Thursday, December 31, 2009

Libertango - A Double Charango Version

In the never ending quest to find Libertango played on a different instrument, we bring you a version played on a double charango.

The charango (sometimes written charankel) is a ten string instrument arranged in five double courses which originated in Bolivia but has spread through much of South America. The original charangos used the shell of a quirquincho (armadillo) but that creature is now endangered and such instruments are deemed illegal. Current instruments are all wood with a carved, bowl shaped back to mimic the shape of the original. The normal charango has a single neck, but just like guitars there are custom instruments which have double necks like the one in the video. If you need a charango to complete your stringed instrument collection, I note they are available a number of places on the web including a nice selection here.

The instrumentalist is unidentified but he is clearly fluent with the instrument. While he spends most of his time on the treble side neck, pulling an occasional chord root from the left, he does play across both necks and the bass side neck is used for more than open chords. He gets a lot of music out of the instrument with his own jazz interpretation of Libertango. The ending is really hot.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Silvana Deluigi - Balada Para Un Loco

Many a singer's ship has sunk on Balada para un loco. It's more than a song, it's a performance and like any performance, the audience needs to be captured and made to believe that they are part of an altered reality. Silvana Deluigi does this better than anyone since Amelita Baltar who introduced the song to the world in 1969 in Luna Park. There have been nearly 80 performances of Balada para un loco on YouTube in 2009. Most of the singers should be embarrassed by their performance - they are either emotionally vapid or totally manic. Very, very few manage to capture the "loco" spirit and give an uninhibited, believable performance and even fewer of those manage to hit all the notes on pitch. Ms. Deluigi shows them all how it should be done in today's video. There is a fine combo backing her but it is Ms. Deluigi's show all the way.

Silvana Deluigi was not known to me before this video but I intend to become much more familiar with her work. She was born in Argentina and studied classical singing in Buenos Aires before moving to Paris to study acting. It was not until she was 28 that she began to seriously sing tango. She performed in Paris with the group Tango 676 and released several CD's including Loca and Live con 676 Tango. She has released a new CD this year, Yo!,produced by Kip Hanrahan, which has received positive reviews. I think we will see more of her in the future - at least I hope so.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Raúl Lavié

Raúl Lavié was one of the leading singers of tango during the entirety of Piazzolla's career. Piazzolla admired his work. The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, reports that Lavié was Piazzolla first choice as male vocalist for the premiere of the operita Maria de Buenos Aires but he was touring and unavailable. He sang with Piazzolla at least once in the 1970's but the only time he appeared regularly with Piazzolla was in 1984 when he toured Japan and Latin America with Piazzolla. Today's video of Lavié singing Balada para mi muerte with Piazzolla's Quintet on Argentine television comes from this period.

Lavié is, in some ways, the Frank Sinatra of Argentina. He is a very talented singer with a booming but nuanced voice and a mastery of phrasing. Like Sinatra he moved beyond singing to become an actor, appearing in more than 15 films and an equal number of television series. Today, at age 72, he still performs and you can see him in the MaderoTango show in Buenos Aires.

Balada para mi muerte is one of a trio of "ballads" with lyrics by Horacio Ferrer written in 1969. You can find the lyrics here. Balada para mi muerte was made famous by Milva - it was the first Piazzolla song recorded by Milva - but its popularity has never approached that of another ballad of that trio, Balada para un loco.

Sadly, Lavié never recorded an album with Piazzolla. The only media documenting them together are today's featured video and a video from the same broadcast where he sings El Gordo triste. A YouTube search will help you find Lavié singing many other Piazzolla cancion, but no others with Piazzolla himself providing the accompaniment.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Piazzolla did not write music for Christmas, but this video of Milva singing Piazzolla's Ave Maria seems very appropriate.

May you and your family enjoy the holidays.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Triunfal - A Defining Moment

In the previous post, we learned how Sinfonia Buenos Aires, provided Piazzolla his passage to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. Today's video of Triunfal played by Tanguisimo Quinteto helps tell the next chapter of that story. Piazzolla shared his classical works with Mme. Boulanger and she was not impressed. Finally, she convinced Piazzolla to share with her one of his tangos. He played Triunfal for her on her piano. To quote from the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, "At the eighth bar she stopped him, took him by his hands, and told him firmly: 'This is Piazzolla! Don't ever leave it!'" Fortunately for us, he took her advice.

Triunfal was written between 1951 and 1953 - an awkward period in Piazzolla's musical life. He had left Troilo's orquesta, although he still occasionally appeared with them, and given up his own orquesta. He was free-lancing as an arranger and had begun his career as a composer of soundtracks for movies. He wrote a number of almost traditional tangos during this period including Triunfal, Prepárense and Contratiempo. While these are essentially traditional tangos, you can hear increased emphasis on the 3-3-2 pattern and hints of complex chords which ultimately became key parts of the nuevo tango style.

Tanguisimo is based in Buenos Aires and consists of Carlos Morbidoni - violin, Pablo Mitilineos - guitar, Cesar Garcia - piano, Renato Venturini - Bandoneon, and Santiago de Ines on contrabass. All five of these young musicians are excellent and they have a very authentic sound. They perform early Piazzolla as it should be played. If you enjoy this version of Triunfal, be sure and check out their version of Retrato de Alfredo Gobbi

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sinfonia Buenos Aires

Perhaps the most important composition in Piazzolla's career is Sinfonia Buenos Aires - a fragment of which is featured in today's video. It is also one of the very least played Piazzolla compositions. This is the first video of a live performance of the Sinfonia to appear on YouTube and, I believe, only the second time it has been performed in the U.S. in the last five years. What you will see in the video are some fragments of a rehearsal of the piece by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Giancarlo Guerrero in the Laura Turner Concert Hall in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

The reason the Sinfonia is important is that it was this piece which led to Piazzolla winning the Fabian Sevitsky Prize in 1953 which, in turn, provided him a one year scholarship to France to study with Nadia Boulanger. It was Ms. Boulanger who convinced Piazzolla to abandon dreams of becoming a classical composer and to apply his talents to tango. The result was nuevo tango which provided fame, and eventually some fortune, to Piazzolla.

