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It Takes One To Tango / Jeanne Golan

Release Date: 01/01/2021
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30164
Composer:  Pablo Ortiz ,  Wanda Landowska ,  Eric Moe ,  Wilhelm Grosz  ...  Performer:  Jeanne Golan Number of Discs: 1

Pianist Jeanne Golan performs tango-inspired music by contemporary composers and "recovered voices composers" (composers who were persecuted and censored by the Nazi regime). This collection of unknown gems includes several world premieres.

Album Credits:
Recorded July 1 and 2, 2020 at Oktaven Audio, Mt Vernon, NY.
Pacita’s Lunch recorded August 18, 2009 at Peter Karl Studio; Peter Karl, engineer.
Producers: Christopher Oldfather and Jeanne Golan
Engineer, Editing, Mixing and Mastering: Ryan Streber
Piano Technician: Dan Jessie
Piano: Steinway Model D (New York) rebuilt by Ludwig Tommescu

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon Feidner
Read more Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Cover Art: Terciopelo Negro II by Fabian Perez
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Designer: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo

Pianist Jeanne Golan has specialized in the music of composers who perished in the Holocaust, and there are some of those here, by Erwin Schulhoff. The "Works of Contemporary and Recovered Voices" subtitle suggests a dual theme, and it might seem that the Holocaust-related works are an uneasy fit with the contemporary takes on the tango that make up the rest of the program. Actually, though, the two sides of Golan's album go together persuasively, for the tango certainly fell under the Nazi category of Entartete Musik, and the tango art form has not lost any of its edge. Golan has unearthed some gems here. There's a delightful Reverie d'automne, Op. 6, of Wanda Landowska (persecuted by the Nazis, but successful in escaping), and a heavily jazz-inflected Tanzsuite, Op. 20, of Wilhelm Grosz, who also fled and succeeded, as Hugh Williams, as an American popular composer. The Schulhoff Five Etudes de Jazz are remarkable in the degree to which they stretch popular materials in truly avant-garde directions, and they form a bridge with the contemporary works by Pablo Ortiz, Eric Moe, Chester Biscardi (the title of whose Incitation to Desire is taken from disapproving language about the tango in the 1944 Grove Dictionary of Music), Theodore Wiprud, and Toby Twining. The latter's An American in Buenos Aires is delightfully arranged into a toy piano and conventional piano duet. Golan expertly teases out the varying levels of tango presence in these works, and her performance is as skillfully thought out as her program. An intriguing and fresh find for those interested in the popular impact on concert music, with fine sound from New York state's Oktaven Studio.

-- AllMusic Guide

This new disc is subtitled, “Works of Contemporary and Recovered Voices Composers”. Ms Golan has performed in Recovered Voices programs. Those concerts have music by composers persecuted (and sometimes murdered) by the Nazis. My reviews of 20th Century Foxtrots, Vol.1 & 2 included detailed information about the genesis of these dance and cafe songs written during the German Weimar period by German, Czech, and Viennese composers. In this recording, Ms Golan has selected tango and other cafe music written by three of these composers, Wanda Landowska, Wilhelm Grosz and Erwin Schulhoff. (Two selections are in 20 Century Foxtrots, Vol.1). Landowska, mostly known as a harpsichordist, also composed music early in her career. She narrowly escaped the Nazis and left most of her compositions in Poland, thinking that she would soon return. Almost all that music was lost. This is the first recording of 'Reverie D’Automne', a melodic fantasia that hints at Tango rhythms. Grosz escaped from Germany, but later died in the US. His Tanzsuite 2 includes five rhythmically interesting dances: a seductive 'Tango', a lively 'Foxtrot', a romantic 'Boston', a lighthearted 'Shimmy', and an interesting combination of several dance types in the disorderly 'Quasi-Fivestep'. Schulhoff died in the Wurzburg concentration camp. His Etudes de Jazz includes five dances in more modernistic arrangements: 'Charleston', 'Blues', 'Chanson', 'Tango', and a 'Toccata sur le Shimmy' that is a playful version of 'Kitten on the Keys'. The contemporary composers approximate dance rhythms and are more idiosyncratic. They range from Pablo Ortiz’s alternately elegiac and nervous Three Pieces, Eric Moe’s meandering 'Laminar Flow in Upsidedown Creek', Chester Biscardi’s moody 'Incitation to the Dance' to Theodore Wipraud’s 'Pacita’s Lunch', whose jittery music is further emphasized by tapping on the piano case. The final selection, Toby Twining’s American in Buenos Aires uses hypnotic jazz and blues themes with gentle Tango rhythms. Ms Golan plays all the pieces with authority.

