Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Adios Nonino - 3 De Copas

No dulcet tones here - today's video features 3 De Copas, the Argentine instrumental rock band founded on Christmas day, 1998, in Jesus Maria, Argentina. Band members are Ariel Vilche (lead guitar), Matías Londero (bass guitar) and Jordan Toro (drums). They made the decision early to forgo vocals, an unusual decision for a rock band - even more unusual for a trio - but it has served them well. Following the usual path of playing covers and being the opening act they have progressed to being the headline performers playing full concerts of their own material across much of Latin America. Their latest CD, Metiendo Púa, which you hear as you open their website shows a surprisingly full sound for such a small group.

Their version of Adios Nonino featured here was recorded at the Cineclub Municipal Hugo del Carril in Córdoba, Argentina in March of this year. Interestingly, the only other covers in the evening were a couple of Jimi Hendrix covers - somehow that seems appropriate.

You can read more about 3 De Copas in tbe blog, ensayo de orquesta.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tango Suite - Deciso

Today's video features two young guitarists from Qingdao, China: Wang Yameng and Su Meng. They are both award winning guitarists and both made a weekly long commute to Beijing to study under the famous Prof. Chen Zhi starting at the age of nine or ten. Additional biographical information on all three can be found on the Alma guitar site. They are playing the first movement, Deciso, of the three movement Tango Suite. This is a staple of the duo guitar community but few play it with the combined speed and accuracy exhibited in today's video.

The suite was written 1n 1984 for the young Brazilian brothers Sérgio and Odair Assad who impressed Piazzolla when he was introduced to their playing in Paris a year earlier. The Assad brothers recorded the full suite in a CD that every Piazzolla fan should own: Sérgio & Odair Assad Play Piazzolla. While there is not a video available of the Assad's playing the Deciso movement, you can listen to the Assad's playing it here. Just listening and comparing the last twenty seconds of the two versions is instructive. Professor Zhi's students play the ending with heat; the Assad brothers, with fire and smoke.

It is not possible to tell for sure but I think all three movements of Tango Suite played by Wang Yameng and Su Meng may exist on a Korean DVD available from Alma Guitars.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Forty Years Later - Amelita Baltar

There are forty years of history in today's video. The video was recorded August 31, 2009 at Luna Park in Buenos Aires. Almost forty years earlier (November, 1969), the same singer, Amelita Baltar, sang the same song, Balada para un loco, in the same location. The song was new - just created by Piazzolla and his chosen lyricist, Horacio Ferrer. Amelita Baltar was Piazzolla's new vocalist and new lover. The song was entered in a contest for best song at the First Latin America Festival of Song and Dance. Officially, it won second place but in a story well told in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, the crowd gave it first place. The song went on to become a worldwide popular hit at the time and today is the most popular song of the Piazzolla/Ferrer catalog and the 12th most frequently performed Piazzolla composition on YouTube. You can find an early version of it sung by Ms. Baltar on the CD, Itinerary of a Genius.

Today's video was taken at the Tango Festival y Mundial de Baile. There were 6,000 people in the audience when Ms. Baltar appeared. The story is best told in this quote from La Milonga Argentina magazine: "But the greatest ovation, which brought the crowd to its feet with tears in their eyes, was for Amelita Baltar, who went onstage overcome with emotion at the exact moment when the presenter, Fernando Bravo, was remembering how right there, forty years ago, she had performed the now well-known “Balada para un loco” for the first time. Little by little, phrase by phrase, the singer repeated those same lines written by Horacio Ferrer and with music by Astor Piazzolla." You can read the full article here.

You will find other videos of Ms. Baltar singing Balada para un loco on YouTube including my favorite. You will also find versions by many other singers but Amelita Baltar owns this song.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

Look Ma - One Hand

Now if the flautist had played his half of the duet with one hand or the pianist had used his free right hand to eat a burrito, today's first video would be impressive.

