Review: Double Concerto for Violin and Bandoneon (Michael Guttman, violin; JP Jofre, bandoneon)

By Emily Wright

Double Concerto for Violin and Bandoneon

Michael Guttman, violin; JP Jofre, bandoneon; Orpheum Chamber Orchestra


(Self produced)

JP Jofre’s Double Concerto for Violin and Bandoneon is a sensual, cerebral treatment of modern tango. It delivers all the piquant delicacies expected of the medium, adding cinematic and impressionist references to create a romantic, earthy set of six movements.

As the composer and bandoneon soloist, it makes sense that the more prolific passages are written for Jofre, but the relative sparseness of Michael Guttman’s violin part gives these pieces space to breathe, lending his entrances a sense of anticipation. Notable exceptions are the angular push and pull of middle movements Cadenza and Milonga, which are obstacle courses of devilishly augmented arpeggios and wild rhythms that remind the listener that this is a double concerto, after all.

Much of this work has a familiar sound to it, which perhaps says more about how exhaustive Piazzolla and Ginastera were than anything else. There are moments of absolute magic, like the dénouement of the Adagio, which can only occur in this setting; the bandoneon somehow hovering tremulously above and below the violin’s final note. It holds a beautiful nostalgia, one to return to again and again, that is especially present in the duets Como el Agua and Sweet Dreams, which close out the album with incredible longing and sincerity.

The lushness of the Orpheum Chamber Orchestra and the restraint with which it is employed are the secret genius of the Double Concerto. In it, Jofre offers a work that is on one hand crisp and new yet unmistakably in the tradition of those who came before him. There is much to love here.