Friday, October 23, 2009

The Otoño Trio

Otoño Trio: a good name for a musical group; but, here, Otoño Trio refers to three YouTube videos featuring performances of Piazzolla's Otoño Porteño, the autumn portion of Piazzolla' Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. The performance which captured my attention was that of Danielle Belen and the Colburn Virtuoso String Orchestra which is staffed by students of The Colburn School in Los Angeles. Ms. Belen is a rising star in the world of violinists and winner of the 2008 Sphinx competition. She is no stranger to the music of Piazzolla - you will find her interpretation of all four movements of Histoire du tango on the Listen portion of her website - and her highly charged emotive style and mastery of technique serve her well in the music of Piazzolla. As her career develops, I hope she has the opportunity to study the music of tango in Buenos Aires so more of the soul (and rhythm) of tango will enter her playing of Piazzolla. While Belen is the star of the first video, the real story may well be the cellist, Estelle Choi. Ms. Choi is a student at Colburn and plays with extraordinary finesses and feeling - the kind of musician that brings goose bumps to the music. She takes a shy bow at the end but deserves a standing ovation for her cello solo work in this video. I have rarely heard better and hope her life unfolds in a way that we will see and hear more of her skills in the future.

Behind the Belen performance is an interesting arrangement of Otoño Porteño by Leonid Desyatnikov. The arrangement was originally created for Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica and can be heard on their CD, Eight Seasons. It is a more aggressive arrangement than the "classic" chamber orchestra arrangement of José Bragato. The tango roots are a little more difficult to find and the dissonances a little more prominent than in Bragato's version. Yet, it is clearly based on Bragato. You can hear the Bragato arrangement in the second video of the trio below as performed by the Orquestra Ouro Preto. Bragato, a noted composer, cellist and member of several Piazzolla ensembles, was the trusted arranger, copyist and archivist of Piazzolla's works. His importance to the classical music world's view of Piazzolla cannot be underestimated and I suspect that there is a goldmine of future academic work to be found in the relationship between Bragato and Piazzolla. The cello solo found roughly 1'15" into the Belen performance is a derivative of the cello solo written by Bragato and found 1'00" into the Ouro Preto performance which is, further, a derivative of the bandoneon solo originally written and performed (entirely with the left hand) by Piazzolla with his quintet.

The third video of the trio is an original Piazzolla performance of Otoño Porteño filmed at the 1984 Montreal Jazz Festival. While this is a jazz tinged version, it is close to the famed 1970 performance by Piazzolla at the Regina Theater (available now in the reissue CD, En Vivo En El Regina). You will find the foundation for that cello solo at 1'05" into the video. A second point of interesting comparison is the violin solo played by Fernando Suarez Paz at 3'15" into the original Piazzolla video, this solo is carried essentially unchanged into the Bragato version at 2'55" into the video but it becomes a dramatic (and well executed) credenza in the Belen version at 4'30" into the video.

Together, these make an interesting trio. Piazzolla's music will live because the fundamental structures found in his quintet work are so strong they can survive and thrive even through the multiple reinterpretations illustrated by this trio. All three make wonderful listening experiences although I lament the slow fading of Piazzolla as we progress towards Belen.

My thanks to Ms. Belen for some of the information in this blog.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Belen and here for Bragato and here for Piazzolla original.

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

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