Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tango Ballet

The liner notes of Gidon Kremer's Tango Ballet album report that Piazzolla wrote Tango Ballet in 1956 to be performed by his Buenos Aires Octet for a short dance film by Enrique de Rosas featuring choreograpy by Ana Itelman. Those same liner notes report that the film and the original performance were lost and the piece was not heard again until 1989 when Piazzolla and his Sexteto Nuevo Tango performed the piece at Club Italiano - a performance you can hear on the album Tres minutos con la realidad. That is evidently not true since the piece does appear on the rare 1964 recording, 20 años de Vanguardia. Whether the 1964 recording is from the original film or from a regathering of the original octet is unclear to me. There are striking differences between the 1964 and 1989 performances - it is an interesting study in the evolution of Piazzolla's style which demands the attention of a musicologist seeking to demonstrate the development of nuevo tango. It is also remarkable to note that in addition to Piazzolla, José Bragato (cello) and Horacio Malvicino (electric guitar) appear on both recordings. The work moves through six scenes - Introduction, The Street, Meeting, Cabaret, Solitude, and The Street Finale - which vary greatly in texture and tonality. The original version, in fact, has some discontinuities which would perhaps not be noticeable in the context of a film but are noticeable to a listener. The discontinuities are softened a bit in the 1989 version and are scrubbed away in video featured today.

That video is from what has become my preferred chamber orchestra music provider of Piazzolla's music, Misha Rachlevsky's Chamber Orchestra Kremlin. This orchestra is a well balanced instrument with perfect control of dynamics and phrasing. I do not know who did their arrangment but I prefer it to the more flamboyant arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov which is found on the Kremer recording. Neither of them capture the nuevo tango essence that infuses either of Piazzolla's recorded versions of the piece - in fact, they are not even close. Regrettably, Tango Ballet appears to be a piece that has moved entirely into the classical repertoire and been substantially transmogrified in the process. I can find no nuevo tango performances on YouTube or for purchase in albums on Amazon.com. That is a situation which deserves correction.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

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