Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fracanapa - New Piazzolla Video

My apologies to readers who saw the initial version of this post. This is not a new video. It is a mislabeled version of a video which has already appeared on YouTube.

I plan to take the advice of the comment attached to this blog post. Thanks, Pedro.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is it Escolaso or Mozart?

In 1975, Piazzolla wrote Suite Troileana to honor his early mentor, Anibal Troilo. Each of the four movements represents a key interest in Troilo's life: Bandoneón, Zita (his wife), Whiskey, and Escolaso (gambling). Piazzolla recorded the suite once and played Zita frequently in concert. Escolaso kind of disppeared - seen occasionally in guitar arrangements. But someone has rediscovered it and created the marvelously Mozartian arrangement for bassoon and chamber orchestra that is featured today. While it bears little resemblence to the original in spirit, the musicality inherent in the original comes through strongly. I had no idea Escolaso would work so well in classical format.

The bassoonist in the video is a talented,young, Latvian, Lauma Tuča. Unfortunately, there is no information on the arranger of the piece or the chamber orchestra. If I can get additional information from the person posting the video (who appears to be the bassoonist), I will edit this posting to include it.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Orquesta Tipica El Afronte - Libertango

It is back to the good old days in this fun video of the street tango group, El Afronte, playing a wonderful orquesta tipica version of Libertango. I thought at first that I had stumbled upon a mislabeled performance of La Yumba but these excellent young musicians know exactly what they are doing and, I bet, draw a crowd whenever they appear on the streets of San Telmo and there are a number of YouTube videos that suggest they have been there more than once. But, surely with a great sound like this, they are a club band.

Their website is under construction, but you might enjoy meeting the El Afronte musicians and hear some really fine tango - old and new - in this extended video from the Maldita Milonga. About 22 minutes into this video, there is a stage performance of Libertango which is even better than today's video. Or, you can enjoy more of their music from their CD, Tango Al Palo.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Zunko - I Had No Idea

When I saw today's video of Libertango, I was intrigued by the unusual arrangement and the "scat" singing of the husky voiced female vocalist, Zunko. I had no idea when I looked for more information on Zunko that I had opened the door to a Japanese cultural phenomenon of which I was totally unaware. Zunko, real name Shizuki Asato, is a former big name star in the Takarazuka Revue (or if you prefer, a Takarazuka link in English), a Japanese all-female musical theater. Zunko was an otokoyaku, meaning she performed the parts normally performed by a male. So far as I could tell, this is the only Piazzolla song that Zunko performs but if you are intrigued you can see find many more Zunko performances at lovezunko's YouTube channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Years of Practice?

Years of practice? Who needs them if you have talent like the young musicians of the Constellation Trio in today's performance of Primavera Porteña. Not to say they haven't been putting in the hours of practice, it's just that they already play with more feeling and technical excellence than many musicians who have had twenty more years to practice. Perfect intonation, sensitive to each others playing and thoughtful of dynamics and rhythm. This is a wonderful performance.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Piazzolla Videos

A video of Piazzolla's first electronic octet playing Whiskey appeared today. This octet was organized in 1975 and played through 1976, perhaps into early 1977. Based on information in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, the presence of Antonio Agri on violin indicates this is an early version of the octet. I do not know the story behind the creation of this video but there are two other videos from the same performance available on YouTube: Amelitango, Soledad and a fragment of a third. Perhaps a more knowledgeable reader can tell us more about these videos.

A second video is of a Piazzolla Quintet playing Escualo. It is not totally clear to me if this is a totally new video or a video remix of an Escualo video which is already been posted on YouTube. I believe it is new but may change my mind after a little more study.

If Whiskey does not appear below, click here. If Escualo does not appear, click here.

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

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Camerata Porteña Plays Escualo

Last month, this blog reviewed a performance of Invierno Porteño by Camerata Porteña. That blog contained a link to a live performance of Escualo by the group in Mazalan. The sound and video quality in the video was not the best. But this week a different performance of Escualo was posted and this one is excellent in every respect. Escualo is perhaps my favorite Piazzolla composition and Camerata Porteña is rapidly becoming my favorite performance group. This music in today's video is superb.

