert of Jewish classical music”
“Cotik transcends even the profoundly meditative”
“If you love the solo violin, you won't find a better recording to suit your tastes”
“un disco la cui qualità riesce a proporre la freschezza affascinante della cultura musicale germanica come nuova, come se non si fossero mai ascoltate prima”
“wonderful album…impressive for the elegance and sensitivity of the interpretations”
“conviction, commitment, diplomacy, and character”
“un violinista excelente... que recoge una forma rigurosa, natural y fuera de lo común de entender e interpretar la música”
“absolutely impeccable, with intonation in the centre of every note, and his left hand flying around the fingerboard with remarkable agility”
“Un disco revelador de la maestría de los jóvenes intérpretes que lo firman: Tomas Cotik y Tao Lin.”
“I marvel at the technical skill which effortlessly encompasses these deeply contrasting styles....a technical as well as expressive master stroke”
“a treat from start to finish”
“this is one of the great Piazzolla discs, and in perfect sound quality, I urge you to buy it.”
“bemerkenswert, kunstvolle und expressive Interpretationen...auf hohem Niveau und den jeweiligen Stilen perfekt angepasst”
“among the very best Piazzolla albums”
“intelligent and sensitive...glories in...colorations and shared emphasis”
“None of these pieces has ever sounded quite like this before....Cotik handles it beautifully, with tremendous clarity of line and evenness of tone”
“a musician who prepares thoroughly and has great respect for the music he performs”
“laudable level of technical accuracy…tenderness and warmth”
“A neglected stash of unrecorded Schubert”
“Cotik makes Kreisler seem almost smarmy, Isabelle Faust almost mannered, and Julia Fischer as though she's filed down the detail”
“Hace muy poco descubrí esta maravilla...dos extraordinarios instrumentalistas que uniendo su talento logran...algo genial.”
“I highly commend Mr. Cotik for his innovative interpretations and I hope many future audiences will experience his musical excellence”
“unusual depth and broad compass...absolutely brilliant... unmistakable vitality...optimally recorded”
“their lofty musicianship dwarfs their profound scholarship”
“This is an excellent recital. I enjoy the Piazzolla Tango Etudes more as played by Cotik than by anyone else. ”
“true treasure...one of the latest gems to emerge from the season”
“outstanding from the very beginning”
“Cotik vanta un violinismo costantemente brillante e un colore di suono caldo e avvolgente”
“brilliant Argentinean violinist”
“clarity and tonal opulence rare in recordings of violin music”
“Overall, these two discs featuring Cotik must be regarded as among the finest performances for their consistent artistry and idiomatic grasp”
“una nueva forma de mirar, entender y percibir la música de diferentes épocas”
“excellent style, which is not frequently found”
“I find the Cotik and Lin performances most interesting and the sound on their disc is excellent”
“The Piazzolla album is not just Cotik as brilliant interpreter, but also as creative mind.”
“violinist Tomas Cotik is always up for a new challenge”
textura is delighted to feature the following artists in its twenty-third ‘Spotlight': The Carn Davidson 9, Tomás Cotik, Søren Nissen, and Mikkel Ploug, all of who have issued superb new albums:
Who: I was born and grew up in Buenos Aires. My early interest, as well as the main focus of my career, has been on classical music, the Viennese classics, in particular. People around the world associate the tango with Argentina, but when I was growing up, the traditional tango was not exactly fashionable or ‘cool' for people my age, and perhaps classical music wasn't either. I would mostly hear tango in the background; it was present on TV and on the radio. I remember listening to it, played by busking bandoneon players or on an AM radio program.
It says much about Tomás Cotik's playing on this Piazzolla homage that it pretty much matches the phenomenal playing of Fernando Suárez Paz, the Nuevo tango master's last violinist—no small accomplishment. But if anyone is capable of doing so, it's the Argentinean-born Cotik, who's lived and breathed Piazzolla's music for the better part of his life.
There's no question Cotik possesses the technical facility to play these pieces, but to do justice to Piazzolla more must be done than simply play the notes on the page; what's critical is to capture the feeling of his music, and on that count Cotik excels. The expansive emotional terrain embodied by Piazzolla's compositions, from romantic tenderness and longing to violent passion, are rendered rapturously by Cotik, and it's this that argues most vehemently on behalf of Legacy. His virtuosity and singing tone are displayed to glorious effect throughout the hour-long recording, whether it be the high-energy syncopations of “Escualo” (Shark) or the romantic languor of “Vardarito,” the former titled in tribute to Paz and the latter after violinist Elvino Vardaro, a member of Piazzolla's Octet and his first Quintet during the late ‘50s.