The video captures a fragment of Concert d'aujourd'hui, the fourth section of Histoire du Tango. It is the section of the Histoire which represents nuevo tango and it is seldom played. This year on YouTube, there have been 58 performances of Bordel 1900, 75 of Cafe 1930, 53 of Nightclub 1960 and only 12 performances of Concert d'aujourd'hui. A remarkable difference certainly not driven by economics since a purchased or rented score to Histoire du tango contains all four. Why isn't it played more often? I have asked several of the groups who have posted the first three but not D'aujourd'hui. The answers deserve more academic study but a common thread is the thought that "our audience will not enjoy it." I think if you asked the performers, "Why do you believe the audience will not enjoy it?", the honest answer would be "because we don't understand it and don't enjoy playing it." Without exception, the people playing the Histoire are classically trained musicians. The first three of the Histoire can be successfully enjoyed using the usual toolbox of the classical musician. The fourth, D'aujourd'hui, cannot. It is "classical" Piazzolla nuevo tango and without an understanding of the tango roots and gestures in the music, it cannot be rendered in a way that is intelligible to those playing or listening.

There are, however, those classically trained musicians who take the trouble to study and understand the music of tango. One of those is Tim Ribchester, the pianist in today's second video - a very successful version of Concert D'aujourd'hui. The Histoire series was originally composed as a duet for flute and guitar. Talented young violinist, Caeli Smith, covers the flute part here and Ribchester performs his own arrangement of the guitar part on piano. The performances are technically without flaw but that is not the secret of success of this performance. Listen carefully to the piano half of the duet and pay attention to the flow and pattern of the accents in the rhythm. Listen to the way the accents on the violin interact with those on the piano. Piazzolla's tango is captured there and, I believe, that is the secret of success of this performance.

The Smith/Ribchester version is the most highly viewed performance of Concert d'aujourd'hui on YouTube. That is because it is the best - nothing else comes close.

If the video does not appear below, click here to view the one-handed performance and here to view the best performance.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tango Callejero - Pablo Zinger

I admit I did not recognize the tune. My ears are not golden like those of friend Pedro in NYC who can identify any Piazzolla tune after listening to a measure or two. I couldn't find Tango Callejero in my usual references and somehow missed the English version of the title that appears 10 seconds into the video. But, I am not embarrassed to ask. Both Pedro and Pablo Zinger responded to email notes with the title: Street Tango. Of course!

Pablo Zinger should know - he is not only the pianist in the video and the arranger of the piece, he was also there for the creation of Tango Apasionado (note: this is a link worthy of a click), the show for which this piece was composed. The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, tells the story of Zinger answering the phone and hearing someone announce, "This is Astor Piazzolla" with Zinger's jocular response being, "And I am Christopher Columbus." Today, Zinger allows that what he actually said was "Don't f... with me, who is this?" But it was in fact Piazzolla, asking Zinger to be Musical Director for Tango Apasionado. He did fill that role and led the stage band for the production at the Westbeth Theater Center in NYC and also played the piano in Piazzolla's American Clavé recording,The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night which captures the music from Tango Apasionado.

Tango Callejero/Street Tango is performed in today's video by the trio of Zinger on piano, Jose Franch-Ballester on clarinet, and Young Song on cello. Much of Piazzolla's bandoneon part has been moved to the clarinet and Franch-Ballester does a remarkable job of bringing the emotion associated with the bandoneon to the clarinet. To my knowledge, this trio has not preserved their performances of Piazzolla works in a recording. They should and I hope they do - this is wonderful music.

Epilogue: Disagreements with the estate of Jorge Luis Borges over the use of his stories in Tango Apasionado have prevented it from becoming part of the world's stage repertoire. It is time for those disagreements to be revisited so this production can once again be enjoyed by all.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Café 1930 - Ramirez and Satorre

Don't be misled by the informality of the camera operation in today's video. You are going to see two of the finest young musicians in Argentina provide an extraordinarily sensitive performance of Café 1930 - the second of four movements in Piazzolla's Histoire du tango. The composition was written for flute and guitar but has been transcribed for many pairs of instruments. The bandoneón is sometimes substituted for either instrument. For example, Per Arne Glovigen plays bandoneón as a replacement for flute in this version of Bordel 1900. And in the famous Yo-Yo Ma CD, Soul of the Tango, the bandoneón replaces the guitar and Yo-Yo Ma's cello plays the flute part in Café 1930.