I remind you again, if you enjoy their music - they have three CD's available.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Harmonie de Bourges

Harmonie de Bourges is a community band of the sort that exist all over this world. These bands are made up of amateurs, in this case approximately 65 of them, who enjoy playing their instruments and a dedicated leader who has the patience to meld a wide range of talents into an organization cohesive enough to play in public. This band has undertaken a very ambitious project - Piazzolla's operita, Maria de Buenos Aires. One of the co-directors of the band, Christophe Bois, arranged the music for the band and I'm guessing that is him with the baton leading the band. Today's video is just the first of a series of ten videos capturing their performance at the Théâtre Jacques Coeur in Bourges, France on March 13 of this year.

This is not just a band concert; this is a production with singers, dancers and a narrator. Few community music organizations would attempt such an ambitious project and fewer still could put together such a successful performance.

Christophe Bois's arrangements are excellent. I hope he makes them available to other community bands. My congratulations to Bois and his co-director, Daniel Duchet, to all the members of Harmonie de Bourges and to the cast of the show. It was very well done. Bravo!

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pachouli or Patchouli: The Definitive Performance

It is an undeservedly obscure tune: Pachouli (according to Gidon Kremer) or Patchouli (according to Tim Ribchester and the music publisher, Melos). But, the definitive performance must be that of Caeli Smith and Tim Ribchester in today's video. If you Google "pachouli patchouli piazzolla", the first 25 references all point to today's video. The tune was not totally unknown before the video, it appears on Kremers CD, El Tango, it was used in the score of the NYC Ballet work, Todo Buenos Aires and a piano score can be purchased from Melos. But as Piazzolla tunes go, this is a very thin résumé.

While Kremer is very famous for his interpretations of Piazzolla, the Smith/Ribchester version more than holds its own in comparison. Kremer's is characteristically unconstrained while the Smith/Ribchester version is controlled and direct and, I would venture to guess, more true to the original score. Smith is a very talented young violinist and Ribchester, who I would guess arranged the piece, is a serious student of Piazzolla's music.

While not necessary to enjoying today's video, you may enjoy Ms. Smith's reports from the YouTube Symphony Orchestra rehearsals which are available from her YouTube Channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Newstead Trio

The Newstead Trio is the ensemble in residence at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music. They are young and talented musicians whose careful phrasing in today's video captures every nuance of Invierno Porteño. It is relatively unusual to see Piazzolla's "Seasons" played by a trio but the Newstead Trio has recorded all four seasons along with La muerte del angel on their album Romanza. Without reducing admiration for any of the three musicians, pianist Xun Pan is to be congratulated for his remarkable control and touch in this performance. I have seen too many videos where the pianist so dominates the performance that the instrumental interplay intended by Piazzolla is lost.

The Newstead trio will soon be on tour in China where I am confidant they will be well received. I hope they treat the Chinese audience to some Piazzolla.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

More from Celso at the YTSO

You may recall an earlier post in this blog titled Half and Half about Celso Garcia Blanco, a young guitarist from Spain playing the guitar half of Cafe 1930 as he prepared for an appearance in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO). The flute half of Cafe 1930 was later seen and heard from Nina Perlove playing along with the video that Celso had made. Now, thanks to YTSO violinist, Caeli Smith from Philadelphia, we get to hear Celso and Nina together live direct from the lobby of the Parker Meridan Hotel in New York City. After a full day of rehearsal, they still found the energy to meet in the lobby at midnight and, presumeably for the first time, play the duet together in real time. Caeli then joins Celso for an impromptu sightreading of Libertango.

Caeli, thanks for capturing the moment and best wishes for your YSTO debut tomorrow in Carnegie Hall. That moment is captured starting 2'25" into today's video.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gustavo Rosas & Gisela Natoli

Another exception to my "no dance video" rule.