Among the standouts is the beautiful “Milonga del ángel,” surely one of Piazzolla's most adored compositions. Lin's value is perhaps most apparent here, specifically in the way he replicates the original arrangement's bandoneon part while Cotik delivers the lyrical lead with heartfelt conviction; lovely too is “Introducción al ángel,” which the duo and Kipperman render in stately manner. One imagines the Nuevo tango master would be as captivated as any listener by such exquisite performances.
Tomas Cotik and Tao Lin return to the music of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) in Legacy. The release pulls together special arrangements for violin and piano of ten of the composer’s works
Things kick off quickly with “Escualo” (“Shark”), an almost scherzo-like, driving work with a brief moment for melodic relaxation. A more sensuous selection, “Vardarito” follows which soon moves rather quickly into some of the noted rapid passage work. The pieces have these sort of instant improvisational feel to them and is one of the hallmarks of Piazzolla’s musical appeal. A bit of percussion and double bass lend this a bit more jazzier flare. These shifts between raw energy and lyrical beauty can make the music seem a bit melodramatic but this is part of the general style as well. Even in the languid “Milonga del Angel” the tango rhythms begin to slowly pull the energy forward. The pieces are a good blend of favorites exploring the sheer variety of Piazzolla’s melodic gifts. The release is certainly a nice addition to the Piazzolla discography of which there is certainly plenty, but this makes for an excellent hour of engaging and excellent energetic performances.
Cotik Kicks Butt in Piazzolla!
Perhaps one reason I liked these performances so much was that Cotik and Osvaldo Calo arranged these pieces for violin, bass and piano, but surely the main reason is that Cotik is a hell of a violinist who plays with tremendous vitality and rhythmic acuity. In his very able hands, the music practically jumps off his bowstrings, and in the process, both he and pianist Tao Lin sound as if they’re practically dancing as they play...the slow, sensual Milonga del ángel for a good example of how well Cotik can draw a sweet legato from his instrument, equaling anything that such masters as Yehudi Menuhin or Jascha Heifetz did in their prime. In addition, he injects a feeling of lightness and fun into the proceedings that most classical fiddlers simply cannot, with the possible exception of Gilles Apap of the Transylvania Mountain Boys.
I do hope that Cotik will consider it a compliment when I say that his playing reminded me of such jazz masters of the violin as Joe Venuti (especially) and Stéphane Grappelli. Certainly, Menuhin himself thought Grappelli one of the greatest violinists of his genre, so much so that he played with him, both in public and on recordings, for a decade. If Cotik ever turned his attention to jazz violin, he’d have absolutely no trouble swinging.
When I say that Cotik reminds me more of Venuti than Grappelli it is due to two factors. First, the looseness of Venuti’s rhythm was always a shade wilder and less inhibited than Grappelli, and second, Cotik, like Venuti, has a slightly thinner and brighter tone quality. This is not a negative quality; by employing a somewhat thinner tone, Cotik is able to loosen the rhythm easier and more naturally. Indeed, most classical violinists (and cellists) cannot swing because they are so tone-focused that they can’t loosen the bow tension enough to make their instrument “fly,” and you absolutely have to do this in order to achieve this kind of sound.
As for the music, it’s delightful because of how Cotik plays it. Cotik, Lin and the percussionists close out this set with the effervescent Fracanapa, which moves like a freight train from start to finish. Cotik is at his most daring here, pulling on his violin strings and hitting them with the edge of his bow, and the music practically jumps at you.
A wild and wonderful CD. I’m so glad I decided to review it!
Lynn René Bayley
Violinist Tomás Cotik grew up in Piazzolla's homeland of Argentina. Cotik moved away at age 18, studying, teaching, and performing in Canada, Germany and the United States. Cotik's new recording takes him back to his homeland, as he celebrates the legacy of Astor Piazzolla.
"Astor Piazzolla: Legacy". Un nuevo álbum imprescindible sobre la música del gran maestro del Nuevo Tango.
Naxos USA acaba de lanzar al mercado americano la edición en formato de Audio CD “Legacy”. Celebrando el 25 aniversario de la muerte de Astor Piazzolla, el violinista argentino Tomás Cotik y el pianista chino-americano Tao Lin continúan sus aclamadas performances del Nuevo Tango con más de las composiciones más ricas y excitantes de Piazzolla. Previamente ya habían grabado para Naxos Records “Tango Nuevo”, lanzado por Naxos en 2013 y que obtuvo excelentes críticas por parte de la prensa especializada.
“Legacy” es un álbum sin desperdicios, disfrutable de principio a fin y para escuchar una y otra vez. El perfeccionismo y calidad interpretativa de Cotik y Lin realza las partituras de Piazzolla en estos nuevos arreglos (exquisitos, realizados por el propio Cotik) y los conduce a un nivel aún superior. Un álbum profundo y sentimental que cala hondo en quien lo escucha. Un pedazo de Buenos Aires a través de su música más excelsa. “Legacy” es, sin dudas, un álbum para emocionarse y escuchar continuamente. Excelencia pura. Imprescindible!
