There’s a local dialect in Buenos Aires called Lunfardo. Making excellent use of idioms, words, and phrases from across Europe grew out of prison slang in the late 1800s but has since spread to every inch of Argentinian society. This was, in part, thanks to Tango lyrics.

‘Visions’ of Tango’, the latest release of Håkon Skogstad, is another idea born of both European and South American influence in heavy measure – classical piano pieces rooted in the taught rhythm of Argentine Tango.

It leads to some razor-sharp performances. The fantastic Trondheim Soloists join Håkon, playing strings with biting precision. Their performance, which ranges from searing to graceful as the track demands, matches his playing at every opportunity.

With just two elements, they can play off each other chest-to-chest (the Tango terminology is abrazo or embrace). In fact, the album conjures up a lot of movement in the imagination. 

The performance ‘Histoire du Tango’ explores the genre’s growth through the many venues it was performed in. Across four movements, the sound appears high-spirited in the Bordello and melancholy in the Cafe before culminating triumphantly at the ‘Concert d’aujourd’hui’ (Concert of Today).

It’s a highlight passage on an album packed with great composition. All eleven songs borrow elements of a particular ‘Tango nuevo’ style thoughtfully and to significant effect. This adds influences of Jazz and improvisation, making the music less academic and more free-form.

Atle Sponberg, the former principal violinist of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, shows his experience in full force. His violin solos go on angular, teetering journeys – embracing atonal notes and alternating between them with machine precision.

Håkon, currently pursuing a PhD in classical performance, similarly flaunts his skills. His playing pours emotion into every song; his touch on the keys is delicate and rich – and strikes more passionately when tracks reach their fiery peaks.

With such complex performance, I think the real success that the music still manages to reach out to the listener and put them into a time and place with such ease. Sweeping strings open up warm, evening vistas. You can feel the temperature rise as the strings and keys spark off against each other.

In a melting pot of inspiration, Håkon Skogstad has managed to find a sound that is exciting and enticing. The heady mix succeeds at being technically complex, with well-improvised flourishes and presents an intriguing future for Tango.

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