The piece itself was composed in 1951 while Piazzolla was studying composition with Alberto Ginastera and is officially, Opus 15. As discussed in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, the piece was controversial in its debut - leading to fist fights in the audience. Piazzolla was reminded of a similar greeting to the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and was convinced that all publicity was good.

Were it not for the history associated with the piece, it would be forgettable - full of bombastic percussion and thematically vague - it tires me to listen to it. There is only one recording of the full work that I am aware of, a performance by the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen on the Chandros CD, Astor Piazzolla: Symphonic Works, Volume 2. Both volumes of this collection are very well done and provide important examples of what Piazzolla's music was like prior to his study with Boulanger.

The performance for which the orchestra is rehearsing in today's video was carried out on November 21st - about a month ago. Let's hope video was made of the performance and that the full performance will become available on YouTube.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Odair Assad and Fernando Suarez Paz

Today's video finds two of the more accomplished performers of Piazzolla's music joined in a delightful performance of Bordel 1900 from the Histoire du tango suite. The piece was originally written for flute and guitar but works, perhaps even better, on the violin and guitar combination of this video which originally appeared on Japanese television.

The guitar part is covered by Odair Assad - a member of the famed Assad Brothers from Brazil for whom Piazzolla wrote the Tango Suite for two guitars. And the violin part is covered by Fernando Suarez Paz from Piazzolla's second quintet. The Histoire du tango suite is a favorite of classical musicians but what you hear in today's video is different. Both of these musicians know tango and instinctively add the rhythmic and ornamental flourish that adds a nuevo tango flavor. A recent article in Teen Strings by violinist Caeli Smith provides some insight into the challenges that Piazzolla's music offers the classically trained violinist. She spotlights Suarez Paz as her guide to proper tango technique. There are several examples of exactly the things she discusses in this video - it is a good lesson.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bandoneón from Suite Troileana

In The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, Alex Ross uses the word virtuoso ten times. Twice it refers to Liszt and never does it refer to a twentieth century composer. If Mr. Ross had the insight to include Astor Piazzolla in his book, he might have been able to use the word virtuoso one more time and link it to a twentieth century composer. I have more to say about this book but will reserve it for a later blog - the real topic is Piazzolla as a bandoneónist as illustrated in today's video of a performance of Bandoneón from the Suite Troileana.

Piazzolla was a child prodigy on the bandoneón and as an adult is recognized by most as one of the most technically skilled performers ever to play the instrument - the definition of a virtuoso. Surprisingly, there are few media available which showcase Piazzolla playing solo. There are four classic tango solos on the 1970 LP, Concierto Para Quinteto, three pieces that he wrote on the soundtrack of Sur, and three television appearances where he played solo - including today's video which initially appeared on Channel 11 in Argentina in 1975. I suspect there are others which I have missed but the point is that we have relatively few opportunities to observe Piazzolla alone with his instrument.

The piece, Bandoneón, is one of four sections in a a suite written to honor Anibal Troilo at the time of his death. Troilo was in some ways the musical godfather to Piazzolla. He gave him his first role in a major tango orquesta and promoted him to be the primary arranger for that orchesta. Much of the classic tango language which provides a foundation for Piazzolla's work was learned at the elbow of Troilo. The suite honors four things that were important to Troilo: Bandoneón, Zita (his wife), Whisky, and Escolaso (gambling).

Bandoneón opens with a lengthy solo by Piazzolla. If the video does not appear below, click here.

Note: this entry was edited on December 29, 2009 to include the video of the full performance of Bandoneón as posted by Benjamin Szvalb. The original posting contained only a fragment of the performance.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Adios Nonino - Buenos Aires 8

Remember the 70's? There are many visual cues in this interesting video which may help bring back those memories. The video is from the 1976 movie El canto cuenta su historia (which translates roughly to The Song Tells Its Story) by Fernando Ayala and Hector Olivera. There are quite a few clips from this movie on YouTube and they provide an interesting snapshot of music in Argentina - folkloric to classical to tango. The full movie is, unfortunately, apparently not available on DVD.

The group singing is the Buenos Aires 8, a diverse set of singers led by Jose Carli. They are singing Adios Nonino in an arrangement by Horacio Cabral. The group recorded this and seven other Piazzolla songs on a difficult to find album titled, Timeless. The sound is very reminiscent of the Swingle Singers - which will push your memory all the way back to the 60's.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mostly Strings or Mostly Reeds

The first video today contains one accordionist and forty string players - the second features one string player and forty accordionists. Both groups play Libertango. How many songs are flexible enough to cover such a range of instrumentation? I happened to watch them one immediately after the other and while there is nothing particularly distinguished about either, they do represent interesting examples of the two sides of the Libertango "coin".

The single accordionist in the first video is the talented young Michał Cieślar from Poland. The orchestra is unnamed but the director is a distinguished looking gentleman in full tails and the orchestra is quite formal. This is serious music for them and they play it well.

The single string player in the second video is unnamed but sits in the front row, to your left and is playing what looks to be a domra. You probably won't hear her given the volume of sound that the 16,000 reeds on the stage with her can make. The group is the Daugavpils (Latvia) Accordion orchestra and the director is unnamed and informal. This is fun music for them and they play it well.

Full disclosure: actually there are two string players in the Daugavpils group - it looks like a bass guitar is being played between the two drummers in the back row.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for mostly strings and here for mostly reeds.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jeanne y Paul

In 1972, Bernardo Bertolucci was planning his upcoming film, Last Tango in Paris. According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla was approached to do the music for the film. For reasons forever lost, he did not get the job - Gato Barbieri ultimately got the assignment to do the score. Piazzolla was evidently miffed and to show that he would have done a better job composed two pieces to show what a sound track with his music might have sounded like. One of those pieces is featured today, Jeanne y Paul.

The original was written for Piazzolla's nonette but it is performed here by a duo: Marcelo Nisinman on bandoneón and Danusha Waskiewicz on viola. The performance came from a program titled Transamericana and is in an orchestral setting in the Festspielhaus at St. Pölten, Austria. The informality of the arrangements suggest it is perhaps an unplanned encore and some of Nisinman's heroics with the bellows suggest that perhaps it was not heavily rehearsed. But this is an excellent performance of a rarely heard Piazzolla piece. The musicians are superb and the arrangement captures everything that was essential in the original. I envy the treat the audience received that night and am appreciative that it has been shared on YouTube.

The original was recorded by Piazzolla on an album long out of print but still available in the hard-to-find boxed set, Tagamente. That same set contains the other song written for Last Tango in Paris, El Penúltimo. Never one to waste a good song, Piazzolla's Italian agent, Aldo Pagani arranged to have both of these pieces recycled into the sound track of the movie, Cadaveri Eccelenti.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Piano Tuner

The caption with the video reads, "questo pezzo mi ha cambiato la vita..." = "this piece changed my life." The piece is Libertango and although I do not understand the context of that caption, I can vouch for the fact that a Piazzolla piece can change your life. You wouldn't be reading this otherwise.

At first glance, the story behind this video seems simple. The key slip and music shelf leaning on the wall behind the pianist and the tuning wrench still in the piano both suggest this piano is in the process of being tuned. Most tuners have a favorite tune they run through the piano before announcing the job is complete. This tuner's favorite appears to be Libertango and he does play a nice version that covers most of the piano. At the end, he seems a little worried about that low "A" - perhaps just a little off?

But I wonder if there is more? The title suggests the tuner and pianist is named Antonio Granozio. The person posting the video is Mario Granozio - a brother perhaps? Is it Mario's piano or did he just join his brother for a visit to a client and video the finale of the tuning process? And who's life changed - Antonio's or Mario's? And then there is the mysterious comment added to the video by Mario one day later, "è indubbio che la classe non è acqua e la semplicita' fa è arte." The web translations of this don't make sense - I need help from an Italian friend.

While I am looking for that friend, please click here if the video does not appear below.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Invierno Porteño - Kenny Drew, Jr.

This blog focuses on performance videos, people performing Piazzolla's music, with occasional exceptions. Today's featured video qualified for one of those exceptions because of the quality and nature of the music in the video. It is a solo piano performance of Invierno Porteño by pianist Kenny Drew, Jr. and it is the best solo piano performance of the piece I have heard. The slide show accompanying the video is interesting - the photos are appropriate and some attention has clearly been paid to the editing but it is the music which is so special.

The performance was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1999. At the time this recording was made, Drew was performing in both the jazz and classical world which I believe shows in some of the decisions he made as he converted a piece written for a five piece nuevo tango ensemble into something for solo piano. It is still unmistakeably jazz - it shows in the chord flow and cadences - but it is highly structured, very well organized and respectful of Piazzolla's original. This is not casual jazz. The original includes some flashy piano parts. The few other higher level piano arrangements take those flashy parts and try to extend their feel through the piece. Drew's approach is entirely different - he leaves out the flashy parts, and creates his own interpretation of the whole work. He is very percussive in parts and flowing in others and there is plenty of flash there for those who need finger fireworks. Invierno Porteño was the last of the "Seasons" written by Piazzolla and the only one of his seasons which contains (at the end) a clear salute to Vivaldi. That Vivaldi-like ending has created so much cheesey, fake-baroque cuteness in others' arrangement that I almost dread for most versions to end. But to my everlasting gratefulness, Drew does not fall into that trap and provides an absolutely sublime end to the piece. To my ears, this is a world-class performance.

You can still purchase the album, 1999 Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which contains this performance. Kenny Drew, Jr. has many other recordings but only one other, Winter Flower, contains a Piazzolla connection - a piece composed by Drew titled Argentine Rhapsody for Astor Piazzolla. The CD is out of print but I have a used copy on the way to me to check it out. From his current website, I judge he is still actively performing with an upcoming appearance in Zurich and several scheduled in the Tampa, Florida area. I wonder if there is any Piazzolla in his current repertoire? If not, there should be

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Libertango - A Theremin Version

Like Teflon, the Theremin was invented accidentally. Léon Theremin was developing proximity sensors in a Russian laboratory when he noticed frequency changes related to his proximity to the antenna of the sensor under development. Today's Theremin is but a small step away from that original observation. There are many interesting twists to the spread of the Theremin well documented in the book, Ether Music and Espionage, and the movie, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey. A fascinating chapter is Theremin's invention of the "Great Seal bug," a covert listening device which collected conversations directly from the Moscow residential office of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia for many years before it was detected.

The Theremin instrument disappeared for a while but was resurrected by electronic music wizard, Robert Moog, and brought back into commercial production. The instrument used in today's featured video appears to be a Moog Etherwave Standard Theremin (yes, you can buy your own through that link). The player in the video is nicknamed Comzow and like many of today's best Thereminists, he is from Japan. His motionless body position does not represent a lack of spirit - rather the necessity to avoid motion which would affect the pitch he is trying to achieve. You will understand this better if you watch Thomas Grillo's video demonstrating how to play the Theremin. The instrument in the teaching video appears to be a Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin.

