Friday, April 30, 2010

Oda Para Un Hippie - Camerata Porteña

Camerata Porteña made its first visit to this blog a little over a year ago under the title, Pure Piazzolla. That video featured their performance of Escualo. Since that blog, they have posted a number of other videos including today's which features an unusual and rarely heard composition, Oda para un hippie. Piazzolla only recorded the piece once on the 1972 with his Conjunto 9 and it is now available on the reissue CD, Musica Popular Contemporanea Vol. 2, or as an mp3 single..

The Conjunto 9, sometimes known as the Nonet, was Piazzolla's largest ensemble. To create it he added a second violinist (Hugo Baralis), a viola (Néstor Panik), a cello (José Bragato) and a percussionist (José Corriale) to his existing Quintet. The music he wrote for the Conjunto 9 is different - most of it is a little more classical and a little less canyengue than later works. You will note an almost Mozartian cadence at the end of Oda para un hippie.

All of the Piazzolla covers by the Camerata Porteña are superb but I find their ability to play music written for the Conjunto 9 almost uncanny. They are similar in size (in fact, they are a nonet on their website but an octet is this video) but lack a second violin and percussionist and, in an unlikely move, gained a saxophone. They have not chosen to duplicate the Piazzolla sound but have very faithfully captured the intent of the music. There is only one other full video of Oda para un hippie on YouTube and while it is interesting, the group is a trio and simply does not have enough sound spectrum available to capture the intent of the music.

As to the title - there must be a story there but I don't know it. If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grace - Again

We have seen that face before, and heard those charts before but as long as Grace Jones takes Libertango (or in her case, I've seen that face before) on the road with a new act, this blog will be there. Today's performance is from London's Royal Albert Hall on Monday night, April 26. Six versions hit YouTube in the two days following the performance. Such is the dedication of Ms. Jones fans. And what is new for 2011? Well, maybe not much - the costuming is the same as we saw in Hollywood last year. But wait, that is a real person not a mannequin as a dance partner. Rumor has it, her crew misplaced the mannequin and one of the roadies took to the stage to replace it.

This could be one-of-a-kind video. Treasure it.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Libertango - European Jazz Trio

Celeste from Kew Gardens, NY says this about the European Jazz Trio's version of Libertango in an review, "They take the song and interpolate it into something that softens my spine, uncurls my hair and puts me into a mood where I want to drink wine in front of a fireplace." I agree. Today's video is not new. Although it was posted today, it first appeared on YouTube in 2007 and is from the EJT 2005 DVD, An Afternoon in Amsterdam and the version itself probably dates back to the 1999 CD, Libertango. A smooth blend of Piazzolla and bossa nova, the version remains unique and one of the best jazz versions ever. It sounds as fresh today as it must have in 1999.

The European Jazz Trio was formed in 1995, and includes members Marc van Roon on Piano, Frans van der Hoeven on bass and Roy Dackus on drums. The group has recorded more than 25 albums, which unfortunately have never been distributed in North America. The groups latest album is Japanesque which is very appropriate since the group has found its greatest popularity in Japan. You will find quite a bit more of their music, including more video from the Libertango concert, on the EJT YouTube channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Resurrección del ángel - Kreativ Ensemble

Resurrección del ángel was probably composed as incidental music for Alberto Rodriguez Muñoz's 1962 stage play Tango del Angel. It first appeared on a Piazzolla recording in 1965 along with Milonga del ángel which was definitely written for the Muñoz play. It is rarely heard - there were only six performances of Resurrección posted on YouTube in the last twelve months vs. 106 for Milonga. It deserves to be more widely performed.

The performance of Resurrección del ángel in today's video is by the Kreativ Ensemble joined by Federico Mondelci on saxophone and Omar Lonati on contrabass. Mondelci appears from the shadows to cover a bandoneón solo and then disappears for the rest of the piece. Mondelci is known for his arrangements of Piazzolla and if this arrangement is his, it is excellent. With no piano, bandoneón or electric guitar in the ensemble, creating an arrangement which still captures the essence of the original was a challenge, and a challenge well met in this case.

There is one other highlight in the video that deserves mention and that is the superb violin work of Sonia Domoustchieva. She has captured perfectly all of the emotion in Piazzolla's original. If we had a time transport machine, Ms Domoustchieva is one of very few contemporary violinists who could replace Antonio Agri or Fernando Suarez Paz in the quintet and instantly be accepted. You can sample Suarez Paz's take on Resurrección in this video.