The guitarist in today's video is Adrian Ramirez who comes from Piazzolla's birthplace, Mar del Plata. Ramirez performance is simply perfect - articulate, flowing and emotive. No guitarist does it better. He is paired with Hugo Satorre on the bandoneón. Satorre is in high demand as a session bandoneónist and you will find him on many recordings. Still he has time to appear with the one of the hottest electro tango groups, Otros Aires, and tour the world as a member of the band for the show, Tango Fire. He is so busy, he has never established much of a web presence although you can find some biographical information on the website of Quatrotango. Satorre plays the flute part on the bandoneón quite straight with no ornamentation yet achieves a remarkable musicality. The bandoneón can be an expressive instrument with dynamics achieved through management of bellows pressure and the attack and note termination achieved both through finger movement and bellows action. The effect is similar to that achieved in the human voice with the lungs and tongue. Often this expressive capability is hidden by the drive in some players to play quickly or the drive to display complex harmonies. It is actually more difficult to play slowly and expressively and Satorre shows he is a master of this aspect of the bandoneón at a relatively early age.

I certainly hope that Ramirez and Satorre have also made videos of the other three movements of the Histoire du tango which they will share with us in the future.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rodolfo Mederos - Adios Nonino

"Were Bach to be born again, he would surely be a bandoneon player." This statement, I believe, can be attributed to Rodolfo Mederos, one of the most revered and respected masters of the bandoneon alive today. As a very young bandoneon player, Mederos was "discovered" by Piazzolla. On Piazzolla's advice, Mederos abandoned the study of biology at the University of Córdoba and pursued a career in music. Piazzolla was clearly supportive: an octet that young Mederos had put together was invited to share the stage with Piazzolla's octet - an opening act, in today's parlance. According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, when Mederos' bandoneon was once stolen, Piazzolla loaned him one of his and then refused its return or payment for it. In 1970, Piazzolla and three other bandoneonist, one of whom was Mederos, recorded Enrique Delfino's Recuerdos de bohemia. Some believe that performance represents the pinnacle of performance on the bandoneon and I would not disagree. That performance and four bandoneon solos by Piazzolla are available on the CD, Concierto para quinteto.

But Mederos was never a disciple of Piazzolla. He went his own way. He became a master of traditional tango, playing with Osvaldo Pugliese’s orchestra. He created his own revolutionary sound in the group Generación Cero with roots but not branches in tango. He continues today to compose, to arrange, to teach and to perform for audiences who treat him with the awe once reserved for Piazzolla. And in those performances, as captured in today's video, he often pays tribute to Piazzolla with a performance of Adios Nonino. As always, he plays Adios Nonino his way but the respect and honor he holds for Piazzolla is apparent.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sublime to Ridiculous

Gidon Kremer has been mentioned several times in this blog. He is largely responsible for the classical music world's current fascination with Piazzolla. His CD, Homage a Piazzolla, introduced me and thousands of other listeners to the music of Piazzolla. Today's first video begins and ends with video clips of Piazzolla discussing the tango but in between those clips is Kremer, as part of the Astor Quartet, playing a sublime version of Oblivion. The arrangement is slightly more sparse than that which appears on the Hommage CD and allows the virtuosity of Kremer to be clearly heard. The other three musicians: Per Arne Glorvigen - bandoneón, Vadim Sakharov - piano, and Alois Posch - double bass are understated and superb. To my knowledge, the Astor Quartet has not released a recording containing Oblivion which makes this video even more special.

And then, there is this other side of Gidon Kremer that I discovered in the second video featured today. Is that really Kremer in a sleeveless tuxedo "playing" with Aleksey Igudesman? And, is that Joo at the piano?

If the videos do not appear below, click here for sublime and here for ridiculous.



