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Daily album review 26: Violinist Tomas Cotik's passionately personalized view of Astor Piazzolla

By John Terauds on November 30, 2013

8.573166Only in Toronto could you have an Argentinian expat learning how to dance the tango from a Pakistani novelist and translator. But that’s part of the colourful backstory to a sparkling new album of music by Astor Piazzolla.

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.

Now based in Miami, Argentinian-born violinist Tomas Cotik came to embrace the music of his birthplace reluctantly — as an adult. He wanted to be — and has become — a classical violinist. He completed his graduate work in Germany, in the very heart of the European art music tradition.

But there’s something about the native connection, of hearing traditional tango as well as Astor Piazzolla’s 20th century innovations, that kept a small flame — call it a pilot light — burning somewhere in Cotik’s soul.

Cotik describes his journey from and back to the tango in wonderful detail in the CD sleeve of his new Naxos album, Astor Piazzolla: Tango Nuevo, recorded with his regular pianistic collaborator Tao Lin. Cotik neglects to name his Pakistani tango dance teacher in Toronto, but it could only have been one peson: Musharraf Ali Farooqi, translator of The Adventures of Amir Hamza and Man Asian Literary Prize nominee for his 2012 novel Between Clay and Dust.

Like Farooqi, Cotik has found potent creative expression that combines roots as well as displacement, while adding something of himself to the final product.

The Piazzolla album is not just Cotik as brilliant interpreter — his virtuosic flame burns brightly as well as lightly, while not neglecting the quiet joys of glowing embers in more reflective passages — but also as creative mind. Seven of the pieces on the album are Cotik’s own arrangements, written to showcase his phenomenal technique as well as capturing the full rhythmic energy of the music.

Lin is an able, enthusiastic and equally fiery collaborator throughout.

In short, this album is a treat from start to finish — not just for fans of Piazzolla’s music, but for anyone who appreciates the art of playing the violin.

You can find all the details, as well as audio samples here.

This is the extensive promotional video for the alum:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
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