Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adios Nonino - Viceversa Tango Quintet

Regular readers of this blog may recall periods of frustration caused by a lack of music containing the full genome of the nuevo tango as created and performed by Piazzolla. That frustration ends today with the performance of the classic Adios Nonino by the Viceversa Tango Quintet. This Argentine quintet was formed in 2003 and provides authentic sounds of both classic and nuevo tango. You might want to sample their version of Pugliese's Recuerdo or, better yet, obtain a copy of their CD which can be purchased by download from

There are no weaknesses in the group although the sound mix in the video makes it difficult to hear both the piano and the guitar. Their version of Adios Nonino sounds to my ears very similar to the earliest versions from Piazzolla's first quintet with some well founded personalization near the end.

It is quite refreshing to hear to hear a young group like this provide such a traditional sound. Let's hope they find time to share more of the Piazzolla catalog with us via YouTube.

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

Libertango - MTV Style

Quite a few rubles flowed to produce today's video of Libertango. The videography is exceptional and the staging, costuming and choreography are very creative. The music has its moments but it takes a backseat to the progression of images in the video. If Piazzolla ever makes it to MTV, it will be through this video.

The musicians are a combination of two groups: a harp duo called Шарм (phonetically, "Sharm" or maybe "Charm") and a Trumpet-Violin trio called Ятор-шоу (phonetically, "Yator-show"). The harpists, Catherine and Julia Kareva, are classically trained and perform and record as individuals in addition to teaming up as "Charm". The "Yator Show" trio is led by former solo trumpeter of the Presidential Orchestra of Russia, Bogdan Yatorum, and includes two conservatory violinists, Taisiya Panina and Svetlana Starostina. These are musicians who have devoted an enormous part of their life to rigorous musical training. That they are able to put aside the pretensions that sometimes accompany such training and produce a video like today's feature is remarkable.

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

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oblivion - Roxana Fontán

A superb vocal by Roxana Fontán and a solid quintet led by Julián Hermida make this one of the best performances of Oblivion since Milva and Piazzolla set the standard in this classic performance. I find limited information about Ms. Fontán which surprises me because she is a remarkable talent. She recorded a CD in 1999, then took a career break for her family. She returned to tour in the Tango X 2 production, appear in Carlos Saura’s Tango and in 2007, to tour with her own show, Fontango. She has made several videos with Hermida's quintet - I particularly recommend the performance of Los Pájaros Perdidos where she appears to be channeling a young Amelita Baltar.

Oblivion originated as music for the movie Enrico IV. You can hear the movie version at the three minute mark of this video. The original was an instrumental but a variety of lyrics have been written subsequently for the piece and I have not been able to unravel the source of Ms. Fontán's lyrics. The Milva/Piazzolla CD, Live at the Bouffes Du Nord, credits the lyrics to Angela Denia Tarenzi, Simonluca and David McNeil. There are however enough complications in that simple list to occupy a scholar for several weeks so I will leave the topic and perhaps return to it on another day.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Inside A Cafe They Play A Song of Piazzolla

"Inside a cafe they play a song of Piazzola [sic]." Those words and the video title, "Music in the old city of Jerusalem," are all we know about this performance of Chiquilin de bachin. Seven musicians: three saxophones, three brass and a drummer who doubles as vocalist; ambience that belongs in a novel; an audience of card playing old men, pretty girls and students; and camera work that defines the utility of a tripod. It makes for an authentic experience and reminds us of the universality of Piazzolla's music.

The song itself was written in the 1968-69 period and the lyrics are from Piazzolla's primary lyricist, Horacio Ferrer. It is one of the few waltzes composed by Piazzolla. Fittingly, the song was created to commemorate a young boy selling flowers, table by table, at a cafe frequented by Piazzolla and his friends - perhaps a cafe not unlike that in this video.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oil, Rhetoric and Dudamel

Oil, rhetoric and Gustavo Dudamel are arguably Venezuela's most important exports. Dudamel, a rock star amongst symphonic conductors, has been the resident music director of the Berliner and Gothenburg Symphonies and is soon to become music director of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra but his most important role is as director of the Sinfónica de la Juventud Venezolana Simón Bolívar. SJVSB is the pinnacle of more than 200 youth orchestras in Venezuela run by El Sistema. The remarkable story of SJVSB has been told in a BBC documentary, How an Orchestra Saved Venezuela's Children.