It is a bit on the bizarre side, but the performance is still musical. If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Milonga del Ángel - Anna Verkholantseva

It's a match made in heaven: Milonga del ángel and the harp. A graceful and beautiful melody played on the instrument archetypically played by the angels sounds like a good idea. And it is, as demonstrated in today's video of Anna Verkholantseva on the harp. Her playing is fluid and even and her use of rubato adds significantly to the feeling of peace that the music inspires. It surprises me that others have not claimed this piece for harp but my search efforts find no other solo harp interpretations on recordings or on video. Let's hope others give it a try (Ben Melsky, are you reading this?)

Piazzolla composed five "ángels": Milonga del ángel, La muerte del ángel, Resurrección del ángel, Introducción al ángel and Tango del ángel. The first two on the list are consistently in the most frequently performed Piazzolla pieces on YouTube. The first three represent a set often played together in concert by Piazzolla - most famously in a live recording made in Lugano, Switzerland in 1983 which is available in this reissue. The other two are more obscure but still very nice pieces. Ms. Verkholantseva also posted a video of her playing La muerte del ángel. This is a more complex piece than the Milonga and I was skeptical it would work on the harp. However, the way she handles the walking bass with the left hand while executing the complexities of the treble part with her right hand won me over. I encourage you watch that video also.

I do hope Ms. Verkholantseva records the other three angels. Meanwhile, please enjoy the two we have. If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Piazzolla's Got Talent - Two

Unlikely as it may be, the business acumen of Simon Cowell has pulled Piazzolla into the spotlight once again. This time on the show Talento Argentino - another of Cowell's franchise of XXX's Got Talent series. In a recent blog posting we saw the winner of Poland's Got Talent play Libertango on the accordion. In today's featured video we see three young guitarists playing an original arrangement of Adios Nonino. At the center of the trio is the featured guitarist Leonardo Andersen, to his right is Diego Romero and to his left is Benjamin Ciprian.

The career path of a musician is difficult at best. My experience suggests that musicians are happier than most people but that their happiness does not come from material rewards - many struggle to have their talents recognized and to be compensated in a way that keeps food on the table and petrol in the tank. Got Talent may not be high culture, but it is providing many young artists around the world an opportunity to be noticed.

Although Ciprian is a new name to my small world of Piazzolla Videos, Andersen and Romero are not totally unknown - I have watched their earlier YouTube performances of Libertango and La bicicleta blanca but did not appreciate their talents until viewing today's featured video. The trio's performance of Adios Nonino is balanced, coordinated and respectful of the original. In a non-Piazzolla video, Andersen shows his considerable jazz improvisation skills in a vignette with the remarkable guitarist/singer, Nahuel Pennisi (this is a link to a video which is worth watching).

It is a tortuous path to the winning spot in Talento Argentino but Leo and his friends may be on their way (with a little help from Piazzola). I hope we see more of these guitarists.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

November Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 528 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of November, 2009. 385(73%) of the videos were performance videos featuring live performances. The others were videos which used Piazzolla’s music as a sound track for photo or video montages. I highlighted my journey through these many videos in this blog.

Forty-three percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 21% in Nuevo tango, 21% in pop and 15% in jazz.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 28% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Adios Nonino
3. Oblivion
4. La Muerte del ángel
5. Invierno Porteño
6. Milonga del ángel
7. Verano Porteño
8. Histoire du tango – Café 1930
9. Histoire du tango – Bordel 1900
10. Tango Suite

The top three on this list seem to be fairly stable month-to-month but the bottom seven change every month.

The performance videos came from 40 different countries. Argentina posted the most videos: 65. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

1. Argentina
2. Italy
3. USA
4. Netherlands
5. Ukraine
6. Brazil
7. Japan
8. Spain
9. Romania
10. Russia

There were nine Piazzolla original performances posted. Two of these were new to YouTube: La Muerte del ángel and Nuevo tango. The others have been previously posted.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. My choice for best of the month is the performance by Gary Burton and Piazzolla’s Quintet of La Muerte del ángel.

The choice for most bizarre this month is a video of a man smoking a pipe to the tune of Adios Nonino.

I have put a table with links to all 528 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the November link in my Piazzolla on Video website.

Piazzolla's Got Talent

Susan Boyle has earned the spotlight through her "Britain's Got Talent" win but Piazzolla takes the gold in "Mam Talent" (Poland's version of the "Got Talent" franchise) through the fingers of Marcin Wyrostek playing Libertango in the finals of that contest last night. Even though Marcin's Corazon Quintet was just featured in this blog last week, I will take the unusual step of highlighting the same artist again to celebrate his win. To fully appreciate the range of Mr. Wyrostek's skills, I encourage you to watch one of his earlier performances on the show where J.S. Bach visits the accordion through the fingers of Marcin.

Congratulations, Marcin!

Note the embedded video below has been removed by YouTube to respect the copyright ownership of MamTalent but it can still be seen on the MamTalent website.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Piazzolla in Poland

I am no longer surprised to discover classical musicians in Eastern Europe providing superb interpretations of Piazzolla's music. It is a little more unusual to find an an interesting jazz approach to Piazzolla or an authentic nuevo tango sound in the region. However, last month brought two of the best jazz and nuevo tango performances I have seen all year and they were posted from Poland - not a country that has been a center of Piazzolla's music. Of the nearly 4,000 Piazzolla performances appearing on YouTube so far this year, only 44 have come from Poland.

