I composed Last Round (the title is borrowed from a short story on boxing by Julio Cortázar) as an imaginary chance for the spirit of the last great tango composer, Astor Piazzolla, to fight one more time. The piece is conceived as an idealised bandoneón (a small accordian-like instrument without keyboard). There are two movements: the first represents the act of violent compression of the instrument and the second a final, seemingly endless opening sigh (it is actually a fantasy over the refrain of the song My Beloved Buenos Aires, composed by the legendary Carlos Gardel in the 1930’s). ButLast Round is also a sublimated tango dance. Two quartets confront each other, separated by the focal bass, with violins and violas standing up as in the traditional tango orchestra. The bows fly in the air as inverted legs in criss-crossed choreography, always attracting and repelling each other, always in danger of clashing, always avoiding it with the immutability that can only be acquired by transforming hot passion into pure pattern.
It was Simon Rattle who encouraged the flourishing “Sound Investment” idea – and with half the new works commissioned by BCMG emerging via this route, the scheme has proved a thumping success. Last weekend in Birmingham and Oxford, BCMG unveiled its latest Sound Investment commission – Last Round, by the Argentinian-born Osvaldo Golijov; he looks a voice to be reckoned with.
First performed by BCMG conducted by Stefan Asbury at the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham on 25 October 1996.