Friday, January 15, 2010

Libertango - The Genre Buster

Whose song is it, anyway? Libertango took form as one of eight songs on an album, Libertango, designed to attract radio play in 1974. The album became a hit, even reviewed in Playboy magazine, and the song, Libertango, was covered by many artists around the world. It is today, without a doubt, the most frequently performed song composed by Piazzolla. In 2009, there were nearly 1,200 live performance versions of it posted on YouTube representing 27% of the posted Piazzolla performances. Performances spread across all genres - rock, pop, jazz, classical, tango - it seems to belong to everybody. No doubt part of the attraction is the simple chord structure, accessible to the most amateur of musicians, and the earworm nature of the melody but the creative ability of the performers to find something new in the song continues to amaze me. Five videos posted in recent days provide a good example of the range of covers.

Caution: this level of Libertango approaches a lethal dose.

First, a guitar focused version by Esteban Morgado and his quartet in the London tango club, Negracha. Libertango is a bit of a trademark for Morgado - you will find many covers by him on YouTube, all of them different and all of them good. The music is a bit difficult to classify - a blend of classical guitar, flamenco, jazz and tango (note the dancers in the club).

Second, a nightclub version by Luis Stazo and his octet for Tango Pasión at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris. This is a slick, uptown version featuring two bandoneóns and is closer to the sound and intent of the original recording than any of the others in this blog.

Third, an orchestral version which begins with a bandoneón solo, becomes a classical orchestral version and ends with a touch of jazz including a 37 second wail on a high A by clarinetist Corrado Giuffredi. The bandoneón solo by Cesare Chiacchiaretta sounds like a traditional tango but Pedro-with-the-golden ears tells me it is Tocata Rea from Piazzolla's Maria de Buenos Aires with perhaps a touch of Tristezas, Seperacion near the end. The orchestra is the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana on their 2010 opening night concert in Lugano. The video opens with a ten second lens cap problem but be patient, it is worth it.

Fourth, an Eastern European ethnic version posted from Russia. Such a conversion is not as uncommon as you might think, many a domra and balalaika have been strummed to the tune of Libertango. The group here is unnamed but very accomplished. One could easily imagine this is a traditional Russian folk dance tune right up to the totally delightful ending.

Fifth and final, a whimsical, jazzy version by the Japanese duo, TTCafe, performing for members of the Kobe ukulele club at a chapter meeting at the Kobe Fashion Museum. Do you think that Piazzolla could have imagined such a performance when he composed the piece?

With that, I will try to refrain from featuring Libertango for a few more days lest I be required to retitle the blog as "Libertango on Video."

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Esteban, here for the nightclub version, click here for the orchestral version, click here for the Eastern European version, and click here for the ukulele version.

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

1 comment:

  1. I am subscribing to this blog. =) One of my favorite pasttimes has been to listen to tango, and its variations,especially concerning Piazolla's works. It all started with Libertango too. lol