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

Libertango - AMAL'GAMME

If you are enthusiastic, can carry a tune, are physically fit and are willing to rehearse endlessly then give Didier Meyer a call and perhaps you, too, can sing and dance Libertango on the street. It would help if you live in Paris, the home of AMAL'GAMME - the troupe featured in today's video.

In addition to Libertango, the group's repertoire includes Adios Nonino and Moi je suis tango so perhaps the director is a Piazzolla fan. AMAL'GAMME is a refreshing variation on the community chorus idea and they clearly have a great deal of fun. You can see more of their performances here.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Five Last Notes

It's a problem. What do you do when you run out of instrument and need five more notes to get back to the root? You'll have to wait until the last five notes of today's video to see how guitarist, Renato Anesi, resolves the problem. Not that the wait will seem so long because there is a lot of nice, creative music to listen to which starts with a flamenco style credenza for Adios Nonino, flows through a creative interpretation of that song and exits through a relaxed and happy Decarissimo.

Mr. Anesi is a new artist to me and perhaps to you. He deserves a much broader audience. Self-described as a multi-instrumentalist, he is certainly that, but there is more. He is also a luthier and has built many of his own instruments and a composer with a film score to his credit. While I admire the creativity and fluidity found is his playing of Piazzolla's works, I find that I enjoy even more the pieces that Anesi himself has composed. In the same way that Piazzolla extended the Argentine tango genome into his music, Anesi incorporates but does not duplicate the genome of Brazilian rhythm into his music. It is a unique and very satisfying sound. You can find four of his works on his MySpace page and even more on his CD's Rosa Dos Tempos and 10 Anos Depois.

You can also follow Anesi's current activities on the blog, Guariroba, which today picked up a new follower.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Summer in the Hamardomen

Summers in Norway are short but most enjoyable. Likewise, this summer in Norway - in the form of Piazzolla's Verano Porteño - is most enjoyable. The arrangement sounds like the one originally created by Leonid Desyatnikov for Gidon Kremer and the Kremarata Baltica and can be found on the CD, Eight Seasons. It strays more than a little from the original composition written for bandoneon, electric guitar, violin, piano and contrabass and even inserts bits from Vivaldi's Seasons aimed at bringing smiles to the face of the knowing. I want to dislike the arrangement because it doesn't respect the original but it sounds so good, I just can't help but like it every time I hear it.

The work of the musicians here also make it easy to like. The soloist, noted young Korean violinist Soyoung Yoon, is perfection on the violin and the Trondheim Soloist Chamber Orchestra, under the leadership of artistic director and cellist, Øyvind Gimse, is well rehearsed and crisp. This is a remarkable set of mostly young musicians who have toured the globe and currently have four CD's available, unfortunately none contain any works by Piazzolla.

The venue deserves more than a casual look - it deserves a visit. It is on the outskirts of the town of Hamar on a high point of land overlooking Lake Mjøsa, the largest lake in Norway. On that spot, a Romanesque cathedral was built in the 12th century. The cathedral was destroyed in the 16th century and never rebuilt. Towards the end of the 20th century, a contest was held to design a building to preserve the ruins and the result was a glass "cathedral" designed by architect Kjell Lund. It was in this protective glass structure, known as the Hamardomen, that this concert was held.

The high quality of the sound and video capturing this performance is the result of the good work of Tor Melgavis. Thanks, Tor.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Libertango by Fanfare-Piston

Planning a village feast? Call to arrange for the world's fastest land-based brass band to provide entertainment. That band, Fanfare-Piston, was once the highest playing brass band in the world but apparently, no longer claim that title. In today's featured video, they claim the title of the band with the most wet feet to play Libertango.

This is no upstart band. They have been in existence for 35 years with an ever changing membership drawn from the students of l'Ecole Centrale de Lyon. Well traveled and sometimes rehearsed, the band has a repertoire which, in addition to Libertango, includes Latin classics such as Besame Mucho and Oye Como Va. Rumor has it that the band is working to complete their Latin set with an arrangement which combines, contrapuntally, Tangazo and Mambo Number 5. I have already sent a note to my Village council to hire them for our next feast.

