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Tango music given a timeless twist

Tango music isn't just an occasional backdrop for segments of "Dancing With the Stars."

In the right hands, it is an amazingly vibrant art form subject to musicianly flights of fancy and fantasy.

Dino Saluzzi possesses those kinds of hands. Guided by a mix of passion and intellect, his fingers play the 70-plus buttons of the bandoneon (the tango's signature instrument and a member of the free-reed family that also includes concertinas, accordions and bayans) in near-miraculous fashion.

Saluzzi has played the bandoneon in tango, jazz and classical music settings in much the same way as his fellow Argentine Astor Piazzolla did, but without the sort of popular global acclaim that eventually settled on the latter.

What both of these musicians have done, however, is stretch the boundaries of tango music beyond its roots and into a new, ever more adventurous and elastic framework that floats above what used to be.

Saturday night's concert at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery marked the seventh out of eight programs that the 72-year-old Saluzzi, along with his musical partner, cellist Anja Lechner, would be performing on his debut American tour.

The featured material was a mix of works from Saluzzi's past and present, but all of them were treated as if they were timeless. Most of the music played came from Saluzzi and Lechner's new album, "Ojos Negros."

The title tune, almost the only music heard that was not created by Saluzzi, was a tango classic from the early years of the 20th century written by Vicente Greco. Everything else either created a sense of future time suspended or, as in Saluzzi's solo retrospective for the evening, a time remembered. Lechner, a member of the Rosamunde Quartet, with whom Saluzzi has performed on numerous occasions, is a talented musician in her own right, coaxing warm, deeply wooded tones from her instrument.

The one solo spot she had in the concert, part of an untitled and unfinished work by Saluzzi for unaccompanied cello, was amazing, the kind of thing that makes you want to hear her play similar scores by Bach, Kodaly or Britten, all difficult yet beautiful and important classics for her instrument.

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