This was the Proms first foray into Tango and was launched by Katie Derham rocking a voluminous androgynous black-and-white Pierrot satin trouser suit – the antithesis of Tango attire. An ominous start! She informed us, second-guessing (or trying to influence) our own opinions, that this would be a "real feast".
First up was ‘Sur’, all swooning strings and staccato beats performed by the silver fox Nahuel di Pierro whose lustrous bass comfortably (if amplified) filled the cavern. Then ‘Mano a Mano’, a sonorous glide of lavish solemnity, and ‘El Motivo’ starred the ballroom dancers Vincent and Flavia, the latter glittering in crimson-red sequins as she draped herself about the stage as Nahuel crooned in a bordello Dean Martin style.
And then the composer we had all waited for, Piazzolla, ‘La Mufa’ arranged in a John Adams-Sergio Leone manner, with trademark beat and a cinematic quality!
After the master Piazzolla came ‘Valse triste Tango’ (owing to Sibelius) with a huge brass section, electric guitar, a bombastic Tijuana sound and a soprano outburst from Helena Juntunen, Finland's Dusty Springfield/Eva Peron, who segued into a slew of Finnish songs. She delivered a punchier, more carnal, Tango feel. Odd! The standout was ‘Satumaa’ because of the accordionist Veli Kujala's jaw-dropping contribution. Discordant Finnish Tango continued – slow, slow, quick, slow – Helena spun jazz Cleo Laine-style followed by fierce Ginger Baker drumming from Anssi Nykanen.
Vincent and Flavia wrapped in iron-grey sequins strutted back centre-stage for David Bowie's ‘Life on Mars’ tangoed up, and the platform was under the glare of very bright lighting. Piazzolla must have been spinning in his grave!
At last, Piazzolla's ‘Libertango’ swept before us, as did the dancers again, Flavia now in a royal-blue skirt and sequined top, Tango immaculately performed and followed by Piazzolla's pianist Pablo Ziegler's arrangements if ending with a rather anaemic version of ‘La Cumparsita’.
Tango is sexy and muscular but its pulsing heartbeat and nostalgie de la boue was smoothed-out here in these flat-lining arrangements set in too grand a venue.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms