Friday, July 23, 2010

Para Lucirse - Orquesta de Señoritas

We'll never know how many traditional tangos Piazzolla wrote but according the the excellent discography of Mitsumasa Saito, we do know that he recorded 23 traditional tangos of his own composition before he recorded his first nuevo tango in 1957. Interestingly, he recorded four additional traditional tangos of his own composition in 1959 - although they are cleverly disguised as 50's Latin pop with the help of a mindless studio drummer - on the rare album, Take Me Dancing. One of those four, Para Lucirse, or as it was known on the album, Show Off, is our featured video today as played by the Orquesta de Señoritas. Their version, fortunately, bears no resemblance to that found on Take Me Dancing but rather is the version arranged by Piazzolla but recorded and made famous by Piazzolla's mentor, Anibal Troilo in 1950 or 1951. You can hear Troilo's recording in this YouTube video. Today's video is the only performance video of the piece on YouTube. It is a rarely performed Piazzolla work.

Orquesta de Señoritas is not the only all female tango orchestra around but they are the best - in fact, they are one of the best traditional tango orchestras around regardless of how few or how many females are included in the musicians. The group is from Rosario and consists of Eliana Vazquez and Julia Testa (violin), Irmgard Münchgesang (viola), Agustina Taborda and Belén Plouganou (bandoneón), Yanina Bolognese (piano), and Julia Martinez (contrabass). The group is directed by Javier Martinez Lo Re who also does many of the arrangements. You can find biographical information on all the musicians on their website. Groups like Orquesta de Señoritas are important because they are keeping traditional tango alive. They deserve our support.

There are other interesting things to be said about the Take Me Dancing album but I will save them for a later blog posting.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Violin Competition Buenos Aires - 2010

It takes talent, luck and charisma for a performer to get to the top of the classical music world. Young performers get a chance to demonstrate all three in International Competitions and there is a new competition in the world - the First International Violin Competition in Buenos Aires sponsored by Fundacion YPF and Comunidad Amijai. Jinjoo Cho from South Korea was announced the winner of that competition last night, July 21, 2010 at a gala concert in the Teatro Colón.

The contest began with 23 violinists who performed in a variety of situations for a panel of nine distinguished musicians from around the world led by Maestro Shlomo Mintz. Fittingly for Buenos Aires, one of the final stages of the competition required the contestants to play two tangos in a trio format with bandoneón and contrabass. All the tango compositions were arranged by Néstor Marconi, and of those from which the contestants could choose, at least two were Piazzolla compositions. To highlight the importance of this segment of the competition, a separate winner was named. The winner of the Tango Argentino Prize was Nigel Armstrong from the U.S.A. and today's video features Armstrong playing Adios Nonino in the competiton accompanied by Horacio Romo on bandoneón and Juan Pablo Navarro on contrabass.

The organizers of the Buenos Aires Violin Competition are to be congratulated for their communications during the competition. They have blogged results, maintained a Twitter feed and posted video on YouTube almost immediately after the performances. They have set a high standard for future competitions to meet. You can watch many of the tango perfomances here but don't miss Armstrongs performance below. He plays with a sweetness and touch of gypsy in the bow that puts him in the same class as Piazzolla's favorite violinist, Fernando Suarez Paz.

Our congratulations to both Jinjoo Cho and Nigel Armstrong for winning and to Maestro Mintz and the organizers for a successful competition.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Donal Fox: Piazzolla to Bach Project

On Sunday, September 5, pianist/composer Donal Fox and his quartet with special guest Maya Beiser (her recording of Oblivion is one of the best around) will bring the Piazzolla to Bach Project to the Tanglewood Jazz Festival. In the first of two videos today, we will see Fox discuss his views on music and on Piazzolla while in the background, you can hear his quartet playing Libertango. Like Piazzolla, Fox is one of those musicians who is difficult to place in any specific genre box although he is clearly an outstanding jazz musician. He is also a talented composer who received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1997 and at one time served as the composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony. You will find his composing skills captured in the CD, Gone City, which is cataloged as "Classical" but, in fact, is unclassifiable - it is classical and it is jazz. To understand his approach to music a little better, I recommend this Greg Sandow review.

The Piazzolla to Bach Project is not Fox's first foray into the music of Piazzolla. His Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project included two Piazzolla works - Libertango and Oblivion. In today's second video, we see Fox and his quartet play the Scarlatti Project version of Oblivion. Fox understands Piazzolla's music in the way an engineer understands how a building is constructed and demonstrates in the video that he can take it apart and put it back together.

I am very curious to see if Fox will simply rehash the Scarlatti project at Tanglewood or if he has some new deconstruction/construction in mind. I hope the folks at Tanglewood find a way to share his program with those of us who won't be in Boston in September.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for the interview and here for Oblivion.

Donal Fox: Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spiel Mich

British artist, Luke Jerram, was under contract to Fierce Earth to deliver an art installation to the city of Birmingham, England that would reach an audience of 100,000 people. His creation, Play Me - I'm Yours, in which 14 used pianos were situated around the city for anyone to play, succeeded in meeting that goal. More than 140,000 people enjoyed the music of the pianos over a period of three weeks. Strangers met and played duets. Crowds gathered and sang old favorites. It clearly brought joy to many of those 140,000 people. Was Libertango played on any of those pianos? If it was, it never made it to YouTube.

Jerram's second installation of Play Me - I'm Yours was in Sao Paulo, Brazil and his program has now expanded to 273 pianos in 11 cities which more than a million people have enjoyed. And, he is not done yet: in August, street pianos are scheduled to appear in Belfast and more cities are probably on his list. Inevitably, such an idea has sparked interest in other places and cities around the world are running their own street piano programs. One such city is Dortmund, Germany which did credit Jerram with the idea but proceeded to install 30 pianos in their own version of the art installation under the title of Spiel Mich (which is Play Me, auf Deutsch).

And, the inevitable has happened: Piazzolla, a street piano and a video recorder have converged to give us today's video of ... surprise, not Libertango but rather Verano Porteño. The young pianist, Caroline Gustke, is filmed by her grandmother and is playing the piece from memory - perhaps a piece she played in a recital - and as the piece progresses she gets better and better. My thanks to her for sharing her Piazzolla with the shoppers in Dortmund and with us on YouTube.

Can you imagine how much Piazzolla will be heard when street pianos arrive in Buenos Aires?

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adios Nonino - Distasio and Schneider

In the late 1980's, Ruben Distasio and Arturo Schneider were important figures in the Argentine jazz world. Distasio is a pianist; Schneider plays both flute and saxophone. As a duo, they covered both jazz and tango standards. You can find their work from that period on boladoz's YouTube channel. It still sounds fresh after twenty years. They attracted enough interest that they toured Japan and brought with them bandoneonist Pablo Greco, guitarist Esteban Morgado and bassist, Mariano Tito. Today's video captures that group playing Adios Nonino at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo in 1989.

The arrangement is by Distasio and his jazz roots show in the extended piano introduction which is quite nice. But the musician that brought this video to Piazzolla on Video is Arturo Schneider. Schneider was a colleague, perhaps friend, of Piazzolla and was a musician he trusted and sought out when he needed a flute player or a saxophone player. He was present in the orchestra at the opening of the operita, Maria de Buenos Aires. He was in the ensemble that recorded the music for the animated feature, Pulsacion. When Piazzolla expanded his quintet to an octet, Schneider was one of the musicians he added. While Piazzolla is not present in this video, you will get a chance to hear one of Piazzolla's musicians interpret his music on the flute.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Concert d'aujourd'hui - Bluebaroque

Concert d'aujourd'hui is the black sheep of Piazzolla's Histoire du tango family. There are four movements to the Histoire, each depicting a period in the development of the tango. The first two, Bordel 1900 and Café 1930, are in the top ten of the most performed Piazzolla compositions. The third, Nightclub 1960, is thirteenth on the list and the fourth, Concert d'aujourd'hui, barely makes the top thirty. After questioning many performers who have posted their interpretations of the Histoire on YouTube, their reason for ignoring the piece has become clearer: they don't like it. I will partially accept that answer but unspoken is another reason: they don't understand it. The Histoire were written originally for flute and guitar and, without exception, the pieces have been performed as "classical" duets - as if they were composed by Mozart. That actually works rather well with the first three of the series. But with few exceptions, the classically trained musicians does not succeed when bringing this approach to Concert d'aujourd'hui. The music is meant to represent the tango nuevo as conceived by Piazzolla - it requires flare, unusual accents and rhythm you don't find in a metronome - what students of tango call canyengue, but as updated by Piazzolla.