And please, someone get the trombonist a tripod for his video camera.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kicho - The Man and The Dance

It's the art that matters, not the words. Although in this case, the art is all we have so there is no real choice. Today's video is a dance posted by a YouTuber from Venezuela. And that is all we know. No names for the dancers. No choreographer credits. No venue. No title for the song to which they are dancing. Just the art of the dance itself.

That art was enough to feature it in today's blog. The music, I believe - although my friend Pedro-with-the-golden-ears is not available to confirm, is Kicho. Kicho was written specifically for bassist, Enrique "Kicho" Díaz. Kicho played with Piazzolla in Anibal Troilo's orchestra and was part of a small group which "tested" Piazzolla's homework when he was studying composition with Alberto Ginastera. He was a member of the first Quintet and continued to play with Piazzolla until 1976 when he departed to join the Sexteto Mayor. Kicho died in 1992.

Piazzolla recorded Kicho only once - on the CD, Piazzolla en el Regina, with Kicho on the contrabass. It is rarely heard and creating a dance to it required one of those creative leaps which separate the artists from the rest of us. I am no judge of dance but found this video to be compelling. Watching it was a bit like reading a le Carré novel: I know there is a story there but I just can't quite figure it out.

Note: Shortly after posting this blog, I learned that the dancers are formally trained ballet dancers and are husband and wife from Venezuela and Columbia. They have performed the work for over ten years and this particular performance was at a recent gala in Venezuela. The work was choreographed in 1987, by the well known Argentine choreographer, Julio Lopez, who has choreographed many of Piazzolla's works. My thanks to the dancers for providing this additional information.

Additional Note: The video has been voluntarily removed by the poster. It may return. Meanwhile, there is a link on the Julio Lopez site which allows you to download a video of an excerpt from the original performance of this ballet if you are interested.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Piazzolla At The Proms - 2009

Alison Balsom was accompanied by two gentlemen at the BBC Proms on Saturday night, Franz Joseph Haydn and Astor Piazzolla. I didn't find her nimble Haydn trumpet concerto on YouTube but today's featured video does find Piazzolla in the form of Libertango performed by Ms. Balsom and the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing at the Royal Albert Hall.

The "Last Night" of The Proms, more formally The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC, is broadcast around the world and represents the festive highlight of the eight week summer series of classical music. A potpourri of crowd pleasing music is usually presented so the inclusion of Piazzolla is another recognition of the acceptance of his music on the "pop side" of the classical world. Alison Balsom is one of the best trumpet players in the world today and certainly the easiest on the eye. She had the good fortune of a very nice "pops" arrangement by Julian Milone who is responsible for most of the arrangements on Balsom's CD, Caprice, (including this version of Libertango and an excellent version of Escualo).

To me, the only jarring note in this video comes at the end when an unnamed announcer (it sounds like Clive Anderson to me) praises the performance as a "seductive rendering of that sultry piece." Perhaps his mind was on the trumpeter rather than on the lively and nimble music. But then again, this is the same announcer who proceeds to tell all that the piece was originally written for a "form of piano accordion called a ban-doe-nee-o-nium." The man needs some help from a good musicologist.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

If you enjoy this one, you might want to preserve a copy on your hard drive. This could go the way of that missing Milva video.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Adios Nonino - Aki Kuroda

In early August, this blog brought to you two solo piano versions of Adios Nonino: a rhapsodic version and a minimalist version. In today's featured video, a third arrives which I will tag the emotive version. It is both arranged and played by Aki Kuroda.

I find things to admire in both the rhapsodic and minimalist versions but it is Ms. Kuroda's version which moves me. She brings a depth of understanding of the emotion within the piece which is rarely found. In part, the video succeeds because of the arrangement but I think it is the performance that moves the piece into the realm of special. Her use of time - rather the suspension of time, sometimes only a few microseconds in mid-phrase - is very powerful and lends an element of bereaved disbelief that I find quite moving. The piece was written at the time of death of Piazzolla's father and is both an elegy and a celebration of that life. If you have not seen it, I recommend Kat Eiswald's video as a primer for the composition. If the combination of Kat's video and Kuroda's performance doesn't stir a bit of sadness in you, check your pulse.

Ms. Kuroda was born in Osaka and currently lives in Milano. She studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and is a prize winning pianist who has appeared as a guest soloist with many orchestras, including the highly respected Tokyo Symphony orchestra. Early in her career she discovered and devoted much of her energy to Piazzolla. Her first CD, Tango Prelude, is entirely devoted to Piazzolla and her second, Tango 2000, also contains several Piazzolla tracks. Unfortunately, her CD's appear to be difficult to obtain outside of Japan.

Marvelous music which most of us would never hear were it not for YouTube. You will find more of Ms. Kuroda's music in dedicanto's channel - music which may surprise you. I strongly hope that some more Piazzolla appears on this channel soon.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coffea Arabica - Instantly

Azzi and Collier report in the book Le Grand Tango, that Piazzolla made a commercial for Royal Command Whiskey in 1979. That was perhaps the first time that there was an intersection between Piazzolla and the world of advertising. I think today's video is the most recent such intersection. The music is the ubiquitous, Libertango.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Grupo Del Sur - Milonga Del Ángel

Many of the groups featured in this blog have made some compromises to perform Piazzolla's music. They have adapted the music to the instrumentation available, or simplified the music to match skills, or rearranged the music to achieve a new and different sound. But there are some who choose to preserve Piazzolla's full intent and perform the music as Piazzolla himself performed it. I particularly enjoy such performances and am always excited to find a new group with that ambition.

Grupo Del Sur is such a group. They are formatted as a Piazzolla quintet: Pieter van Dijck on bandoneon, Anne-Marie van de Grint on violin, Paul Hagenaars on electric guitar, Hetty Sponselee on piano and Marc van Rooij on contrabass and play, or appear to play, the original Piazzolla arrangements. If you review their biographical data you will note that they are all highly trained musicians but flexible in their musical tastes including jazz, classical and show tunes in their performance skills. A common interest appears to be the music of Piazzolla. The piece they have posted is Milonga del angel - not an easy choice if you want to sound like Piazzolla because it is a very delicate and nuanced piece. It requires touch and great sensitivity on the part of the musicians. Grupo does an excellent job. I enjoyed their performance and look forward to many more videos, and perhaps a CD or DVD, from this fine group.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

If you are curious as to how this compares to a Piazzolla original, you can click here.

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

Piazzolla and Milva - Live in Verona

I believe this is the first time that a video of Piazzolla and Milva performing in the Verona arena has been available on YouTube. The video starts with a dance troupe executing choreography to Libertango being played by Piazzolla's quintet which is followed immediately by Milva performing Rinascerò (Preludio para el año 3001).

Piazzolla first met Milva (Maria Ilva Biolcati) in 1979 and toured extensively with her in 1984 with shorter tours in 1987 and 1989. It is said that the tours greatly extended Europe's awareness of Piazzolla. Milva was extremely popular at that time. Crowds came to see Milva but they left knowing the music of Piazzolla. Their joint performances at other venues are easy to find on YouTube and are captured well in the CD, Live at the Bouffes du Nord. Preludio para el año 3001 (which was the original title) was one of three preludes Piazzolla composed in 1970 with lyrics by Horacio Ferrer. The lyrics refer to rebirth in 3001 - a year in which Piazzolla once mused he wanted to be remembered.

The venue is a well-preserved Roman amphitheater built in AD 30 in Verona. You get several glimpses of the arena in this video. I can personally attest that attending an opera there with the full moon rising over the arena followed by an al fresco midnight meal in Piazza Brà is a memory that does not fade. Thank you to Italian television network RAI for preserving the memory in this video.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Note: Unfortunately this video was removed and the account containing the video was closed. At least the existence of this video is now known. Perhaps it will reappear.

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

Monday, September 7, 2009

Michelangelo 70 - Traffic Strings Project

The panpipe is not new to Ro'Strings, a Romanian string quintet: in 2006, they toured Canada with Gheorghe Zamfir playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons. But this year, Ro'Strings expanded their horizons with the Traffic Strings project and added an accordion and a piano to the panpipe bringing their normal string quintet to an octet. They have recently posted five Piazzolla compositions, all of them excellent. I have included their video of Michelangelo 70 below but the others are equally good: Escolaso, Otoño porteño, Invierno Porteño and Primavera Porteña. And, if you review Ro'Strings YouTube channel you will find even more Piazzolla. Don't let the novelty factor of the panpipes jade your view of these performances. They are very sound string quintet arrangements, created by Ro'Strings violist, Lucian Moraru, which use the panpipes and accordion sparingly and appropriately. These are wonderful musicians who deserve broad exposure. I found the piano work in Michelangelo 70 particularly interesting but there is much good to enjoy here - including the work of young panpipe player, Vladislav Panush.

Wonderful music, yes; but, I admit, it was the panpipes that made me initially linger on these videos. One tends to associate the panpipes with those Andean buskers that I have seen on three continents but the instrument deserves respect. It is perhaps the oldest wind instrument with roots going back five thousand years. Early examples have been found almost literally everywhere in the world. Romania has been particularly active in reawakening interest in panpipes in Europe so it is appropriate that Ro'Strings should deliver a serious treatment to the instrument in their work.

Message to Traffic Strings: where is Verano Porteño?

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Decarisimo at Waldbühne

I have read that Piazzolla didn't write happy music. Not quite true. Decarisimo, a composition he wrote in 1961 to honor the great band leader and composer, Julio Di Caro, is happy music. Perhaps that is the reason that Daniel Barenboim chose to include it in his famous 1998 "Latin Night" concert with the Berlin Philharmonic at Waldbühne. That night was captured on a DVD which has never been available in North or South America. Fortunately, we now get to share a bit of that night in today's video of Decarisimo. It is a spirited arrangement by José Carli, who appears in this video from the concert.

Daniel Barenboim, like Piazzolla, was born in Argentina. Like Piazzolla he was a child prodigy - playing his first concert at age seven. Like Piazzolla, he studied composition and harmony with Nadia Boulanger. Unlike Piazzolla, whose musical home was the club, Barenboim's musical home has always been the concert hall - first as a pianist and for the past forty years as one of the most sought after conductors in the world. He clearly understands and enjoys Piazzolla's music and has recorded it in several contexts. I find no indication that Barenboim ever met Piazzolla but the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, does report that Piazzolla knew Daniel's father, Enrique. If true, it is curious their paths never crossed. Certainly both musical giants from Argentina.

Enjoy this delightful and happy musical evening. The Berliners clearly did.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

What Is That? It's A Hybrid.

"OMG," I said, "What is that?" And the answer came by return email, "a hybrid."

Perhaps others did not notice but when I clicked play on today's video, there was a trio playing Retrato de Milton: a piano, a guitar, and - "OMG, what is that?" On the lap of Miguel Ángel Rumbo was, at first glance, a bandoneón but, at second glance there were no buttons on the visible face of the instrument. Normally one finds 33 buttons on the left hand face of the bandoneón and 38 buttons on the right hand face. Rumbo was working buttons on an angled panel on the front of the instrument. Furthermore, his leisurely bellows motions suggested that the instrument was unisonic - a single button plays the same note whether the bellows is expanding or compressing. Bandoneóns are duosonic - a single button plays one note as the bellows expands and another when it compresses (a devilish feature shared with the Anglo concertina). The duosonic nature and seemingly random button organization create a very steep learning curve for the bandoneón. Essentially no accordion skills are transferable to the bandoneón. A quick note to Rumbo provided the answer - he is playing a hybrid designed by Norbert Gabla and built by Harry Geuns. Buttons have been moved to the front and a logical, accordion-style button pattern has been adopted but the body shape and bellows of the bandoneón have been retained. It appears to be a clever and well executed design.