There is no question that Piazzolla's music is popular as the basis for dance videos - there were 25 of them last month. As a rule, I glance at them and then move on to my primary interest: videos of performers playing Piazzolla's music. But something about today's video led me to pause and then to watch with my full attention, twice. The music is good - a very nice, but uncredited version of Oblivion - but the choreography and incredible grace of Gustavo Rosas and Gisela Natoli are what provide the spine tingle to this video. They dance a sensual, fluid and imaginative tango but unlike many "show tango" dancers show a complete knowledge and respect for the authentic dance.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Planetary Alignment

On the evening of January 3rd 2009, the planets Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus were in alignment. As rare as this event was, it seemed even more unlikely to find three videos of Piazzolla on the harmonica in the space of three days. But it happened. On April 10, we had both Franco Luciani playing Oblivion and Bruno Rouillé playing Bordel 1900 and then on April 12, we have today's video of Antonio Serrano with an astonishing display of virtuosity on the harmonica.

Serrano is no stranger to the music of Piazzolla. His CD, Armonitango, is completely devoted to harmonica interpretations of Piazzolla classics. His playing as a session musician can be found on more than 20 recordings as well as playing as a soloist with the National Orchestra of Belgium and in a critically aclaimed jazz recording, En el Central with the Joshua Edelman trio. It is with that trio standing behind him that he provides the best jazz riff on Libertango I have ever heard on any instrument. Period.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Ángel Cabrera

Just for today, Astor Piazzolla leaves the stage to make room for Ángel Cabrera as our favorite Argentine.

Ángel Cabrera, from Córdoba, Argentina just won the most famous golf tournament in America, pehaps the most famous golf tournament in the world: the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

Congratulations Ángel!

Congratulations Argentina!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Virtuoso Harmonica

Once again, a performance from Histoire du tango has captured my attention. Today it is a performance of Bordel 1900, the first of the four movements of the Histoire, and it is played by the French duo Bruno Rouillé and Cyrille Simon. The piece was composed for flute and guitar but is played here on harmonica (Rouillé) and guitar (Simon). I would not have guessed that it was even possible to play the rich, chromatic flute part on harmonica but Rouillé does it and does it like a virtuoso. The duo has also posted a video covering the third movement of the work, Nightclub 1960 which is equally good.

One could wish for better lighting in the video but it is the sound that counts in this case and the sound is wonderful. Let's hope they have video of the other two movements of the Histoire in the vault and will share it with us soon.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, April 10, 2009

Alejandro Toledo

I try to focus this blog on live performances of Piazzolla's music. There are many videos which use Piazzolla's music as a sound track for vacation photos or movies of waterfalls and mountains. I record the existence of those non-performance videos as data but otherwise ignore them. Three videos have arrived this month which do not deserve to be ignored. They utilize original, live performances of Piazzolla's music but that music is used as a soundtrack for cleverly done edits of famous films. These are created by UK based, Argentine saxophone player, Alejandro Toledo, accompanied in the music by Catherine-André Martel on cello and Alejandro Ochoa on piano. That talented trio recorded the music in November, 2005 at Pollack Hall, McGill University. The video featured below utilizes the music of Otono Porteño and cuts from Vittorio De Sica's famous movie, The Bicycle Thief. Clearly some creative thought has gone into coordinating the editing of the movie with the phrasing and flow of the music. Try not to let the film distract you too much from the music because the trio's performance is exceptionally good. There were two other related videos this month. One utilizes an original performance by the same trio of Invierno Porteño (with film Taxi Driver) and the other, Verano Porteño (with film Leon).

In addition to being a creative editor of film, Alejandro Toledo is a classically trained saxophone player with a degree from McGill University. He studied Gypsy music in Romania and is currently a PhD candidate in Eastern European Roma/Gypsy Performance Practices under Dr. Laudan Nooshin at City University in London. And at night, he fronts one of the most popular underground bands in London - The Magic Tombolinos - whose multi-ethnic music is exciting but simply unclassifiable.

Clearly he is a musician going places. I hope someday, Alejandro will slow down long enough to give us some more of his superb interpretations of Piazzolla.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Half and Half

Examples from Piazzolla's Histoire du tango have appeared frequently in this blog. Over the nearly four months in which I have watched virtually all of the Piazzolla videos posted on YouTube, the four pieces of the "Histoire", composed originally for guitar and flute, have appeared as duets, trios, quartets, etc. For the first time, just half of Cafe 1930 appeared today - the guitar half, played here by talented Spanish guitarist Celso Garcia Blanco. I was amazed. The guitar part stands on its own very well. In its usual form, the ear is drawn to the melodic form of the flute and the guitar is somehow assigned to role of accompanist. The flute has seduced me away from recognizing the beauty of the guitar part. Thanks to Celso and today's video, I now hear it.

But that is only half the story. The other half is almost too big for this blog. Celso Garcia Blanco is no ordinary guitarist. He is one of 90 musicians on their way to perform in Carnegie Hall on April 15 with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Most might think there is no guitar in a symphony orchestra but Celso noticed the rules didn't forbid them and submitted his audition video anyway. The judges clearly recognized a real talent and the YTSO now includes a guitarist. You will enjoy the full story from Celso himself or you can read about it here.

Celso is clearly a Piazzolla fan. He has also posted a performance video of Libertango.

Celso, on behalf of all those Piazzolla fans out there - Congratulations! We are proud of you!

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

An update: Nina Perlove has posted a video of the Cafe 1930 flute part played in accompaniment with Celso's video. Let's hope we get a chance to see a live performance sometime in the future.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Just for Comparison

I don't often find time to write two blog entries in a single day but the opportunity to juxtapose JuNo's Bordel 1900 in full jazz swing against the somber but lyrical strings of the Romanian Orchestra Filarmonica di Arad, led by Roberto Salvalaio, playing Canto de octubre is too good to let pass. Such is the magic of Piazzolla. There are few, if any, composers who can provide such diverse and superb musical experiences. Piazzolla wrote Canto de octubre for his Quintet's May 26, 1965 performance in New York's Philharmonic Hall. To my knowledge, he never performed it again except to record it for the difficult to find album, Concierto de Tango en el Philharmonic Hall de New York (Polydor 20308).

I believe I have heard this exact arrangement before. It represents only a single theme from the original composition and while perfect enough to stand on its own quite well, I believe there still exists a substantial opportunity for a symphonic transcription of the whole work capturing the sections of rhythmic contrast, the soaring violin solo and the Gershwin like piano interlude. There is great untapped potential in this rarely heard Piazzolla gem.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Jazz in the Bordello

The Histoire du tango, written for flute and guitar, is one of Piazzolla's most frequently played compositions. It is almost always played "as written" with some variation in the instrumentation - substituting a violin for the flute, maybe. Today's video is a delightfully free, very jazzy version of one movement of that Suite by the German group JuNo - a clarinet, an accordion, a contrabass and drums. Perhaps the leader of JuNo is Juri Kravets, an extremely facile Ukranian artist on the accordion, or perhaps it is Norbert Nagel, from Germany, equally facile on the clarinet - the group's title derives from their names. But one should not overlook the harmonic foundation that Berklee trained bassist, Christian Diener, provides or the "life" that is provided by drummer, Roland Duckarm. Inexplicably, Duckarm weaves from Klezmer to Latin to Lounge rhythms that really keeps your interest.

This is, by far, the best jazz version of Bordel 1900 I have ever heard. The group has also posted a video of another Piazzolla compositions, Oblivion. A very mellow, lounge jazz version which does not move me but may be just right for a rainy day.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lorena Eckell

Lorena Eckell has been recognized for some time as one of Latin America's premier pianists. Her reputation is beginning to spread worldwide and as her reputation spreads, so will the appreciation for Piazzolla's music since she is becoming a leading exporter of his music. Today's video is an example. Ms. Eckell was invited to Ploieşti, Romania for the World Premiere of Marius Herea´s Concertino for Piano & Orchestra and while she was there she performed Piazzolla's "Four Seasons" with Ovidu Balan and the Ploieşti Symphony Orchestra. I have included their performance of Verano Porteño below but, from the same concert you can also view Otoño Porteño, Invierno Porteño, Primavera Porteña and her solo piano encore version of Adios Nonino. I believe, but am not sure, that the orchestral arrangements are those of José Bragato.

The performances are enjoyable. The good chemistry between Eckell and Balan is evident. A reader has pointed out that my original version of this blog was perhaps a bit too harsh toward the orchestra. That reader has a good point. Piazzolla's music is relatively new to Romania although it should find a welcoming home there since Romania is the only Latin country in Eastern Europe, surrounded by Slavs. It was the orchestra's first performance of a Piazzolla piece and the first Piazzolla that the talented Mr. Balan has conducted. And, they had that important world premiere to prepare for in addition to the challenges of Piazzolla. I do thank the reader for the additional information and background. I hope Piazzolla will flourish in Romania.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

A Few Facts About March

This blog arose from an urge to understand more about how Astor Piazzolla's music was faring today. I begin viewing and collecting data on videos posted on YouTube in late 2008. I shared the data every month in a (still) primitive Piazzolla Video website but there were so many interesting videos, I felt the urge to communicate what I was seeing more often than monthly. This blog seemed to be the answer. But I still collect data and here is what March, 2009 looked like:

A total of 514 videos were posted - the highest monthly number since I have been counting. Three-quarters of them, 395 to be exact, were "performance" videos featuring musicians in action. The others were dance videos or photo/video montages set to Piazzolla's music.

The most often played selection was Libertango and here is the list of the "top ten":

1. Libertango
2. Oblivion
3. Adios Nonino
4. Invierno Porteño
5. Verano Porteño
6. La muerte del angel
7. Histoire du Tango – Bordel 1900
8. Primavera Porteña
9. Yo soy Maria
10. Balada para un loco

The videos come from every corner of the globe but here are the top ten sources for March:

1. Argentina
2. Italy
3. USA
4. Spain
5. France
6. Germany
7. Russia
8. Poland
9. Brazil
10. Netherlands and Ukraine (tie)

If you want to see more data, you can find it here. You will also find there, my selection for the best video and the most bizarre video for March, 2009.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


What do you get when you start with the BABEL ORkESTRA and subtract a saxophone, a tuba, a banjo and a drummer? The answer is César Pavón on accordion. And here he is in today's video having fun with Libertango. If you want a little more fun, check out this BABEL ORkESTRA video and enjoy their unique blend of klezmer, paso doble, vals, gypsy, tarantela, tango, and swing. I love these guys - but, then again, I never could resist a band with both a banjo and a tuba player.

I would like to hear the full ORkESTRAL treatment of Libertango, but this is an entertaining preview.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Piazzolla Triplet

There were just too many good videos at the end of March - I couldn't get them all in - so we will open April with a Triplet, not three notes in a single beat but rather three videos.

First, that quintet video I have been looking for all month arrived on the last day of the month: Fernando Suarez Paz and his Quinteto playing Verano Porteño. Suarez Paz joined Piazzolla's quintet in 1978 and played hundreds of concerts with him until the quintet was dissolved. At age 68, he continues to keep the original spirit and sound of Piazzolla's music alive. Some of the best works of the Quinteto Suarez Paz are available for download from Amazon.com.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Second, an amazing video from Japan. One of the world's leading Piazzolla recording collectors informs me that the best collections of such recordings are to be found in Japan. Certainly, the most famous cataloger of his recordings, Mitsumasa Saito, is from Japan. It has puzzled me that there are so few YouTube videos of original performances of Piazzolla's music originating from there - just a handful each month. This video could only originate in Japan: a shakuhachi trio playing a jazz version of Libertango. Tradition meets tango.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

And, for the third of the triplet, a remarkable Russian singer from St. Petersburg who is equally at home with opera and Piazzolla canción: Saule Iskakova. Ms. Iskakova frequently performs with the superb Russian tango ensemble, Anima, and appears in this video with that group. I have chosen to display her version of Balada para un loco but just as well have chosen her videos of Vuelvo al sur or Chiquilin de bachin or Che, tango che or Yo soy Maria or Los pajaros perdidos. They are all good. And, her Mozart is good too. This is one sexy, confidant singer. Where has she been all my life?

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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