Today's video opens with an interview with Dudamel before the 2008 New Year's concert and then moves to a performance of La muerte del ángel by the percussion section of SJVSB, a group known as Ensamble Atalaya. Dudamel enters the stage at the end of the performance - watch the audience reaction.

If you want to see the whole SJVSB in action and understand the excitement around this group, I suggest you watch their performance of Mambos of Pérez Prado. Many more videos are available on the SJVSB Website.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Libertango - Francesco Buzzurro

Classically trained Sicilian guitarist Francesco Buzzurro has escaped the bonds of the paper-trained musician and moved to the world of jazz improvisation. Those skills are well demonstrated in his version of Libertango in today's video. The link to classical guitar is still there through his use of a nylon string guitar rather than the jazz standard steel stringed guitar. Mr. Buzzarro plays a Canadian built Godin Multiac Nylon Duet guitar whose dual pick-up system provides a unique sound well suited to Buzzurro's style.

This version of Libertango is destined for the CD, "The Scout (L'esploratore)" which apparently has not been issued yet. There is another version available on the Naxos CD, Francesco Buzzurro Quartet.

You may also enjoy the video of Buzzurro's improvisations on the Piazzolla classic, Oblivion.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kissing Toads

You have to kiss a lot of toads to find the prince. Most of the hundred or so versions of Libertango which appear on YouTube each month are toads but today's video is a prince. The group performing is called Tangamente and they hail from Bloomington, Indiana - not the center of tango but it is a center of fine musicians and the musicians in Tangamente are fine or better.

Their version of Libertango opens with a bluesy piano solo by Alfredo Manetti that immediately captured me - I have not heard anything like it as a prelude to Libertango and it works great. Bandoneónist, Valeriano Fernandez, then joins in a flowing duet with the piano and is soon joined by bassist, Michael Mendelson, violinist, Daniel Stein and electric guitarist, Guido Sanchez to fill a traditional quintet. I would guess that Tangamente is working from an original Piazzolla quintet score but have not hesitated to swing out on their own. There are large differences between the way Piazzolla played Libertango from the time he introduced it in 1974 to his last recording of the piece in 1985. You will find a little bit of early and late Piazzolla in this performance (e.g. the frenetic guitar work near the end is early and the jumping intervals at the end are late).

This video, I believe, captures a performance that Tangemente made in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington in May, 2009. There are some other clips from that performance available on YouTube. Don't miss their performance of Buenos Aires hora cero or the sensitive bandoneón work in Preludio para la cruz del sur.

Tangamente may represent the best Piazzolla performance group in America today. I hope they find time to expand their Piazzolla repertoire and record it for posterity (and iTunes).

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Perfection or Perversion - Café 1930

Is today's video perfection or perversion? I can't decide. As chamber music the performance of Café 1930 from Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango suite by flutist Ann Elkjär and guitarist Martin Fogel is perfection or near to it. These are superb musicians. Technical skills at their level are a given - it is their nuanced performance skills of phrasing, dynamics and timing that give them perfection.

But, does the performance evoke tango in a San Telmo café in 1930? No - not to me. The Histoire du Tango suite was meant to depict the development of the tango from the Bordello of 1900 to the Café of 1930 to the Nightclub of 1960 to the Concert stage of "today" (1990). Rarely - no, I will make that never - have I heard the serious musicians who have "discovered" this music attempt to make it anything other than serious chamber music. In that sense, this performance is a perversion of what I believe is the intent of the music. Someday, somewhere, someone will find the musical language to really bring the Histoire du Tango suite to life.