And he plays it well. There are some sonic problems in the video including a strange metronomic dripping sound and a mix that seems to lose the guitar in much of the piece. These detract from the enjoyment of the piece but the Geuns/Gabla hydbrid does, so far as one can tell from a YouTube video, have a timbre similar to a bandoneón.

I am hoping that Rumbo will provide us some solo examples on YouTube so a better comparison with a true bandoneón sound can be made. Perhaps Pedro y Pedro, Mr. Rumbo?

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, September 4, 2009

Verano Porteño - Nuevo Tango Style

So much of Piazzolla's music today is interpreted in the classical style, that it is unusual to find a video done in a Porteño manner - something that fully reflects the nuevo tango style created by Piazzolla. Today's video by the Cuarteto de Tango provides a nuevo tango interpretation of Verano Porteño. It is not a reproduction of Piazzolla's quintet version - they have taken some liberties in their arrangement - but there is no doubt that this is Piazzolla in its original format.

Verano Porteño was the first of the four seasons to be written by Piazzolla. It was written, literally overnight according to Azzi and Collier in Le Grand Tango, in 1965 for the play Melenita de Oro. The performance of the Cuarteto de Tango resembles that played by Piazzolla in the 80's rather than in its more original form from the 60's (an example can be found in the Live at the Regina recording). A good comparison to the 80's Piazzolla original is to be found in this video or in the Live in Wien recording.

I can find no information about the quartet. Their name, Cuarteto de Tango, is so generic that it has made them invisible to web search engines. Hopefully, I will gain some more information as a result of sharing this blog.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, September 3, 2009

August Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 486 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of August, 2009. 373 (77%) 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 percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 29% in Nuevo tango, 17% in pop and 14% in jazz.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 26% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Oblivion
3. Adios Nonino
4. Verano Porteño
5. Histoire du Tango - Bordel 1900
6. Invierno Porteño
7. La muerte del ángel
8. Otoño Porteño
9. Milonga del ángel
10. Primavera Porteña

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 44 different countries. Italy posted the most videos: 65. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

1. Italy
2. Argentina
3. Spain
4. USA
5. Japan
6. France
7. Brazil
8. Netherlands
9. Poland
10. Russia

There were six video originals by Piazzolla. One had been previously posted on YouTube but five of them were new. Those five were all from a performance with Gary Burton at the Ravenna Jazz Festival in 1986. There were other videos from that Gary Burton series posted in the month of July.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. I chose the Devich Trio’s performance of Oblivion as the best of the month. The choice for most bizarre this month was a video which uses Libertango as the sound track to a series of skateboard mishaps.

I have put a table with links to all 486 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the August link in my Piazzolla on Video website.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oblivion - Devich Trio

It was negligence on my part. This video should have been highlighted in mid-August when it first appeared. But, better late than never - particularly since it is about to be named Best Piazzolla Video of the Month for August, 2009. It is a performance of Oblivion by the Devich Trio. Its primary competition in the race for "Best" was Milonga for three by the Novosibirsk Pops. I admired that performance for the cleverness and fine craftmanship of the arranger and for the discipline and skill of the orchestra. I admired the Devich Trio's performance of Oblivion for its emotional content. I found myself holding my breath as I watched and listened, insuring that I would miss nothing. The communication between the musicians is intimate - watch their eyes. Music has an intellectual component but a performance which soars does so on the basis of an emotional connection. This performance soars.

The Devich Trio includes Hanna Devich on piano, Sarah Oates on violin and Jasper Havelaar on cello. They are from Hungary, South Africa and the Netherlands, respectively, but are currently all resident in the Netherlands. As individuals they are all prize winning musians and as a trio, they are increasing in stature in the world of chamber music. They have several recordings including Tango Romances which is primarily devoted to the music of Piazzolla.

As mentioned before in this blog, Oblivion was written for Marco Bellocchio's 1984 movie, Enrico IV. The arrangement played by the trio is by José Bragato who no doubt should share some of the credit for the success of this performance.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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