This video is one of a series of Piazzolla performances that the Kreativ Ensemble did, several with Mondelci. You can find them all on the Arkovi YouTube Channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Verano Porteño - Colegio Speiro

The city of Valparaíso, Chile has long been famed for its scenic hills and the unique cable cars which climb those hills. More recently it was in the news because of damage from the February 27, 2010 magnitude 8.8 earthquake. Today's video shows another reason Valparaíso should be in the news: students there are getting a great musical education thanks, in part, to PROMÚS, an organization for the music educators in Valparaíso.

Today's video shows students from Colegio Speiro, a Christian school in Valparaíso, playing Verano Porteño on a collection of instruments including recorders, guitars, flutes, xylophones, percussion and a melodeon. Libertango is the choice of 99.99% of music educators and it is refreshing and surprising to see a student performance of the more complex Verano Porteño. The group is well rehearsed and many of them are showing some real musical talent. The performance is one that any music educator in the world would proudly share on stage for fellow educators. The young people are being granted a true gift to be able to play one of Piazzolla's greatest works at such an early age.

My congratulations to the ensemble and to it's leader, Joaquin Ignacio Cisterna Gallardo. You can see more videos of music at the school at the Andreaxsx channel on YouTube.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, April 23, 2010

Destroy to Save?

Perhaps a few readers are old enough to remember the bleak days of the war in Viet Nam when journalist Peter Arnett quoted an American army major, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." There is no comparison in the level of tragedy involved, but in some sense, Piazzolla's music is also being destroyed in order to save it. More than forty percent of the Piazzolla videos which appear on YouTube are in a classical mode. It seems likely that 100 years from now, classical musicians will still be playing Piazzolla's work - the music is being embedded in the classical repertoire. With the exception of Libertango, it seems less likely that jazz and pop musicians will do the same. Yet most of the classical musicians are abandoning the Piazzolla signature that makes his work unique. They make beautiful music but is it Piazzolla? They may be saving Piazzolla, but are they destroying Piazzolla in the process?

Today's video of Otoño Porteño features a piano quintet with an added bandoneón and contrabass. Not a traditional classical ensemble but a group which very effectively melds the classical and the nuevo tango. It is the kind of group that gives me hope that Piazzolla's music may survive almost intact. The group is led by Christiaan van Hemert who both plays the bandoneón and created the arrangement. Mr. van Hemert makes a very telling statement in the notes with the video, "The basis for this arrangement is the original quintet arrangement which I transcribed first (if you want to play Piazzolla I recommend never buying scores since they're crap - all the "Piazzolla-magic" is taken out of the commercial scores - just transcribe the music yourself). I then adapted it for this line-up with strings." Let's hope the classical music world will ultimately take Mr. van Hemert's advice. That is the way to save Piazzolla's music without destroying it.

Enjoy their excellent performance. You can also enjoy van Hemert's bandoneón work in the Dutch group Tango Dorado. If the video does not appear below, click here.

Note added 29 April, 2011: The group has now added the three additional "Seasons." They are excellent. I recommend them all: Primavera Porteña, Verano Porteño and Invierno Porteño.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Piazzolla Olympics

As the Piazzolla Olympics draw to a close, I Solisti d'Europa has been awarded the Gold medal in the Best Libertango Introduction event. In this event, judges award points for drama, style, musicality and length-of-time-before-it-is-apparent-that-Libertango-is-about-to-break-out. Many drama points were awarded for closed eyes, emotional mouth movement, and foreboding bass lines although the knowing grins from certain violinists led to a few deductions. The group scored very high in style as much of the introduction was reminiscent of a Piazzolla score from one of those 1950's Argentine film-noir movies. The group scored straight tens in the musicality category which might be expected from such a superb set of musicians. And finally, in the critical "break-out-time," their Libertango arrangement stretched the point of Libertango recognition for most judges all the way to one minute and forty seconds, a new world's record. Congratulations to I Solisti d'Europa for their big win.

The I Solisti d'Europa website needs a bit of work but from reviews I find of their concerts, the group apparently is staffed by leading players from the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Wiener Philharmoniker, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI and the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala. It appears that the group was first assembled in 2007 by Luca Ranieri and still performs today. You can see and hear more of this fine chamber orchestra's work on their YouTube channel.

As to the other events, the Gold for Big Hair has been awarded to Vanessa for her performance of Milonga de la Anunciacion and the Gold for Best Costume and Staging went to Claudio Orsini for his orange suit and machine shop venue in his performance of La muerte del Ángel.

