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.