Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Tall Tale from Belarus

It was late in Minsk as Piazzolla and his quintet finished the first set at Club Italiano, the small club owned by Piazzolla’s boyhood friend, Paulo. Piazzolla had not seen Paulo since 1959 when his friend had immigrated to Belarus with his new wife, the daughter of the Belarus ambassador to the U.S. As Piazzolla was enjoying the spaghetti and sharing memories of New York and a bottle of red wine with Paulo, entertainment was being provided by Paulo’s two young sons on piano. Both boys were born without a left arm, perhaps a condition inherited from their mother, but had mastered the art playing the piano – one taking bass, the other treble. Piazzolla, no stranger to physical disability, was soon back on the stage sharing the piano bench with the boys and improvising a bass part while the two boys applied their right hands to ever more enthusiastic treble parts. The audience soon noticed and encouraged them. The music was a strange blend of Belarussian folk music and Piazzollian rhythm. When it was over, Piazzolla grabbed a menu and with a pencil moving more deftly than most people can generate script, wrote out a score for the music they had just played, titled it “Reminiscenza” and signed it with a flourish.

That score has remained a family treasure but has never been shared publicly until Paulo’s grandsons put today’s video feature on YouTube. True to family tradition, the song is still played by three players using four hands – one left and three rights. The musical joke, introduced near the end of the tune, was not in the original music but I think Piazzolla would have enjoyed it.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Yes, I made up the story. I believe the song is a version of Reminisence from the Piazzolla/Mulligan CD, Reunión Cumbre. It is not played very often and even more rarely with the enthusiasm shown in this video. Whoever those three young pianists are - thank you for sharing your talents. Wait . . . there's more. A new video from the same talent base in Belarus featuring four hands on two accordions playing Libertango.

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