Don't miss the closing ceremonies featuring the Marching Bandoneóns performing Pedro y Pedro tonight at nine on ESPN.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

March 2010 Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 545 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of March, 2010, an increase of 6% over March, 2009. 399 (73%) 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-four percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 21% in Nuevo tango, 24% in pop and 11% in jazz.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 28% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Adios Nonino
3. Oblivion
4. Invierno Porteño
5. Otoño Porteño
6. Verano Porteño
7. La Muerte del ángel
8. Primavera Porteña
9. Milonga del ángel
10. Tango suites

The top three on this list seem to be fairly stable month-to-month but the bottom seven change every month. Seventy-one different compositions were covered in the videos this month.

The performance videos came from 42 different countries. Italy posted the most videos: 63. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

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

There were ten Piazzolla original performances posted. All of them have been previously posted.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. My choice for best of the month is the performance of Adios Nonino by Carel Kraayenhof at the February, 2002 wedding of Dutch Prince Willem-Alexander and princess Máxima. While not a new video, it was posted (again) this month and belongs on any Piazzolla best video list.

The choice for most bizarre this month is a video of Libertango being performed at a Templar Knights Festival in Tomar, Portugal - complete with ceremonial flag twirling

I have put a table with links to all 545 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the March, 2010 link in my Piazzolla on Video website.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vibraphone AND not OR Marimba

Gary Burton was no doubt instrumental in awakening the vibraphone community to the music of Astor Piazzolla. Their meeting has been discussed before in this blog and their music together was captured in the essential CD, The New Tango: Recorded At The Montreux Festival. Since that recording, there have many artists who have employed the vibraphone or its precursor, the marimba, in performances of Piazzolla's works. Many of these have featured the vibraphone OR marimba as a substitute for the guitar in Histoire du tango. Only rarely does one find vibraphone AND marimba on the Histoire but that is what you will see and hear in today's featured video, a performance of Nightclub 1960 - the third movement of the Histoire.

The performers are Jaume Blai Santonja Espinós on vibraphone and Manuel Martínez Navarro on marimba. Jaume is a relatively recent graduate of the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya. Manuel is perhaps also a student at ESMUC or perhaps at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam - at any rate they are friends as well as the performers in the duo, AKT-TÈK. They are superb musicians - elegant and conservative in motion, they capture a remarkable level of emotion from their percussion instruments. You can find audio of their performance of the first two movements of the Histoire here. Let's hope they are up to the challenge of the fourth, and most difficult movement, Concert d'aujourd'hui in the near future. Finding a coherent musical message in that fourth movement is a challenge but I believe these two young musicians are among the few who may be capable of doing it.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bandoneón - Bandini and Chiacchiaretta

Giampaolo Bandini and Cesare Chiacchiaretta capture your full attention when they play. Your mind will not wander since it is, figuratively, on the edge of the chair waiting for the next notes. Such is the sensitivity with which they play Piazzolla's music. They are among the most musical duos I have encountered on YouTube. Today's video features them playing Bandoneón from Suite Troileana.

Piazzolla originally performed the piece with his electronic octet (you can see it here) and it is remarkable that two instruments capture the essence of a piece composed for eight. The original starts with a lengthy bandoneón solo which is omitted in this performance, as it is in most. That is a shame, I would really like to hear Chiacchiaretta perform that solo. I believe he is one of very few contemporary bandoneónists who are capable of playing it well.

The duo has produced two CD's of Piazzolla's music, the more recent Luminosa Buenos Aires is readily available but you may have to search for the first CD, Hombres de tango. The good news is that you can see and hear some of their best work on this YouTube channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Plus Ultra - Stasiu

The years 1958-1960 were difficult for Piazzolla. He returned to the city of his youth, New York City, to seek fame and fortune as a musician. He was not successful. The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, reports that at one point Piazzolla was reduced to pursuing a job as a translator in a bank to pay the rent. The death of his father, with whom he was quite close, occurred during this time with the bittersweet result of the creation of his masterpiece, Adios Nonino. But, he did find work as a musician, appearing on American television and recording a number of albums - all of them driven not by artistic achievement but rather the need to support his family, which at that time included his two children. While in most of these albums, Piazzolla led an orchestra playing other people's music there was one album, Take Me Dancing, the Latin Rhythms of Astor Piazola[sic] and his Quintet, which contained eight of Piazzolla's compositions. One of those, Plus Ultra, is in our featured video today.

Although Plus Ultra is not rare, the sheet music is readily available, it is seldom heard. The performance is by eleven year old Stasiu playing at the Mlawa Accordion Festival in Poland. While I have almost become accustomed to seeing children perform music on YouTube, young Stasiu is in a different category than 99% of the young performers. His technical skills are well developed but his interpretive skills are quite extraordinary. Note his careful phrasing and rhythmic control. I hope he is aware that Piazzolla himself, as a youth of the same age in New York City, possessed a similar set of skills on the bandoneón. The musical world is wide open to children blessed with such abilities. Piazzolla certainly made his mark on the musical world and I suspect that Stasiu will also.

You can see more performances by Stasiu on his parent's YouTube channel. If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oblivion - Weiss Family Woodwinds

As musical families go, the Weiss family is probably not be as famous as the Osmonds but they are probably more famous than the Raichles and certainly just as talented as either group. There are three siblings in the Weiss Family Woodwinds: Dawn Weiss who recently retired from her role as the Principal Flute for the Oregon Symphony, Abe Weiss who is Principal Bassoon for the Rochester Philharmonic and David Weiss who for many years was Principal Oboe for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. They have recorded together and still appear together today as a family woodwind trio. In today's video, they are joined by pianist, Alpha H. Walker, in a performance of Oblivion. The Oblivion arrangement is by Ms. Walker who is also a Weiss-by-marriage since she is the wife of David.

The choice of Oblivion is a good one for a woodwind group. The composition was written for the movie Enrico IV and appears three times in that movie - once briefly in the opening train ride scene with a clarinet solo, more fully in the courtyard scene with an oboe solo and finally in the closing credits with a bandoneón solo. You can hear most of the original if you start at the three minute mark in this video. To hear David Weiss perform the oboe solo of Oblivion in the trio would be a privilege so I was bit surprised to see no evidence of an oboe in the opening of the video. Instead, in addition to Dawn, Abe and Alpha, there is a fourth person holding an ordinary, hardware-store variety Stanley Handyman saw. Is the third person really David or is it Yo-Yo Saw sitting in with the band. Whoever it is they do an admirable and very musical job of the solo on that saw.

These are serious musicians and it is refreshing to see them comfortable enough with themselves to add the novelty of a saw to their stage performance. And, you will have to wait for a future blog to read more about the reclusive Yo-Yo Saw because it is indeed brother David on the saw. If, after all of this, you are more interested in musical saws than Piazzolla, you need to view this video to bring yourself back to your senses.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Stars

Yo-Yo Ma described playing with the Assad brothers as "inserting himself into a completed relationship." That is a good description of the situation in today's featured video. This is not a new video. It was first posted on YouTube in 2006, but it was reposted today and their performance of Zita is worth a visit.

Sérgio and Odair Assad were students in their native Brazil when they first met Piazzolla in the 1970's. In 1983, they performed one of their transcriptions of a Piazzolla composition for Piazzolla and so impressed him that Piazzolla wrote a guitar duet, Tango Ballet, specifically for them the next year. The Assad's play that suite and their own transcriptions of eight other Piazzolla works on the CD, Sérgio & Odair Assad Play Piazzolla. This is music that belongs in every Piazzolla admirer's collection.

In today's video, they are joined by a Piazzolla evangelist, Yo-Yo Ma. His album, Soul of the Tango: The Music of Astor Piazzolla, has perhaps introduced Piazzolla to more music lovers than any other CD and his video of Libertango is the most viewed Piazzolla video on the web with nearly three million views.

Any time these three stars play together, it is news. In this video they play Zita from the Troileana Suite. That suite contains four movements, each devoted to some aspect of Anibal Troilo's life. Zita is a tribute to Troilo's wife. While the performance is not musically memorable - Yo-Yo Ma does indeed just insert himself, rather unnecessarily, into a well structured guitar duet - it is still a pleasure to see such accomplished musicians play Piazzolla's music.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Are Flora and Sunny?

Piazzolla composed at the piano, writing the music with his left hand while playing with the right, but he rarely composed for the piano. You will find piano arrangements made by others of works he composed for other instruments but pieces composed specifically for piano are few. They include several classical pieces composed in the 1950's while he was studying with Ginastera - you can listen to examples of these on the excellent CD, Unknown Piazzolla by Allison Brewster Franzetti, several versions of the piano introduction for Adios Nonino, and three rarely heard Préludes: Leijia's game, Flora's game and Sunny's game. All three of these are readily available as published by Henry Lemoine in France.

