Friday, February 27, 2009

The Sweet Guitar

I have always enjoyed guitar interpretations of Piazzolla's music but rarely have I been so impressed by a soloist as I was today by Russian guitarist, Alexsandr Sweet. There were five Sweet videos posted today and two of them were of Piazzolla's works: La muerte del angel and Primavera Porteña. Both are outstanding and are included below.

I find no information about Sweet on the internet but he is clearly skilled in classical and flamenco techniques. In fact he is so skilled that I think he plays the opening of the Primavera a little too fast. If anyone has additional information on Sweet, I hope they will add a comment to this blog.

If the video does not appear below, please click here.

If the video does not appear below, please click here.

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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Young Piazzolla

There are currently more than 50 Piazzolla videos on YouTube which feature Piazzolla either as a musician or in an interview situation. There was an additional video added this week which I believe predates all the others. It is a video clip from a movie titled El Tango en el Cine which was released in 1980. In addition to Piazzolla, you will see two members of one his early quintets: Antonio Agri and Oscar López Ruiz. My guess is that the video dates to the early 1960's but even Oscar López Ruiz himself says in the forum, "Don't ask about the date or even where or when this video was made because I haven't got the faintest idea."

Regardless, it is a priceless view of the man. Thanks to TangoVia for posting the video.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nuevo Tango Ensamble

The Nuevo Tango Ensamble creates some of today's very best interpretations of Piazzolla's standards. The three Italian musicians do not duplicate Piazzolla's performances but clearly extract the essence of the music and showcase it beautifully. In this video of their interpretaion of Invierno Porteño, they have added a clarinetist, Gabriele Mirabassi, who blends very well with the group.

If you enjoy their music, they have several CD's available. Buy them - unfortunately, they are tough to find in the U.S. and they are not yet available on iTunes [Correction: their new album, "Tango Mediterraneo" is available on iTunes (I just bought it). Now, if they will just put "A Night in Vienna" on iTunes.]

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, February 23, 2009


"Kicho" was Enrique Díaz, a contrabass player who had an extended role with Piazzolla and Kicho is also the name of the piece featured in today's blog. "Kicho" was in Anibal Troilo's orchestra with Piazzolla and was a member of Piazzolla's first quintet and, later, the nonet. Piazzolla wrote the featured piece for "Kicho" and it was first recorded in 1970 on the classic "Piazzolla en el Regina" with "Kicho", of course, on the contrabass.

I have highlighted Kicho today because it is not a frequently performed Piazzolla work. I prefer the piece in its original scoring for quintet (an approximation here) but this one is still interesting and shows the challenge the piece offers to the contrabass player, in this case Slovakian musician, Samo Alexander.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Unknown Troubador

Piazzolla didn't write many ballads but with his friend, the famed poet Horacio Ferrer, he wrote some gems. The most familiar is Balada para un loco but a beautiful ballad in a more traditional mode is Milonga del Trovador.

Milonga del Trovador was penned for Argentine crooner, Jairo. Piazzolla and Jairo recorded the song in 1981. Jairo is still singing the song today but today's video features an entirely unknown (to me anyway) crooner, Nery González, with an incredible voice and decent guitar skills. Nery posts from Argentina but in a communication with him,I note that he puts Bolivia behind his name so I am not sure where he is from. The video looks like it was made at home but the sound quality is good and his voice suggest he is ready to be discovered by a major recording studio.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Portuguese Guitars and Laúds

Two videos, both of Libertango, captured me this morning both because of the unusual instrumentation used and their musicality. A jazz version by the Portuguese group Amar Guitarra featuring the Portuguese guitar work of João Cuña and a classical/nuevo tango version by the Spanish group Acantun which includes two guitars and the laúd work of Eva Donet (and the bandurria work of Angel Pozo).

