Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Original or Extra Crispy?

When it comes to Kentucky Fried Chicken, I prefer Original Recipe™ to Extra Crispy™. Likewise with Piazzolla, I generally prefer Original to a cover or to an alternate arrangement. But, I am willing to make an exception for today's video by Alexander Sevastian of Sentido unico, also known as Sens unique - both of which translate to "One Way" and were supposedly inspired by a "Sens Unique" traffic sign observed by Piazzolla in Paris in 1955.

Piazzolla was in Paris in 1955 studying composition with famed teacher, Nadia Boulanger. It was on the advice of Ms. Boulanger that Piazzolla accepted his tango roots and developed his unique style of composition. Union rules prevented Piazzolla from performing on stage in Paris but did not prevent him from composing and recording. He recorded one of his most famous albums, Sinfonia de tango, which contained eight pieces which he had composed under the tutelage of Boulanger. That 10" LP on the Vogue label is now a collector's item but you may still find a Japanese import or the discontinued reissue, Paris 1955 if you are persistent. Sens unique is one of those eight songs. There are hints of the future Piazzolla in the music but it is far more romantic and gentle than his later works. Were it not for a few discordant notes from the bandoneon, it would almost fall into the category of boring.

The performance by Sevastian retains the themes of Piazzolla's original but is almost a new composition - even structurally. And, to my ears it is a much more enjoyable work. Alexander Sevastian is originally from Minsk, Belarus and has done extremely well in global musical competitions. He is no doubt a rising star in the world of serious accordion music. There are other serious accordionists who play a similar version of Sens unique - Lidia Kaminska for one, which makes me wonder if this is a commercial arrangement for accordion. If so, the arranger (perhaps Frank Marocco) deserves recognition. It is not often that an arranger improves on Piazzolla but this is one of those cases where I prefer my Piazzolla "Extra Crispy" rather than "Original."

Note: Subsequent to the original posting of this blog, Mr. Sevastian has informed me that the arrangement of Sentido unico is his own. He is to be congratulated on both an excellent arrangement and an excellent performance.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

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