And while we wait for that day, let's enjoy this performance which is a real delight. I hope they have similar videos of the other three movements of the Histoire ready to post on YouTube in the near future.

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

Saturday, June 6, 2009

On Holiday

Piazzolla on Video is taking a short holiday.

Will be back the last week of June. Please revisit then for new Piazzolla video news and meantime, please enjoy the 90 or so posts which already exist in this blog.

Three Colleagues

Today's videos - there are three of them - focus on three important colleagues of Piazzolla. The first is Nadia Boulanger. In 1954, Piazzolla traveled to Paris and studied composition under Boulanger, who was then 60 years old. Piazzolla credited her with helping him "find himself" as a composer and remained devoted to her the rest of her life. The video below is the first I have seen of Ms. Boulanger. Perhaps some of you can identify the admirers crowded around Boulanger in the video.

The second video is a reading by Horacio Ferrer at a 2009 seminar on Tango and Society. We have written before about Mr. Ferrer. He was Piazzolla's principal lyricist and responsible for the lyrics to most of Piazzollas cancion works. Ferrer first met Piazzolla in 1955 as Piazzolla was returning to Argentina from his study with Boulanger but they did not become musical collaborators until 1968 with the creation of the operita Maria de Buenos Aires.

The third video is a recent interview with Fernando Suarez Paz who joined forces with Piazzolla as the violinist in the "second quintet" in 1978. In Natalio Gorin's classic, Astor Piazzolla, A Memoir, Piazzolla identifies Suarez Paz as his "number one" violinist. At age 68, Suarez Paz is still an active musician today and can be seen in a number of videos in the blog.

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

Thursday, June 4, 2009

May Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 489 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of May, 2009 – virtually the same as the 490 videos found in the previous month. 374 (76%) 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.

Forty percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 26% in Nuevo tango, 18% in pop and 16% 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. Milonga del Ángel
6. Otoño Porteño
7. Histoire du Tango – Nightclub 1960
8. Histoire du Tango – Bordel 1900
9. Histoire du Tango - Café 1930
10. Invierno Porteño

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 56 different countries. As might be expected, Argentina posted the most videos: 64. Japan and Serbia appear on this list for the first time. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

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

There were 11 videos posted which featured performances or interviews with Piazzolla. Three of these have not been posted before on YouTube although two are available on a commercial DVD. The new video was a clip from the short film, Quinteto.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. In most months, the performance of Michelangelo 70 by the folk orchestra XXI Century would have won my choice as best of the month but, in truth, nothing can compete with a performance which includes three members from a Piazzolla quintet so my favorite of the month is the Gary Burton and friends concert performance of Escualo.

The choice for most bizarre this month was not difficult. What else can you call a video of a masked man playing Libertango on a musical saw but bizarre?

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

This blog hosted it's 1000th visitor earlier this week. I thank those of you who have take time to visit.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bravo Belanima Trio

Another discovery from Serbia. Last week it was the orquesta tipica masquerading as a chamber orchestra and this week it is the nuevo tango trio, Belanima. To their immense credit, Belanima draws their repertoire from the broad catalog of Piazzolla. They have not limited themselves to the "top ten" but have tapped everything from early Piazzolla (Tanguango) to Summit(featured in today's video) from that marvelous Gerry Mulligan collaboration. There are ten Belanima Trio videos posted on YouTube, representing an entire evening concert celebrating Piazzolla performed at Kolarac Hall in Belgrade. They are all quite good and quite original. I chose Summit only because it is not a piece played often on the concert stage.

The trio consists of Boban Bjelic on accordion, Katarina Misic on piano, and Sanja Jancic on cello. All three are natives of Serbia but met as students in Moscow. They continue to perform together with a repertoire of tango, classical and film music but are finding time to pursue other musical interests as well. Similar trios are often a virtuoso accordionist and two back-up musicians but not Belanima - these are three equals on the stage sharing the music fully.

Don't stop with just this video, go to Belanima's YouTube channel and sample all ten. You will not be disappointed.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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