Two of these Préludes, Leijia's game and Flora's game, were recently posted on YouTube by the Polish/Swedish pianist, Dorota Zarowiecka. I have chosen to feature Flora's game although Leijia's game may be more familiar to Piazzolla fans because a version of it was used in the production Tango Apasionado and Pablo Zinger plays it on the wonderful CD, The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night. Mr. Zinger assures me he played it exactly as Piazzolla wrote it but it differs significantly from the Leijia's game found in the Lemoine edition. They are certainly related but Zinger's is a much more spartan (and better, in my view) version of the piece.

Ms. Zarowiecka brings a very emotional interpretation of Flora's game - full of dynamics and enhanced by well-chosen rubato. Her range of touch is remarkable. Perhaps there is more to be found by others in the piece but her performance is an order of magnitude better than any other I have heard. Note that the piece ends at about 7 1/2 minutes into the video. I don't know what the last three minutes of the video are, but they are not Piazzolla.

As to the curious names for the three pieces - Mr. Zinger has clarified the source of the title of Leijia's game. It was titled in honor of (and dedicated to) Kip Hanrahan's newly born daughter (Hanrahan produced the Rough Dancer CD). One is tempted to speculate that Flora's game and Sunny's game were also somehow associated with the Tango Apasionado production but Mr Zinger assures me that is not the case. I do have an alternative theory - according to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla had dogs named Flora and Sonny. Perhaps they were the source for the names of the other Préludes.

If the video does not appear below, click here. If you enjoy it, I suggest you also sample her performance of Leijia's game.

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

Piazzolla ∩ Recorder

The Venn diagram representing Piazzolla Performances and People Playing Recorders has a sparsely populated intersection, but you can be assured that when a suitable new member of that population appears, you will read about it in this blog. And by recorder I don't mean those machines which replicate sound, I mean those instrument also known as a flauto dolce or flauta dulce or flute à bec or blockflöte which create sound in the hands of thousands of school children and a few professional musicians. One such professional musician, Alexandra Jomeyer, is featured in today's video playing the Piazzolla standard, Oblivion. She and pianist, Edith Bechstein, perform together as the group Piano Dolce and you are more likely to find them playing Bach than Piazzolla. However, let's hope the two extend their repertoire to include Piazzolla's Histoire du tango series which would work nicely on soprano recorder and piano.

In this video, Ms. Jomeyer has chosen the mellow tone of a tenor recorder, it appears to be a Mollenhauer Dream Recorder designed by Dutch recorder maker, Adriana Breukink. These instruments are a modern interpretation of the renaissance recorder and have a less complex and open sound than the more common baroque style recorder. It is an appropriate choice for Oblivion and the Piano Dolce duo provide an elegant and understated interpretation of the work. Ms. Jomeyer is to be congratulated for avoiding the excessive tremolo which has turned many an Oblivion performance into schmaltz.

If the video does not appear below, click here. Be patient, the music starts 50 seconds into the video.

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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Piazzolla on Flute - Claudio Barile

Is there a difference between Debussy and Piazzolla? From some of the performances recently encountered, that seems to be a question in the minds of many flute players when they encounter the Tango etudes or the Histoire du tango series that Piazzolla composed for flute. That, however, is not a question that Claudio Barile asks. He is, definitively, a flute player who understands Piazzolla and plays it appropriately. He has recently posted a series of videos that were made during a Radio Nacional broadcast from Buenos Aires. They include some useful comments about the music to be played as well as some beautiful music. I have chosen to feature Etude nr. 5 and the Bordel 1900 portion of the Histoire. If you wish to enjoy two of the other etudes and the rest of the Histoire, you can find them on Barile's YouTube channel.

The six flute etudes were written by Piazzolla in 1987 on commission for a music conservatory in Belgium. They were composed with the flute in mind but you can find YouTube performances of the etudes on just about any instrument you can imagine - tubas, violins, saxophones, trumpets, etc. You can also find just about any style you can imagine from Debussy drifts to Teutonic marches. I suspect that what you hear from Barile is very close to what Piazzolla heard in his head as he composed them. The tango roots are there and the phrasing is familiar from other Piazzolla works. Other flute players would do well to listen carefully to these performances as a guide.

The Histoire du tango series were composed in 1985 and dedicated to the Belgian flute player, Marc Grauwels, who premiered them. They represents some of the most often performed Piazzolla compositions. On the 2009 list of most often played Piazzolla works, Café 1930 and Bordel 1900 from the Histoire series were in the seventh and tenth positions, respectively. Originally composed for flute and guitar, they are often played on other pairs of instruments. In Barile's videos he is accompanied by Viviana Lazzarin on piano in arrangements by Dimitry Varelas. While guitar provides a more balanced duet - which I strongly prefer - Ms. Lazzarin plays with restraint and does not overpower the flute of Mr. Barile. To my ears, their interpretations capture the evolution of tango that Piazzolla was presumably trying to capture with his compositions.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Etude nr. 5 and here for Bordel 1900.