First to appear was a performance of Escualo by the group Tangata Quintet. Escualo was written in 1979 and the title translates to "Shark" - a tribute to Piazzolla's hobby of shark fishing. It is rhythmically one of the most challenging pieces Piazzolla wrote and the Tangata Quintet play it perfectly. The violin part is particularly challenging and violinist, Grzegorz Lalek, is to be congratulated on his performance. Other members of Tangata are Klaudiusz Baran - bandoneon, Hadrian Filip Tabęcki - piano, Piotr Malicki - guitar, and Sebastian Wypych - double bass. Background on these musicians appears on their website (but is unavailable as I write this). This quintet has a very authentic sound and the high quality of the audio and video make the video a fine viewing experience. Their website makes it clear that Piazzolla is an inspiration and a focus for the group.

The second to appear was a jazz group, Tango Corazon Quintet headed by Marcin Wyrostek on accordion. The group plays the standard Libertango in today's video but it is anything but the standard version of Libertango. This is relaxed, classic jazz played by highly skilled musicians that understand the music and coax new vignettes out of the piece that others have missed. It is an extended performance, more than nine minutes long and almost every musician gets a chance to shine. My only regret is that the piano is a bit too low in the mix - there is some very nice piano work but it is difficult to hear. A highlight for me was the guitar solo by Daniel Popiałkiewicz about 4'15" into the piece but I hesitate to mention it because every solo is excellent. The other three members of the group are Agnieszka Haase - piano, Mateusz Adamczyk - violin and Potr Zaufal - contrabass. There is a sixth member in the video - an unnamed percussionist. He deserves to be recognized for his understated and supportive work on drums. Their website also makes it clear that Piazzolla is a focus and inspiration for their work. The website also contains mp3's of two other Piazzolla works and a slightly different version of Libertango. They are worth a listen.

I do wonder if the two groups have ever met?

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Tangata Quintet and here for Tango Corazon Quintet.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Piazzolla Videos from Montreux Jazz Festival

I believe these two videos are appearing on YouTube for the first time and have rarely been seen. They are two performances featuring Gary Burton and the Piazzolla Quintet at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1986. The performances are of La muerte del ángel and Nuevo tango.

An audio recording of the full concert is available on a CD titled The New Tango.

To many Piazzolla fans, this is a legendary performance. I suggest you watch these two videos quickly. While these two videos may survive YouTube copyright surveillance some of the many other videos posted by the person who posted these many not and YouTube policy can shut down the entire account, taking these classic videos down with the others.

So, with that alert, click here for La muerte del ángel and here for Nuevo tango.

Note added on December 5, 2009: One more video from this Montreux performance has been posted. It is the final portion of the composition Laura's Dream.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Violentango - Innovative String Quintet

Violentango originally appeared on the famed Libertango recording. It is one of a series of commercial pieces composed at the urging of Piazzolla's Italian agent, Aldo Pagani, to attract radio play. But it apparently had special appeal to Piazzolla. He recorded it for a second time with his Electronic Octet on the difficult to find LP, Olympia 77, but more significantly, he chose it to close the Carnegie Hall concert that the Electronic Octet performed in 1976. The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, reports that the concert was attended by jazz greats Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Chick Corea and Herbie Mann and that Violentango brought the audience to their feet. Perhaps, then, it is no accident that most performances of Violentango on YouTube this year have been by jazz groups. Today's video, by the Innovative String Quintet (ISQ) from Palermo,Italy, is one of the relatively few classical approaches to Violentango this year.

And, the performance by the ISQ is superb. Production values are high as might be expected from a video made in a recording studio but more important is the crispness and precision of the performance and the very uniform interpretation of the piece which retains the essence of Piazzolla's tango but also contains the hallmarks of a classical string quintet. Members of the group are Luciano Saladino and Michele Campo - violins, Francesca Anfuso - viola, Andreea Timiras - cello, and Giuseppe D'Amico - contrabass. While not suggesting anything is lacking in the other performers, I would single out D'Amico's performance on bass as exceptional. He is the musician responsible for much of the tango sensitivity in this piece.

You will find a few more audio samples of Piazzolla as performed by the ISQ on their MySpace page but I hope they have additional Piazzolla performance videos which they will share in the future. If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ave Maria - Tanti Anni Prima - Peter Soave

The Marco Bellocchio movie Enrico IV which is based on the Luigi Pirandello's play of the same title, contains two of Piazzolla's most beautiful and haunting songs. The movie closes with Oblivion which is Piazzolla's second or third most performed song; but, it also contains a less often performed, but no less beautiful song, Ave Maria. The featured video today is Ave Maria as performed by Peter Soave on solo accordion. There may be no better performance. Soave feels this music and so will you if you pause, get your fingers off the keyboard and close your eyes for the 5'42" it takes this video to play.

Ave Maria was originally known as Tanti Anni Prima and is the theme associated with the Claudia Cardinale role in the movie. If you want to hear it in the context of the movie, you will find it at 4'40" into this video. I suspect the name was changed for commercial reasons by Aldo Pagani, Piazzolla's Italian agent. I must agree the new name fits - Soave's performance does bring to mind a church organ during a meditative moment.

Peter Soave's website describes him as an "accordion and bandoneon virtuoso." This is not hype or exaggeration - it is just a fact. His musical studies began at age five and as a teenager, he won almost every accordion competition in Europe. Perhaps the description of him as "the leading soloist of his generation" might start to touch on hyperbole but he is clearly one of a small number of "go-to" soloists contacted when an orchestra anywhere in the world needs a solo accordionist or bandoneonist. There are quite a few YouTube videos featuring Soave and downloadable tracks from his CD Undertango 2 are available from iTunes and from

Now, it is time to listen. If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


On October 13 and 14 of this year, the center of the Piazzolla world was displaced 7,882 miles from the delta of the Rio de la Plata to the banks of the Dnieper in Kiev, Ukraine. For the Piazzolla classical world, the center may never return - the folks in Kiev are serious about Piazzolla as evidenced by this years Astorfest.