The Portuguese guitar and the laúd look a lot alike but a little Wikipedia work reveals some of the differences. Both have 12 strings. Both have the shape of the lute family. But the bass strings of the Portuguese guitar are tuned an octave apart and the instrument is played like a 12-string guitar being picked with the thumb and forefinger. In the laúd, the strings are tuned in matched pairs and the playing technique involves rapid "trilling" with a pick between two strings with the same pitch - something Americans are used to hearing on the mandolins used in bluegrass music.

Enough on the esoterica, here are the videos. First, the Portuguese guitar:

If the video does not appear, click here.

And here is the laúd/bandurria version:

If the video does not appear, click here.

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Overlooked Original

I believe that at some point all available original Piazzolla performances which were captured on video will be available on YouTube. We are not there yet but another original recently resurfaced - a 1972 performance of Verano Porteño originally broadcast on Italian television.

The Italian TV program was called Senza Rete which according to Wikipedia existed from 1968 to 1977 and was broadcast from the Auditorium Rai in Naples. The program featured various solo performers accompanied by an orchestra rather than by their usual ensemble. The same Wikipedia article suggests the conductor of the orchestra at the time of this performance was Tony DeVita.

This blog is usually devoted to current YouTube postings, but I make an exception this time. This video was posted in October, 2008 but has received very few viewings. I suspect it has been overlooked due to the minimal keywords assigned to the video.

It is a very good performance of an important Piazzolla work.

If the video does not appear below, please click here.

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

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Art of Arrangement

Libertango is certainly the most oft played and most oft abused piece of music that Piazzolla composed. Its popularity (nearly 25% of the Piazzolla videos posted on YouTube are of Libertango) is no doubt due to the fact that the "bones" of the music just sound right to the listeners. When a talented performer puts some spice on those "bones" or a talented arranger puts some meat around those "bones", the musical experience can be quite rewarding. The video below represents a triumph of the arranger - not to say that the performance is lacks something, it is superb.

The group is the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin - a well toured and talented Russian orchestra led by Misha Rachlevsky. Piazzolla's music is apparently not a major part of their repertoire but is listed on their website as part of their "encores'.

If the video does not appear below, click here to view it.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Quinteto Persch

After listening to countless renditions of Libertango played on mother-of-pearl encrusted accordions, it seemed unlikely to me that I would ever find a performance of a Piazzolla work on accordion that I would enjoy. But that was before I discovered Quinteto Persch. This group, led by Brazilian music professor Adriano Persch, is serious about their music. No mother-of-pearl in sight. Their repertoire ranges from Bach to Verdi but Piazzolla compositions are more highly represented than those of any other composer. Their performance of La Muerte del Angel, posted below is our first opportunity to see them perform Piazzolla "live" (there is an earlier posting of them performing Calambre but it is just audio with a photo montage in the video portion). The canonical opening of La Muerte shows them to be disciplined musicians and the precision shown throughout the piece further shows them to be well rehearsed and sensitive as ensemble players. I am anxious to see more of their Piazzolla repertoire.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Privileged Performance

I love it when a YouTube video gives you a look behind the curtain. One of the most famous cellists in tango is Ricardo Francia. Famous as a performer, an arranger, a teacher and conductor. This video captures Francia today at age 77 in an informal setting with his son on guitar playing Piazzolla's Oblivion. This is clearly music he has internalized and it flows so naturally and smoothly that it is a privilege to listen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Just For Fun

Lest we tend toward the pretentious in this blog, fun in music is still allowed as this Italian party amply demonstrates:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Virtuoso Performance

Featuring soloist, Gennaro Desiderio, this video is a real treat. Desiderio provides the most aggressive and creative solo interpretation of Libertango that I have ever seen. The opening credenza is breathtaking. A virtuosic performance which, if it was not the encore to a great concert, should have been. Desiderio is a little loose with the pitch here and there but so is Yo-Yo Ma and no one complains.