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

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Neofonia Ensemble

Italy is the undisputed European center for Piazzolla's music and the group, Neofonia Ensemble, represents perhaps the most authentic Piazzolla Quintet sound in Italy. The group was formed in 1994 by the arranger, composer and pianist, Gianni Mola. In its original larger format, the group recorded some well received arrangements of Piazzolla's music on the now difficult to find CD, Homenaje. The current group has a wonderful CD - also available as downloads from several sources, Concierto para quinteto and have a second CD, Pasiones, in development. But you don't need to wait for that next CD to sample their work. Today's video provides their interpretation of the Finale from Tango Apasionado. The arrangement is by Mola and has retained all of Piazzolla's nuevo tango elements and added some marvelous jazz touches through imaginative and very appropriate use of the vibraphone. The musicians are all superb. In addition to Mola, they are Arturo Sica on violin, Raffaele Ceraudo on vibraphone, Pietro Bentivenga on accordion and Camillo Chianese on contrabass.

The video was made at a concert at the Kiron Espace in Paris in May, 2009. Neofonia Ensemble have also posted some other Piazzolla videos from that concert including Biyuya, Violentango, and Oblivion. All are worth watching.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Richard Galliano II

In October of last year, this blog featured Richard Galliano. I refer you to that posting for information on Mr. Galliano but the video in that blog posting was "removed by the user." A set of related videos were posted this week and I would not be surprised if they, too, are "removed by the user" in the near future so if you are interested, I suggest you view them soon.

The videos are all from a "Bonus" on the excellent DVD, Piazzolla Forever. Much of the music itself is readily available on the CD, Piazzolla Forever or by download from a variety of sources. You'll see/hear Galliano in all his talent along with six other superb musicians who very successfully straddle the line between classical and nuevo tango interpretation of many of Piazzolla's most famous works.

Today's video is the first of a series of six videos. You will find the remaining five on BibiAudiofil's YouTube channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Winner at NOVAM

Perhaps the judges were right after all. The previous post featured nine accordionist from MDA playing Escualo - for which they were awarded second place at the annual NOVAM contest. Now that I have seen the ultimate winner of the contest, I can see that the judges had a difficult decision. The winner, Kwintetto, is also from MDA and is seen in today's video playing Invierno Porteño. The performance is marked by many of the same characteristics found in the second place performance - good phrasing, ensemble precision and particularly good control of tempo. The winning edge may be more a function of the arrangement than the performance skills - the groups are both quite good.

The performers couldn't lose. I have learned from their leader and teacher, Robert Baas, that all five members of the Kwintetto also played in the nonet that won second place. The arrangement of Invierno Porteño for Kwintetto was created by Baas and Tim Fletcher and is excellent. Baas and Fletcher have collaborated before and were part of a group known as Ensemble D'Acht which have issued several CD's of accordion ensemble music including Piazzolla Hoog D'Achtend. You can see a sample of D'Acht in this performance of Balada para un loco.

My congratulations to Baas. He has a wonderful understanding of Piazzolla's music and is communicating it well to his students who I suspect will share his love of the music through the rest of their career.

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

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Escualo - MDA at NOVAM

Big Bird says, "everybody makes mistakes." How else can you explain a second place award for the group in today's video performance of Escualo? The nine accordionists are from MDA (Muziek- en Dansschool Amstelveen) and they are performing in a contest sponsored by NOVAM (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Accordeon & Mondharmonica) in Amstelveen last week. The arrangement of Escualo is by Ralf Schwarzien.

The group has picked one of Piazzolla most rhythmically challenging pieces and they don't miss a beat. More impressively, keeping a large group like this precise and in synchronization without a conductor requires much practice and and a great deal of attention to the subtle signals from the other players. And most importantly, they perform with great musicality - the phrasing is good and consistent with the ideas presented in Piazzolla's own performance of the piece. Congratulations to the group and their leader for an excellent performance.

First place went to the group Kwintetto. Although I could not find a copy of their winning performance on YouTube, I did find a video of what I suspect is the same group performing Asphalt Tango in Amstelveen last year. It looks to me like some of the same musicians are in both groups so I think the real prize goes to MDA for having an outstanding program of music education.

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