I do not know who the driving force behind Astorfest is (the website hints that it is Leonily Kruhlikovoyi) but he/she is to be commended. This is the most impressive celebration of Piazzolla's music I have ever seen. Astorfest had high level attention: coverage on local television news, an MTV type remix video and an opening statement from Anatoly Zlenko, an important government official and former Ukraine representative to the UN.

By my reading of the posted Astorfest schedule, there were fifty individual performances of Piazzolla compositions with the finale being an orchestral version of Adios Nonino for string orchestra, accordion, percussion and choir. Many of the performances are available on YouTube through the Astorfest channel and there are more to come. I have watched all of them and the caliber of musicians and performance is uniformly excellent. With so many performances, it was difficult to pick a representative video so I took the easy way out and chose the finale, Adios Nonino.

The organizers have planned even more spectacular events for 2010 and 2011 suggesting that Astorfest has some hope of becoming an annual celebration. Their website is worth reviewing as you make your plans for 2010 and 2011. It is in Russian but Google Translate makes it easy reading.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Le Grand Tango - Piano Duet

Piazzolla clearly had cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in mind when he composed Le Grand Tango in 1981. He dedicated the piece to Rostropovich and sent him a copy. The story told in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, is that Rostropovich had never heard of Piazzolla and never looked at the piece when it arrived. Others did play it. Carter Brey and Christopher O'Riley premiered the piece in the United States in 1987 or 1988 and their recording is still my favorite version. Rostropovich did eventually realize the importance of the piece and traveled to Buenos Aires in 1990 to review the piece with Piazzolla before he performed it in public. Rostropovich has recorded Le Grand Tango but to the best of my knowledge, it is only available in the boxed set of Rostropovich's full works.

While the piece was written for cello and piano, it has been played in many combinations. There have been 25 versions of Le Grand Tango posted on YouTube so far in 2009 - half of those are played by a cello/piano duo; the others are played on flute, violin, viola, contrabass and accordion - with piano as the other half of the duo. Today's video is the first to feature a piano/piano duo. Others have played in this combination and there is even a link which provides a two piano score for the piece (download at your own risk).

The pianists playing in today's video are Isolda Crespi Rubio and Ingrid Sotolarova performing in Portugal at a very recent recital. They are talented pianists but do not read the tango sensibilities in the piece nor do they successfully manage the dynamics in a way which reveals the conversation between the cello and the piano in the original. There are moments however, where they do bring things together in a way which suggests this could be a successful configuration for the piece. I would like very much to hear two pianists who have internalized Piazzolla's nuevo tango language play the piece - perhaps Pablo Zinger and Tim Ribchester?

It is one of Piazzolla's longer pieces and is divided into two videos. If they do not appear below, click here for part one and here for part two.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Wikipedia describes the sound of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs as a blend of ska, jazz, folk, reggae, funk and big band. As difficult as that may be to imagine, that description is accurate except it leaves out rock and latin. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs is headquartered in Buenos Aires and has been around for nearly 25 years. They have picked up a number of Grammy nominations and one win (in 1998 - Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album). With few exceptions, they write and perform their own music. Among the exceptions is today's featured video of La muralla China.

La muralla China was composed in 1976 and according to Gorin's Astor Piazzolla - A Memoir, appeared originally on an album with that title recorded with Antonio Agri and an orchestra. Gorin's book suggests the song has lyrics composed by Geraldo Carneiro but I have never heard the lyrics. The piece was recycled along with others from that same album into the soundtrack of the movie Il pleut sur Santiago. La muralla China can be found on that soundtrack under the title, Combate en la fábrica.

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs version of La muralla China has not to my knowledge been released on a recording by them. They did write and record a song titled Piazzolla which appears on their Los Fabulosos Calaveras album. You can hear the song in this YouTube video. You may not hear any hints of Piazzolla in the instrumental but the links are clear in the lyrics which are available in the comments section of that same video. The last two lines of the song are (in rough translation): "I'm going to crash against your bandoneon at full speed, Astor ... Astor ... Astor .."

There are hints of that crash in this video. If it does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Graciela Oscura

This blog is normally reserved for performance videos rather than for recorded music accompanied by photos or video montages. However, today's video features an obscure Piazzolla composition which is so rarely performed that I will make an exception. The piece is Graciela oscura and it is performed in today's video by Miguel Saravia from a 1968 album titled Un rostro en la ciudad.

Graciela oscura was written as a theme song for Daniel Tinayre's 1964 movie, Extraña ternura, but the remainder of the music for the soundtrack was written by Lucio Milena. A poem by Ulises Petit de Murat, an Argentine poet and prolific screenwriter, provided the lyrics which can be found in the comments section of the YouTube video (click more info to see them). The original was performed by the Piazzolla quintet and sung by Egle Martin who was, at the time, romantically involved with Piazzolla. Ms. Martin was the intended star of the operita, Maria de Buenos Aires, but the relationship ended badly when Ms. Martin returned to her husband and Amelita Baltar was eventually granted the lead role (and became the romantic replacement for Ms. Martin).

Piazzolla and Ms. Martin did record Graciela Oscura on a rare 1967 LP titled Astor Piazzolla - Egle Martin which is now only available on the Japanese reissue Piazzolla Para Coleccionistas. Until that version makes it to YouTube, today's video may provide the only readily available opportunity to hear this piece.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

100 - Count'em - Guitars

Another one for Mr. Guinness: 100 guitars gather under the stars to play Libertango.