-- American Record Guide

If you’ve had your fill of tango-inspired discs, you might balk when you see the title of this one. In fact, though, this is not another Piazzolla-infused collection, like Gidon Kremer’s Tracing Astor. Rather, Jeanne Golan—aptly described by Robert Carl as “a formidable pianist … with a deep intellectual and aesthetic curiosity” (Fanfare 33:4)—has crafted an illuminating journey through works by eight composers, interleaving contemporary music with selections by “recovered voices” that the Third Reich attempted to silence.

All eight works have roots in popular music. But the range of sources is wide, including the blues, the shimmy, the Charleston, and the Boston as well as the tango—and the vestiges of those origins are sometimes fairly obscure. The range in idiom is wide, too, from the sweetly innocent harmonies of Wanda Landowska’s Rêverie (post-Fauré with a Spanish or Latin American twist) to the fractures of Schulhoff’s closing toccata (a hallucinatory send-up of Zez Confrey’s Kitten on the Keys), from the angularity of Pablo Ortiz’s “Piglia” (the pointillistic middle panel of his Three Pieces) to the dreamy nostalgia of Eric Moe’s tonally meandering Laminar Flow in Upsidedown Creek. To add to the sense of variety, more than half of the bands are advertised as first recordings—so there’s very little sense of familiar ground. It’s certainly the first time I’ve run into Landowska as a composer.

Yet for all the aesthetic sweep of the repertoire, there’s a consistent interpretive voice that keeps it from sounding simply random. Scott Noriega praised the “lovely sense of lyricism” in Golan’s Ullmann, and it’s her often-seductive grace that comes across most strongly in this new collection, a collection you’re more likely to remember for its poise (listen to her soufflé performance of the Tango from the Grosz Suite and her seductive reading of Chester Biscardi’s evocatively slow-burning Incitation to Desire) than for its power. Similarly, you’re more likely to remember it for its smile than for its slapstick. It’s not that, say, she ignores the irony of the Schulhoff—but she never batters us with it. And while she doesn’t flinch when she takes on Grosz’s wacky “Quasi Fivestep” (which, often calling for different meters in the right and left hands, would force any dancers to collide), she also doesn’t bang. It’s appropriate, then, that she closes with Toby Twining’s bluesy An American in Buenos Aires, a nostalgic work (with, perhaps, a few hints of Albéniz’s Tango) for piano and toy piano that serves as an amiable farewell.

Fine sound, illuminating notes. Strongly recommended. 

-- Fanfare

The most valuable musicians and music people to me these days are those with the courage and insightful instincts when it comes to music we may have missed or not yet heard. In spite of periods in the last century or so where some felt it was a matter of recycling through the same, say 500 works, we now perhaps understand that the job of sifting through the many yet unheard works out there is never finished, for the reason that history is never about the exact same things endlessly repeating themselves, though sometimes it may feel like that!

And on that note we have today an excellent example of how an artist can weed through the many obscure items of past and present and come up with an unexpected and worthwhile blend of things we can grow into, grow with. I allude to a new CD by pianist Jeanne Golan entitled It Takes One to Tango: Works of Contemporary and Recovered Voices Composers (Steinway & Sons 30164).

It is piano music of character, more personally insistent than doctrinairely Modern, as personal as a signature or a special laugh maybe? At any rate it is a fine example of music we are glad to hear, played with a kind of devotion to the inner spectacle and special way of being that marks it all out.

Important to keep in mind that ""Recovered Voices"" according to the liners refers to ""composers who were persecuted and often murdered as a consequence of the Nazi Regime."" And in keeping with the title of the album all the pieces have direct or indirect reference to the Tango in its musical specialty, its rhythmic breadth and melodic-harmonic girth.

There is nothing superfluous, no space wasted, much music to come to know and appreciate, composers we may have far too little appreciation of, and in spite of what we think we know, there are surprises, happy ones contained within the 70-plus minutes playing time. Wanda Landowska, the ""mother"" of the modern harpsichord revival, gives us a short work that tantalizes, Toby Twining's ""An American in Buenos Aires"" appeals in a Golan arrangement for piano and toy piano, enchants in a bluesy directness. We get a goodly assortment of rediscovered casualties of the fascist refusal in the lively music of Wilhelm Grosz and Erwin Schulhoff, the latter in the substantial ""Etudes de Jazz"" of 1927. Then there are three captivating miniatures by Pablo Ortiz. All that is a good sample of the totality.

Ms. Golan shows how brightly, brilliantly musical and pianistic she is by virtually selflessly devoting all her focus to this endlessly interesting program. Viva her beautiful interpretive skills and her wonderful sense of discovery as she presents us with a delightful batch of things we might not have discovered were it not for her careful ear and critical soundness of judgement.

A topper of a program. There is every reason to like this one. Do not fail to give it your attention.

-- Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

It Takes One to Tango features consummately poised performances by pianist Jeanne Golan of material by eight composers, some living and others who died during the Nazi regime; it's to the latter that the subtitle's ‘recovered voices' refers. Yes, the pieces are generally tango-inspired, but the collection is anything but one-dimensional. The repertoire ranges widely in style, tone, and date, with tango here acting as stabilizing ground more than point of demarcation. A pianist of formidable ability and a Professor of Music at SUNY/Nassau, Golan wholly invests herself in these performances, the strength of her commitment reflected in the fact that she corresponded with the living composers in order to present their pieces with integrity and accuracy.

That some of the material is by composers who perished during WWII might suggest the tone of the project will be sombre in the extreme. However, moments of lightness and even joy abound, which doesn't entirely surprise when one considers that some of the creators were absorbing the jazz and music-hall sounds popular in Europe at the time. Consequently, their works are grounded in popular music forms more than classical proper, the result a consistently engaging album. The set-list here is in keeping with Golan's general approach, which involves seeking out unknown and overlooked pieces and promoting works by new composers. Engaging early suites by Wilhelm Grosz and Erwin Schulhoff form a bridge to the future for contemporary pieces by Pablo Ortiz, Eric Moe, Chester Biscardi, Theodore Wiprud, and Toby Twining.

Single-handedly revealing how expansive tango-inspired material can be, the album opens with the vivid Three Pieces by the Buenos Aires-born Ortiz, its rhapsodic “Bianco” providing initial entrancement and the dramatically angular “Piglia” a succinct demonstration of Golan's prowess. Dedicated to Ortiz, Moe's contemplative Laminar Flow in Upsidedown Creek meanders relaxedly in a manner befitting its title. The title of Biscardi's Incitation to Desire derives from a 1944 Grove Dictionary of Music characterization of the tango as “less presentable to a polite audience” than the habanera and as “nothing but an incitation to desire”; there's certainly little that's vulgar about Golan's enticing rendering of the romantic setting, however. Drawing on his experience of a lunch encounter with a Filipina hostess and her women friends, Wiprud's Pacita's Lunch evokes the high energy of the gathering as it wends its uproarious way through eleven lively minutes. From slapping the piano frame to dreamy and percussive episodes, the piece registers as both fantasia-like tapestry and showcase. The album ends on a charming note when Twining's delectably bluesy An American in Buenos Aires features Golan augmenting piano with a toy piano she found discarded on a trash heap outside her home a few years back.

Works by three ‘recovered voices' enrich the programme. Originally from Poland, Wanda Landowska (1879-1959) escaped Nazi capture by moving to the United States and is represented here by the mazurka-based Reverie D'Automne, Op. 6, a brief tone poem that sprinkles graceful Impressionistic musings with Spanish seasoning. The five-part City Tanzsuite II, Op. 20 by Grosz (1894-1939), who fled Austria in 1933 and landed in New York before dying of health problems, exemplifies a strong jazz influence but covers ample ground in its multiple dance forms. Whereas a Gershwin-like joie de vivre informs “Foxtrot” and “Shimmy,” “Boston,” a speakeasy dance designed to allow same-sex couples to be physically close in a social setting, exudes ponderous elegance; meanwhile, the central movement “Tango” presents the recording's first overt excursion into the form. Schulhoff (1894-1942), a Czech composer who died in a German concentration camp, is also represented by a five-movement work, in his case 1927's Etudes de Jazz. Here too dance forms are the focus, though they're reshaped in accordance with their creator's avant-garde sensibility. That said, they don't stray so far that their connections to the blues, the charleston, and of course the tango become inaudible.

Released on Steinway & Sons, It Takes One to Tango is distinguished by exceptional clarity in the recording of the piano, a Steinway Model D, and was, with one exception, recorded over two July days in 2020 at Oktaven Audio in Mt Vernon, New York. That somewhat curious album title, by the way, was intended by Golan to identify the composer who's writing material as the first ‘one to tango' and the performer to whom it's passed as the second one ‘dancing,' this time at the keyboard. Not to be overly pedantic about it, but two are still therefore needed to tango, even if the partners aren't physically engaged at the same time. No matter: the dances enacted by Golan on this seventy-minute collection resonate at a powerful level, no matter the album title.

-- Textura

"There’s no lack of CDs filled with “classical” works grounded in popular dance music. Still, few are as imaginative and enriching as Jeanne Golan’s recent collection, which brings together a dazzling range of mostly unfamiliar music both by living composers and by composers whose voices the Nazis tried to silence. Even with the presence of so many artists under threat, listening to the disc is an undeniable pleasure. Or more accurately, a series of quite different pleasures, including several recording premieres."

-- Fanfare Read less