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.

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