The venue is the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the base of the Acropolis in Athens. Built in the year 161 A.D. and "remodeled" in the 1950's with a new marble stage, the Odeon has been the site of countless memorable performances ranging from the Bolshoi Ballet, to Maria Callas, to Yani, to today's featured video of 100 guitars (and a violin and cello) assembled and led by Evangelos Boudounis. Boudounis is one of the best known classical guitarists in the world and is particularly noted for his duo performances with Maro Razi. But it is Boudounis' role as a teacher which brings together these 100 guitarists - all are current students or graduates of his school. This guitar orchestra with its constantly changing membership has been performing since 1993. Their repertoire is broad and there are several videos from this concert on Dimitrios Doulias's YouTube channel. I particularly enjoyed their performance of the Vals by Manos Hadjidakis.

But first, please enjoy their performance of Libertango. If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kazuma Miura

Kazuma Miura is one of the youngest and most exciting bandoneón players on the current scene. He is 19 years old and began playing bandoneón at the age of ten. He has studied under the Argentine master, Néstor Marconi and the Japanese master, Ryota Komatsu. He may well be on a trajectory to surpass both of these as his career develops. He has received extensive press coverage in Japan and has had the opportunity to appear in many concerts there. He has issued two CD's which, unfortunately, do not appear to available outside of Japan. In today's video, he is performing the third movement of Piazzolla's Concierto para bandoneon y orchesta with the Osaka Philharmonic.

There are two related videos. The first contains interviews with Miura, some biographical background and some footage from rehearsal with the Osaka Philharmonic. The second is almost identical to today's featured video except it puts the performance in context with an audience of young Japanese students and has a short interview at the end.

The performance is one of the best I have seen. The third movement, labeled Presto, is often performed as an isolated piece and it does stand alone well although the first two movements actually contain more opportunity for a bandoneón virtuoso to demonstrate their mastery of the instrument. The orchestra in this performance is absolutely flawless - extraordinarily well rehearsed and very disciplined. Inevitably, Miura's performance will be compared to that of Piazzolla which is available on a reissue CD, Astor Piazzolla: Concierto para Bandoneón / Tres Tangos and on a DVD, The Next Tango. In my view, Miura has the fleetness of finger to match Piazzolla but does not yet have the bellows control to express the full range of dynamics available from the instrument. For example, Piazzolla often uses the bellows to provide an accent at the end of an extended note. It is a subtle but important effect and in the videos I have watched, Miura does not take advantage of it. As an example, the descending half notes found at 4'30" in the video have a quite a different character in the Piazzolla original - primarily as a result of the accent at the note closure. Subtle differences such as this make the difference between playing the music and expressing yourself through the music. If Miura can bring such details to his playing, he will be able to bring more emotion to his already superb technical skills and. perhaps, surpass his teachers.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Meditango - the Rest of the Story

In October, this blog reviewed an award winning performance of Meditango by the Belarus Group and complained that they were not meditative enough. You may want to revisit that blog post before viewing today's video which picks up where the Belarus Group stopped and provides the rest of the story - the meditative part of the story.

The video features the Argentine composer, arranger and bandoneónist Carlos Buono, and three unidentified musicians in the Melopea studio. Buono is no stranger to the recording studio - his website lists more than twenty albums he has recorded. He is often the bandoneónist-not-seen and deserves much broader exposure. He has a very high level of technical skill and, as this video demonstrates, a capability to find depth in the music of Piazzolla. The other musicians are not identified but are clearly familiar with the music and very competent. The arrangement puts the bandoneón in front and allows the elegiac nature of Meditango to glow. The same group of musicians can also be heard and seen in a recent video of Libertango.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Monday, November 16, 2009

As Ilhas - Ney Matogrosso

In August, this blog featured a video of Mil novecientos sesenta y cuatro and told the story of the very rare Ney Matogrosso single inserted in an 1975 LP. I encourage you to reread that blog entry but the short story is that the record was outlawed by governmental action and it was available for sale for only a very short time. Today's video features the other side of that single - the song As ilhas (The islands) performed by Ney Matogrosso himself.

The lyrics to As ilhas were written by the Brazilian poet, Geraldo Carneiro. Carneiro's website indicates that in 1974 he spent "four months in Rome, working on a musical with Astor Piazzolla." The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, reports that the musical was to be about Eva Peron. The musical never came about but Carneiro and Piazzolla wrote about 15 songs together. Three of them, including As ilhas, were sung by José Angel Trelles on Piazzolla's 1975 recording Balada para un loco. In spite of this Trelles performance, the song is "owned" by Ney Matogrosso.

Ney Matogrosso, whose birth name is Ney de Sousa Pereira, got his start in 1971 with the Brazilian glam-rock band Secos & Molhados. Ney was famous for his outrageous costumes and make-up and his unusual counter-tenor voice. For an example, view this video of one of his early hits, Homem Com H. In 1986, Ney abandoned the costumes and make-up and adopted the low key appearance we see in today's video which captures a performance from just a few days ago. That Ney still performs As ilhas more than thirty years after its introduction is a testament to the value he places on this rarely heard Piazzolla composition.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mozart , Piazzolla and Sungha Jung

At age nine, Mozart had composed five symphonies and a dozen sonatas and was a touring professional musician. At age nine, Piazzolla had started to learn to play the bandoneon. By age eleven, Piazzolla was playing his bandoneon on the stage of Roerich Hall in New York City, had composed his first tango and was known as the "wonder boy of the bandoneon" according to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango. At age nine, Sungha Jung, the featured musician in today's video is playing a refined finger-style version of Libertango on the guitar and doing it so well he would qualify for the title "wonder boy of the guitar" in my book. Sungha Jung also has a dozen or so original compositions to his credit and at age twelve Sungha Jung made an appearance on the stage at the Seoul Jazz Festival - you can see it here (at about 1'20" into the video - this is worth watching - please give it a view). He is clearly still growing - literally and as a musician. At just about Sungha Jung's current age, Piazzolla really became serious about music under the tutelage of Bela Wilda, the Hungarian pianist who first introduced Piazzolla to classical music. It changed his life.

So while neither Piazzolla nor Sungha Jung are the next Mozart - after 250 years, we must continue to wait for the next Mozart - they both fall into the category of musical prodigies. As I have patiently viewed nearly 5,000 Piazzolla videos this year, I have seen many child performers. Many of them are remarkably gifted and I suspect will grow up to be successful musicians but no other child has demonstrated the skills and musical sensitivity you see in today's video. The parallels to Piazzolla are interesting and Sungha Jung is at a critical point in his musical life. Will he become a serious student of music as Piazzolla did and bring the world a lasting contribution through his compositions or will he, as Piazzolla could have done, only exercise his skills as a performer? Either way, I suspect we will see more of this remarkable young man in the future but I do hope there is another Bela Wilda somewhere in Korea meeting with Sungha Jung even as you read this.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lanciano Festival Winners

The October 27 edition of this blog featured a video from the International Libertango Competition in Lanciano, Italy. Winners of that competition are now listed on the Competition's website. First place in the solo competition was shared between two entrants: Fumito Nunoya, a marimba player from Japan and Ekaterina Rumyantseva, a vocalist from St.-Petersburg, Russia. Videos from both of these performers at the festival are featured today.

The first video is of Nunoya performing a jazz version of Libertango accompanied by Evgeny Gutchin on piano. It is a creative and well executed perfomance - deserving of a first prize. If the video does not appear below, click here.

The second video features Ms. Rumyantseva singing Balada para mi muerte accompanied by the group Club Tango. Ms. Rumyantseva does not have the drama or vocal skills of Saule Iskakova, another St.-Petersburg vocalist who frequently sings the music of Piazzolla, but she does have a smokey voice that brings to mind Amelita Baltar, who sang the original. The judges have made another good choice. Club Tango also shared first place in the ensemble competition at Lanciano. If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Jorge Adiós - Mario Stefano Pietrodarchi

I can't explain the bare feet. Nor the waving of the leg which reminds me of nothing more than a dog approaching a fire hydrant. No one wrings more emotion from the music of Astor Piazzolla than Mario Stefano Pietrodarchi and if these idiosyncrasies are the secret of his success, then I encourage more musicians to give it a try. Mario appears frequently on YouTube - at least sixteen times this year - and almost all appearances are Piazzolla performances. Sometimes on bandoneón - sometimes on accordion. His technical capabilities on both instruments are very high. It's not Piazzolla, but I encourage you to take a look this early accordion performance to view his skills sans histrionics.

Pietrodarchi does not pretend to be a porteño. He mines Piazzolla's music for emotion not tango. Thus he tends to favor pieces such as Oblivion and Milonga del angel which have a natural lyric beauty. Mining that same vein, he has turned to Jorge adiós for today's video. This is not a well known piece. In fact, this is the first time it has appeared on YouTube and, to my knowledge, it has never been recorded by anybody other than Piazzolla. It is music from a 1976 movie, Il pleut sur Santiago (Rain Over Santiago). The movie makes a powerful statement about a difficult period in Argentine history and contains some of Piazzolla's most haunting melodies. The sound track is available in the reissue CD, Il Pleut Sur Santiago.

In the original version, Jorge adiós is a piano-accompanied duet between Piazzolla's bandoneón and Antonio Agri's violin with drums and a bass in the back. In the version today, the violin parts are moved to Enzo De Rosa's piano or taken as solo's on Pietrodarchi's bandoneón. It works, but the piece loses much of the beauty which was created by the intricate interaction of violin and bandoneón in the original. I am thankful that Pietrodarchi and De Rosa have reintroduced this composition to the world and hope that it will inspire someone to recover the original arrangement or to make a new bandoneón, violin and piano arrangement which would make this piece soar.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fernando Suarez Paz

If there were a Piazzolla disciple from the classical world, it would probably be Fernando Suarez Paz. In the same sense, a disciple from the jazz world would probably be Pablo Ziegler. Both of these men were members of Piazzolla's last, and some say best, quintet. We have visited Ziegler's music previously in this blog. Today's video of Invierno Porteño from a 2008 performance by Fernando Suarez Paz and his quartet provide an opportunity to focus briefly on the career of Suarez Paz.

Fernando Suarez Paz was born in Buenos Aires in 1941. In 1978, his career as a violinist with several tango ensembles and with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic was interrupted by an invitation from Piazzolla to join his quintet. He toured the world with that quintet until it was dissolved in 1988 and appears in 18 recordings made during that period. In Natalio Gorin's book, Astor Piazzolla - A Memoir, Piazzolla identifies Suarez Paz as the violinist he would choose for the ideal quintet. While some fans argue that Antonio Agri would have been a better choice, I agree with Piazzolla - the sweetness of tone, incredible sense of timing and gypsy fleetness in Suarez Paz's playing puts him at the top of my list.

Since Piazzolla's death, Suarez Paz has continued to devote himself largely to the music of Piazzolla. He has toured with many other artists, appeared in many Piazzolla hommage programs, and recorded many additional albums - a personal favorite is the 2001 recording he did with the Assad Brothers, Sérgio & Odair Assad Play Piazzolla. It is a real pleasure to see him pass on his understanding of Piazzolla's music to the next generation of musicians in the quartet in this video. It should be noted that there is another intergenerational transfer which involves genes as well as music: Fernando's son, Leonardo Suarez Paz is one of his generations leading violinists following his father's classical/jazz/tango pathway. In this case, like father - like son seems truly to apply.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.