Winner of the Supersonic Award
Der argentinische Geiger Tomas Cotik, der chinesisch-amerikanische Pianist Tao Lin und ihre Tango-Gruppe haben mit dieser Produktion eine sehr sinnliche Tango-CD produziert, in der Piazzollas Musik ebenso sehr Lebens- und Erlebniswillen in Endzeit-Eleganz ist als Nostalgie, Tristesse und… Trotz. Unbekümmert klingt hier nichts, vor allem nicht in Cotiks phänomenal sinnlichem Geigenspiel. Nackter Tango als tief empfundener, leidenschaftlicher Abgesang, der eine Substanz freilegt, die man bei Piazzolla in dieser Form nicht kannte. Eine spannende, eminent musikalische, ja eine regelrecht berauschende CD auf sehr, sehr hohem künstlerischem und spieltechnischem Niveau.
Tomas Cotik’s Piazzolla is carnal, passionate and nowhere easy-going. Together with his group he has produced a riveting CD.
For the Record, Op. 32: Tomás Cotik; Dover Quartet; Altius Quartet; Quatuor Arod
Welcome to "For the Record," Violinist.com's weekly roundup of new releases of recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical musicians. We hope it helps you keep track of your favorite artists, as well as find some new ones to add to your listening!
Big news from the Portland State School of Music and Theatre, as violin professor Tomas Cotik prepares to release his latest CD, Piazzolla: Legacy, on Oct. 13 through leading classical music record label Naxos. The album consists of music by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla and follows Cotik’s previous critically acclaimed album, Tango Nuevo, also featuring Piazzolla’s music. Professor Cotik will celebrate the release with a solo recital, “From Bach to Piazzolla,” at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22 in PSU’s Lincoln Recital Hall (Room 75). The recital is free to all students, who should reserve tickets online
Turn the clock back fifty years and I attended a concert of music by the Argentinian composer, Astor Piazzolla, played by a traditional South American touring group. It wedded me to the composer, but sadly I have seldom heard that evening recreated, his music having been arranged, rearranged and generally mauled by those wanting to use it for their own commercial purposes. Here we have it serving to display the quite remarkable virtuosity of the Argentinian violinist, Tomas Cotik, who ideally creates the steamy atmosphere of some sleazy South American dance hall, as you look through the cigarette smoke filled vista, his small group seemingly fashioning the music as the mood takes them. Notes are bent as the dancers go through the erotic actions of the tango that is the basis of all Piazzolla’s music. In a previous review of Cotik playing Piazzolla, I begged the question, was Piazzolla composing ‘Classical’ music? That was his oft stated intent, but here we have ‘Classical’ musicians sending it in reverse, with jazz the dominating factor. There is the well-known Milonga del angel; the highly emotional, Balada para un loco; seductive Jeanne y Paul from the film, Last Tango in Paris, and my particular favourite, Las cuatro estaciones portenas. They are all quite superb, and if you want Piazzolla played by a violin, piano, double bass, and percussion, this has to be one disc you cannot afford to miss.
Portland violinist pays tribute to a tango composer and fellow Argentinian
Violinist Tomas Cotik may never become a tango dancer, but he can get you to feel like one when you listen to his latest album. It's a tribute to the music of the great Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla on the 25th anniversary of his death. Titled "Legacy" and released on the Naxos label, Cotik's new recording explores several of Piazzolla's most popular pieces as well as a few obscure ones...Maybe some of the secret sauce that Cotik pours into his playing has to do with being born in Buenos Aires. The 40-year-old violinist can channel the street scenes of his boyhood and stir up intangible elements...So far, Cotik has been involved in 14 CDs, some of which feature him as the violin soloist.
But recordings tell only part of Cotik's musical journey. He has been busy since he arrived in Portland a little over a year ago as the assistant professor of violin at Portland State University. In addition to his work on campus, he has visited local high school music programs and youth orchestras..."I love what I do," said Cotik. "I often work until midnight. Even when I'm on vacation, I have to find time to work on my projects, like the article on violin technique that I'm finishing for The Strad magazine"..."I feel very lucky to be in Portland and to have fulfilled my dreams, teaching and recording and performing," he said. "I want to help students get closer to their dreams."
Shion Yamakawa, concertmaster of the Portland State University Symphony and recipient of the David E. Wedge Music Scholarship for music majors, feels Cotik's guidance has been beneficial. "I like studying with Dr. Cotik because he inspires me," said Yamakawa. "He has very high expectations and his work ethic is extraordinary. Dr. Cotik has helped me to truly listen to my own sound, and he has taught me that you can be the best teacher of yourself. He taught me to become more independent as a musician in terms of self-learning, time management and preparations. Dr. Cotik has helped me immensely on technical aspects as well, and my body is more relaxed now when I practice or perform."