This one is a candidate for video on the month on my Piazzolla Video website.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tango for Adults

No, not the XXX kind of tango but rather the kind of tango that a friend of mine calls "adult tango" because adults can dance it without looking like fools. Much of the tango dancing backed by Piazzolla's music in YouTube videos is either the herky-jerky "tango" taught in American dance studios or the flamboyant, athletic "tango" which appears on stage in those touring tango shows or in those Buenos Aires clubs that sucker the tourists in for an expensive meal and an "authentic" tango show.

There was a video posted this week that looks like "adult tango" to me. It is smooth, flowing and sensual and respects the meter and intent of the music. Perhaps not quite "street authentic" but still something that adults could aspire to on the neighborhood dance floor.

Here it is - and the band is live and good (although I am not too fond of the sepia tone):

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

Friday, February 6, 2009

Russian Seasons

Piazzolla's "Four Seasons" are favorites in the classical world and one or more of them always show up in the top ten list of videos posted every month. There is a particularly good series just posted featuring the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra performing in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. The group is led by violinist, Misha Rachlevsky, and includes as soloists pianist, Vitaly Matveev, and cellist, Maxim Kozlov. I have rated all four performances with five stars and they are all candidates for best video of the month.

You can access an index to all four here and watch one example below.

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

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Origin of New Piazzolla Videos

Carlos di Iorio reports through the forum that the two new videos featuring Piazzolla were from a television program not from a movie. Perhaps we will learn more later.

He also identifies the other members of the Quintet as:
Osvaldo Manzi: Piano
Antonio Agri: Violín
Oscar López Ruiz: Guitarra eléctrica
Enrique "Kicho" Díaz: Contrabajo

Carlos, thank you.

Another New Piazzolla Original

The same poster who brought us the Revirado video has added another Piazzolla orginal which appears to come from the same film. The piece, Verano Porteño, was written in 1965 as incidental music for Rodriguez Muñoz's play Melenita de oro. It was the first of what was to become the frequently performed "Buenos Aires Seasons." A bit of the music was apparently trimmed from the film but it is still a very interesting performance.

The original movie source remains unidentified.

More on the Revirado Video

On the source of the video: the person posting the video indicates it came from a movie but did not know the name of the movie. Can anybody identify it?

According to the Azzi and Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Revirado was written in 1963 but I don't recall mention of the existence of a movie featuring Piazzolla's Quintet playing the song in that book. A quick Google search did not identify the movie but my ability to search Spanish language sites in Google is limited and that is probably where the information is to be found.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Piazzolla Video

There are at least 50 videos posted on the web which contain performances by Piazzolla and now there is one more.

I have never seen this video before but certainly can't claim to have seen them all. Does anybody have any history on this video?

An Unusual Dance Video

It is not unusual for Piazzolla's music to be used in a Dance Video - there were 23 such videos posted on YouTube in January, 2009. Those videos are almost invariably associated with the tango ranging from clumsy amateurs to the theatrical tango shows but an unusual dance video was posted recently. The video features classical ballet movements done to the music of Adios nonino. The music sounds live rather than recorded and is a very nice guitar and violin duet. I am no judge of ballet but they look good to me. It certainly deserves more than the 7 views the video has so far.

The video was posted from Poland. Here it is:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Unusual Instrumentation

Two very unusual ensembles tonight.

An ensemble of 10 double reeds: oboes, english horns, bassoons and a double bassoon playing what must be their own arangement of Adios nonino. I don't they really capture the essence of the music but the sound is interesting (although, I find the double reed sound irritating in a piece this long).

In the second ensemble, a pipe organ replaces the piano in an otherwise standard variation of a Piazzolla quintet. The piece they play, La muerte del Angel, actually works quite well with the pipe organ, particularly at the end. The music gets away from them early in the piece but they recover and finish nicely.

A Winner Already?

Here we are just three days into February and it looks like we already have the winner for the most bizarre video of the month. How can you possibly beat a man in a small boat doing circles in a Dordrecht canal playing Oblivion on trumpet and a homemade automated pipe organ. And, need I mention that he breaks into a loud whistle in the middle of the performance?

Here it is: