Sunday, May 31, 2009

Small Spaces - Café de García de Villa Devoto

There is something special about music in small spaces whether it is the Serafin Quartet in a friends elegant living room, Nancy Given and Wild Rose in the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville or Noel Hill in the storeroom above the Oak Hill Kitchen. I have never been there but can tell from today's video that Café de García belongs on that list of my favorite small spaces for music.

The music in today's small space is Libertango and is provided by guitarist Juanjo Dominguez and accordionist Chango Spasiuk. While Piazzolla is probably not on the usual playlist of these very talented Argentine musicians, their version of Piazzolla's single most frequently played piece is spirited, fun and unique. The audience loved it - watch them react at the end.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alcorn, Hullman, and Leckie: Creativity on the Edge

It's always risky performing at the narrow edge of the creativity wedge. The trio of young musicians in today's video are from Baltimore, Maryland in the U.S. and show what happens on both sides of that wedge. I had hints that they were on the narrow edge when I noted their trio consisted of violin, contrabass, and (gasp) pedal steel guitar. I was viewing their Adios nonino video when I realized my mind was shouting "C'mon, get on with it!" They were no longer on the wedge edge, they had fallen off on the wrong side. Creative, they were but good music, it was not. One star, sorry guys.

But my job is to view all the Piazzolla videos so I went to their next one, Buenos Aires Hora Cero, and was pleasantly surprised. On this piece, which purportedly depicts the discontinuity that exists between yesterday and today at exactly midnight, their freedom and musical instincts work very well. It's a bit sparse but the pedal steel was integrated creatively and the musicians fed well off of each others leads. I would like to see a little more aggressiveness from the violinist, Melissa Hullman, and a little more texture from pedal steel artist Susan Alcorn, but Jake Leckie, on bass, is doing just fine. I think there is quite a bit of Piazzolla that would work well with this edgy trio and I look forward to hearing some more. They are experimentalists - it would not surprise me to see them even try a new approach to Adios nonino.

Since originally posting this blog, Ms. Alcorn has brought to my attention two more videos: a pedal steel version of Adios nonino and the trio performing Kicho, a 1970 tune that Piazzolla wrote in honor of his long time bass player, Kicho Diaz. Kicho is the best of the three tunes performed by the trio and the solo Adios nonino offers almost enough structure to win my full approval.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, May 29, 2009

More from Gary Burton

A couple of days ago, this blog featured a video of vibraphonist Gary Burton and a Quintet which included three members of Piazzolla's second quintet playing in concert at Rosario, Argentina. There have been five more videos of that concert series posted on YouTube. The one featured today, Escualo, was shot at the Gran Rex in Buenos Aires and is best of the five. Both the sound and video quality are much better than most of the others and there are some great shots of Fernando Suarez Paz playing what has almost become his "signature" piece. You may note professional videocams moving through the video. I hope that means a concert DVD or a television special is on the way.

The video was provided by Pilar Romero, a singer born in Chile but living now in Buenos Aires. Romero's work was new to me but I must say I enjoyed much of the music she shares on her MySpace page. Give it a try after you view this video. She has also posted two other videos from the same concert. You can find them on her YouTube channel.

If the video does not appear, click here.

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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tanguango - Early Piazzolla in Serbia

You will find both Piazzolla and Vivaldi in today's video. Both played by an accordion equipped chamber orchestra from a music school in Subotica, Serbia. The Piazzolla piece, Tanguango, is rarely played. It is very early Piazzolla - written in 1951 for Anibal Troilo's orchestra. Today, it sounds like traditional tango but according to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, it was avant garde enough at the time to be controversial when it was played to audience expecting standard fare.

If you listen to the Vivaldi that makes up the last two-thirds of this video, you will hear a quite accomplished chamber orchestra. If you listen to the Piazzolla, you hear (almost) an orquesta tipica. They do a remarkable job of capturing the phrasing and rhythm that I suspect would have been heard if Troilo's orquesta tipica were playing it. You could dance a tango to this performance. You may also note that the orchestra plays without music. It is not unusual to see soloists play from memory but rarely do you see a full chamber group go music-less for this length of time. These young musicians are truly outstanding. Orchestra artistic director Mária Megyeri is to be congratulated for their development. Their talents have not gone unrecognized: the text with the video (and the aid of Google Translator) indicate they won first prize at the Seventh Festival of Strings at Sremska Mitrovica. Note also the recognition of each musician with a photo at the end of the video. A classy touch to a very classy performance.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Piazzolla Art by Alejandro Ferrante

Phillips Collection - are you watching?

We have an interesting video today of artist Alejandro Juan Ferrante creating an original piece of art with an enjoyable version of Otoño Porteño playing in the background.

Ferrante shares Piazzolla's birthplace, Mar del Plata, and although currently a resident of Milano, he keeps his tango roots alive by working as a tango teacher and performer in addition to his role as an artist (and architect). You will find other YouTube videos of Ferrante at work as an artist and as a dancer although for obvious reasons, this video is my favorite.

I think the finished product would be a fine addition to The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Nanci, will you please find an appropriate donor and make the arrangements?


If the video does note appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gary Burton at Rosario

This week, Piazzolla's friend and musical compatriot, Gary Burton returned to the Argentine music scene. On May 24th he performed in Rosario. He was joined by three members of Piazzolla's last Quintet: Pablo Ziegler on piano, Héctor Console on bass, and Fernando Suárez Paz on violín along with Ricardo Lew on guitar and Marcelo Nisinman on bandoneón. Early reviews from the forum suggest the night was a great success except perhaps for a few problems with balance in the sound system.

We can share a little of that success in today's video of Romance del Diablo taken during the performance. This same piece was performed in the wonderful Burton/Piazzolla CD, Reunion. To my ears, the music is very faithful to the original and almost as satisfying.

Burton and the assembled Quintet move on to the Teatro Gran Rex in Buenos Aires tonight for the final show of Burton's visit to Argentina. It will be an emotion filled filled fabulous night of music. I envy those of you who will be there.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Question and An Answer

Question: What is the difference between Piazzolla and Mahler?

Answer: No one has ever tap danced to Mahler.

Piazzolla's music is certainly associated with the dance: Tango, yes. Ballet, yes, Belly dancing, yes. Ice dancing, yes. But tap dancing (or step dancing as it is know in some parts of the world) is, so far as I know, relatively rare. Not, mind you, totally unknown. The Japanese violinist, Machiko Ozawa, is known to break into tap dancing in mid-Fracanapa and the Lombard Twins certainly throw a few taps in their creative free-style dancing but this is the first full length tap routine I have seen in a Piazzolla video.

The dancer in the video is Roxane Skobelkina, a teacher of chemistry and a tap dancer by hobby. Her dance was choreographed by Elena Veselovskaya from the Elite School of Tap. In this video she is seen rehearsing for the Russian tapdance Championship in Moscow (May 6th 2009). She won 8th place in that competition and you can see her winning performance here.

Congratulations, Roxane! (And, thanks to Daria for the additional information to my initial posting on the topic.)

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hugo Aisemberg - Piazzolla Pianist

I believe that if Pablo Ziegler missed the Quintet's flight to Italy, Hugo Aisemberg could have stepped in and taken Pablo's place at the piano. Not without raising a few eyebrows perhaps, but the concert could proceed. Judge for yourself in the introductory credenza to Adios Nonino in today's video. After the credenza, the rest of the performance is a bit desultory but the point to be made today is the pianist - not the group performance.

Aisemberg was born in Argentina but has lived in Italy since 1971. He has immersed himself in the music of Latin America and particularly in the music of Astor Piazzolla. His knowledge of Piazzolla and Piazzolla's music make him popular as a lecturer and teacher on those topics in Europe and Latin America. He is the artistic director of the Centro Astor Piazzolla and the heart of the group NoviTango whose recordings cover many of Piazzolla compositions.

Mr. Aisembert is important to the followers of Piazzolla's music and quite a pianist too, as you will see and hear in the video below.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, May 22, 2009

María de Buenos Aires - Greek National Opera

It is probably management approved - the camcorder that provided today's video - but if not, you should view these videos soon to get a glimpse of the relatively new version of María de Buenos Aires that opened this week at the Greek National Opera. This is the international "road" version of the Marcelo Lombardero production which opened April 17, 2008 at the Cervantes National Theater in Buenos Aires.

As in the original production more than forty years ago, Horacio Ferrer - now 74 years old, fills the role of El Duende/narrator in this Athens production. For those new to this "operita", Ferrer was 14 when he first met Piazzolla and wrote the lyrics and poetry for María de Buenos Aires twenty years later, beginning a long and successful collaboration. Soloists in the production are Julia Zenko and Guillermo Fernández. Pablo Mainetti plays bandoneón in the production and Oscar Araiz provided the choreography.

There are actually five videos capturing the production. I have featured the first one posted and links to the others, in order of posting, are here: two, three, four and five.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2009

25 Recorders Play Libertango

If you ever wondered what Libertango would sound like if it were played by 25 students learning to play the recorder, this is the video you have been waiting for. Accompanied by two guitars, a contrabass and a very steady pair of palm wood claves this large ensemble calms a raucous crowd with a version of Libertango which would fit well in a Latin version of Sound of Music.

Wake me up when they finish.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

La Vida Pequeña

Today's video is a rarely heard Piazzolla song, La vida pequeña, performed by Martin Alvarado and the quintet, Otra Vez. Lyrics are by Homero Expósito who collaborated with Piazzolla on at least three other pieces: Pigmaleon, La misma pena, and Menefrega. To my knowledge, Piazzolla never recorded La vida pequeña and the only references I find are to piano sheet music. Yet, the sound in this quintet is very close to a Piazzolla sound - even the guitar/bandoneon duet sounds as if Piazzolla arranged it. I am curious to know more.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Libertango - Victor Alejandro Piseta

Some of us can whistle a tune, some can sing and accompany themselves with chords on a guitar, and some can hear complex counterpoint in their head and share it through their fingertips on the pipe organ (like Bach) or the bandoneón (like Piazzolla) or the guitar (like Victor Alejandro Piseta in today's video). Victor Alejandro's technique on the guitar is formidable - few are better - but it is his unpolished but creative arrangement of Libertango that attracts me to this video. You can hear licks from jazz, gypsy, flamenco, classical and tango in his arrangement. All suggesting a facile and complex musical thinking process. With just a little more structure and discipline, this could be one of the best guitar arrangements of Libertango ever made.

Victor Alejandro is not only a guitarist (well documented in YouTube videos in Hugo Carcabal's channel), he is also a lyricist, composer and singer. His current direction appears to be primarily folklorico with Duo Matices although he has also toured with the trio, Guitarras de Fuego, and recorded as a solo guitar artist.

This is a young man who deserves more attention as a musician. I have now watched many of the videos containing music he has arranged and believe there is considerable untapped compositional talent there. Should he read this blog, I would challenge him to move out of his comfort zone and compose works for string quartet based on his feel for the folklorico idiom and the counterpoint that flows through his head.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Contrabajissimo is a special work. It was written to spotlight Héctor Console, the contrabassist in Piazzolla's final quintet. It was the sole piece played at Piazzolla's funeral. It is a difficult piece and not performed frequently. The performance of the piece by the London Tango Quintet at the Dean & Chadlington Summer Music Festival in today's video is enjoyable but not without some room for improvement. The bassist, Richard Pryce, is clearly talented but tentative and restrained in his performance, almost as if he is sight-reading the piece. I sense he understands the music and encourage him to go deeper into the music in future performances. A more serious problem with the performance is the use of an acoustic guitar. Piazzolla wrote for both the acoustic and the electric guitar. He understood and took advantage of the differences in sustain and timbre in these two different instruments. There are delicate duets between bass and guitar and violin and guitar in Contrabajissimo which simply do not work on acoustic guitar. As difficult as it is for a classical guitarist to pick up an electric guitar, they must do it to properly respect a work as important as Contrabajissimo.

If you are intrigued by the performance in today's video, I encourage you to sample one of Piazzolla's two recorded versions of the piece. One is on The Central Park Concert recording and the other on Tango: Zero Hour. I prefer Héctor Console's performance on the latter although I understand others prefer the live ambience in the former.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Orchestra "XXI Century" - Belarus

A remarkable discovery today. Who would imagine that Piazzolla played by a folk orchestra in Minsk would sound this sensational? The Orchestra "XXI Century" consists of a bass guitar, four accordions, a dozen-or-so domra (members of the balalaika or mandolin family) and five cymbaly (hammer dulcimers). More than half of the orchestra are what most would classify as folk instruments but there is little folkish in the sound. This is a disciplined and well-rehearsed orchestra led by Sergei Salnik who knows exactly the sound he wants (and he gets it). The orchestra is connected with the Belarusian State University and many of the members are students at the Belarusian State Academy of Music. For reasons which are totally a mystery to me, Minsk in Belarus is a hotbed of Piazzolla music. I continue to be surprised by the quantity and high quality of the Piazzolla performances that are posted from there.

Orchestra "Century XXI" posted three Piazzolla videos today. I am sharing Michelangelo 70 and Fuga y Misterio below because I had difficulty deciding which was the best. There is a third, Tema de Maria, with a singer, violinist and dancer which dilutes the orchestra a bit too much for my taste but the performance is still excellent. I can find no information on the orchestra but certainly hope they have more Piazzolla to share in the future.

If the videos do not appear below click here (Michelangelo) or here (Fuga).

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Piazzolla Video from Movie "Quinteto"

A video fragment, apparently from the Mauricio Berú film short Quinteto, was posted on YouTube today by TangoVia. This organization must have a marvelous library of old Piazzolla footage and I certainly hope they continue to share it.

The video shows an early Quintet rehearsing a piece identified by a regular reader of this blog as Tango Diablo. The full piece is captured in the studio recording of the famed 1965 concert in New York's Philharmonic Hall: Concierto de Tango.

Any additional information about the video from blog readers would be appreciated.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

The Real Oblivion?

Today's video took me by complete surprise. Oblivion is the second or third most popular Piazzolla performance video (essentially tied with Adios nonino) and I have been known to dismiss it as "movie music." But, I am going to have to reconsider my views. Russian born Vladimir Sidorov has found a depth in this music that others have missed and listening to his version is almost a mystical or religious experience. Sidorov's instrument, the Bayan - a Russian chromatic accordion, represents perhaps the ultimate evolution of the accordion and in his hands (or in the hands of similarly talented Lidia Kaminska) offers as much expressionistic potential as the bandoneón in Piazzolla's hands.

Sidorov also offers a bravura performance of Libertango on YouTube which is worth watching but it is not an opinion changer. Several CD's of Sidorov performances are available.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jazz version: A Don Nicanor Paredes

Something unusual today: a jazz version of seldom heard Piazzolla piece, A don Nicanor Paredes, with lyrics by famed Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges. The work was written in 1965 and recorded that same year on the album, El Tango, with vocal by bass, Edmundo Rivero. The liner notes of that LP, written by Piazzolla, describe the piece as "composed on an 8-bar measure of Gregorian chant and resolving the melodic part without artificial modernism -- everything very simple, deeply felt and honest." The performance in today's video captures everything in that sentence.

A don Nicanor Paredes is played here in Copenhagen by a jazz trio led by trombonist, Erling Kroner, who also provides the vocal, along with Eva Malling on double bass, and Kurt Larsen on accordion. I enjoyed their easy flow through the piece and particularly admire the strong Gregorian foundation provided by bassist, Eva Malling. I think the jazz world will see more of this talented young musician.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2009

April Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 490 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of April, 2009 – down slightly from the 514 videos found in the previous month. 385 (79%) 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-two percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 24% in Nuevo tango, 22% in pop and 12% in jazz.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 24% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Oblivion
3. Adios Nonino
4. Verano Porteño
5. Histoire du Tango - Cafe 1930
6. Otoño Porteño
7. La muerte del angel
8. Invierno Porteño
9. Concierto for bandoneon and orchestra
10. Histoire du Tango - Nightclub 1960

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 49 different countries. As might be expected, Argentina posted the most videos: 83. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

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

There were 7 videos posted which featured performances or interviews with Piazzolla. Two of these have not been posted before on YouTube although one is available on a commercial DVD.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. My favorite performance of the month was the Camerata Porteña's version of Escualo. Although the instrumentation is a bit unusual, the sound is pure Nuevo Tango.

The choice for most bizarre this month was difficult. I have chosen a video which is more unusual than bizarre. It features a father/son duo playing saxophone and drums in a video titled Garden Piazzolla. It makes me wonder if Astor Piazzolla ever sat in the garden with his bandoneon while his grandson, Pipi, played drums.

I have put a table with links to all 490 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the April link in my Piazzolla Video Website.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Oblivion - Saxophone Quintet

There is no lack of musicians playing Piazzolla on saxophones. But it is rare to find musicians playing Piazzolla tastefully on saxophones. Today's videos is one of those rare exceptions. The quartet, Saxofollia, from Italy joined here by soprano sax player, Bence Szepesi from the Budapest Saxophone Quartet, provides a well blended and smooth version of Oblivion from the movie Enrico IV. The quartet members, Mario Giovannelli, Fabrizio Benevelli, Marco Ferri, and Alessandro Creola, bring a strong and varied background in jazz and classical music to the group. Note the limited use of vibrato and the total absence of "blatting" which is so easy to slip into on the saxophone. This is their only Piazolla piece on YouTube but I would like to hear more - their jazz/classical talents are well suited to Piazzolla music.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tango Suite by the Mystic Guitar Athlete

I suspect that as you watch today's video you will be witnessing the world's record for most notes played by a single performer in a single performance of a Piazzolla work. The Italian guitarist, Luca Calore (also know as Luca Tihai), describes himself as a "mystic guitar athlete". You will certainly understand the latter term as you watch him play. The initial term apparently comes from his experiences in India which culminated in the recording of the CD, The Bet, featuring Calore/Tihai on guitar (modified with 12 internal sympathetic strings) along with Indian musicians on sitar and tabla. You can find more of Calore/Tihai's Indian oriented music on his YouTube channel.

There is only a hint of India in today's video of an improvisation on Tango Suite but it is abundantly clear that Calore/Tihai is a unique guitar talent.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tango Suite on Marimbas

In 1984, Piazzolla wrote Tango Suite for two guitars. It was specifically written for the Assad brothers who recorded it in their album, Sergio and Odair Assad Play Piazzolla. The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, quotes the Assad's as regarding the suite as "a landmark in the history of guitar duos" and indeed you will find any number of guitar duos who have recorded Tango Suite. You will also find a number of YouTube videos which feature Tango Suite being played on marimbas or vibraphones. Most (but not all) of these are based on a transcription done by Kevin Super, a professor of music at Liberty University. Today's videos are based on that arrangement and are performed by Thomas Wilson and Grace Welter as part of Wilson's Junior Recital at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It is an exceptionally sensitive performance - note the well modulated dynamic and tempo variations - and an exceptionally well coordinated performance. Wilson and Welter stay in perfect synchronization and both appear to be playing the entire piece from memory - quite a feat.

I have included the videos for all three movements of the suite but if you only have time to view one, I recommend the second movement, played as a vibraphone - marimba duet which works exceptionally well.

If the videos do not appear below, click these: 1. Deciso; 2. Andante; 3. Allegro.

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