You may sense my frustration. But today's video gives me hope. This Concert d'aujourd'hui is different. Unlike all the other interpretations, this one is arranged as a quartet - not a duet. Unlike all the other interpretations, this one is played in a jazz mode - not in a classical mode. And it works! Thanks be to the group Bluebaroque for finding Concert d'aujourd'hui, arranging it creatively and sharing it with us on YouTube. Bluebaroque consists of four professors from l'Ecole de Musique et de Danse de Saint-Joseph: Daniel Jaulin on contrabass, Sandrine Peter on piano, Jean Paul Bénard on flute and Roger Ebrard on drums. Their performance is creative, spirited and structurally interesting - I really like the way the contrabass and piano bring the music back after the unexpected drum break. Not quite canyengue but they have put this music on the right track. I hope others will listen and follow.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Alguien le dice al tango - Susana Rinaldi

Today's video is unlisted - an exclusive for Piazzolla on Video courtesy of Feminale Films. It features Susana Rinaldi singing the Piazzolla/Borges canción, Alguien le dice al tango in a most unusual setting: a Synagogue in the Belgrano barrio of Buenos Aires. While Buenos Aires has one of the largest Jewish populations of any city outside of Israel, concerts featuring tango music in a Synagogue are unusual - in fact, this concert was billed as the "first tango concert in a Synagogue."

Ms. Rinaldi here is backed by the tango septet, Inspiración, which includes Andrés Linetzky on piano, Ignacio Varchausky on contrabass, Luciano Jungman and Rubén Sloninsky on bandoneon, Daniela Shuster on cello, and Alejandro Schaikis and Adolfo Halsband on violin. Inspiración was described as the "first Argentine Jewish tango orchestra" and made their debut at the Teatro Cervantes just eight months before today's featured video was made in a concert sponsored by, among others, Ms. Rinaldi.

Alguien le dice al tango is the product of Piazzolla's 1965 collaboration with poet, Jorge Luis Borges, and originally appeared on the El Tango recording sung by Edmundo Rivero. The poem/lyrics can be found here.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Years of Solitude - Piazzolla and Mulligan

"One of the nicest things in my life" - that is the way Piazzolla referred to his collaboration with Gerry Mulligan to create the album, Summit (Reunion Cumbre) according to Natalio Gorin's book, Astor Piazzolla - A Memoir. We get to share a bit of that "nicest thing" today in a video which is new to YouTube - a video of Piazzolla and Mulligan performing Years of Solitude on Italian TV in 1974.

The relationship between Piazzolla and Mulligan was rich and interesting. There are many tales of the pair to be read in both the Gorin book and the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango. Their paths first crossed in 1955, when Piazzolla attended a Mulligan jazz octet concert in Paris which inspired him to create his own Buenos Aires octet and to emulate the rotating soloist format - something standard in jazz but quite new to tango. Nearly twenty year later, in 1974, they were brought back together by Aldo Pagani - a promoter who represented both of their interests in Italy. For a relatively brief and sometimes stormy period they collaborated to produce the Summit album, to tour together briefly in Italy and France and to appear on Italian television. Until this video appeared, I had no idea that any of the television appearance survived. Their paths crossed again in 1990 when Mulligan attended a Piazzolla concert in Milan and suggested that it was time to record another album. Pagani offered substantial sums to both performers for such an album but Piazzolla declined. We can only dream of what further music these two giants could have created together.

Many thanks are offered to The Jazz Researcher for posting this video. You can see more of their fine collection of jazz videos at this YouTube channel. Let's hope there are some more classic Piazzolla videos in The Jazz Researcher's vault which will eventually be made available to us.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Libertango and the World Cup

Mundialista. Vuvuzela. Piazzolla. Libertango. Germany 4 - Argentina 0.

You just knew they would somehow come together and canchellena has put together the video that does the job. The version of Libertango accompanying the video is by Bond.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

El cielo en las manos - Orlando Dibelo

In 1949, Piazzolla dissolved his tango orquesta to devote himself to developing skills as a composer of classical music. But he had a wife and two children, aged four and six, to support. This blog has recently featured some of his classical music from this period but that music did not feed the family. To make ends meet, Piazzolla continued to guest with the tango orquesta's of others, published and recorded a few tangos, and wrote soundtrack music for movies. Today's featured video is an example of the latter. It is a seldom heard movie theme, El cielo en las manos, from the movie of the same title. Interestingly, the IMDb indicates that Piazzolla himself appears in the movie. That is footage I would like to see. The movie theme has lyrics by the director of the film, Homero Cárpena. Cárpena was a successful actor at the time and was from Piazzolla's hometown of Mar del Plata, perhaps even a family friend. Both the movie and the music had some success at the time. A 78 rpm record was issued in 1950 with María de la Fuente doing the vocals (El Choclo was on the flip side) and the performance was later included on an LP, Astor Piazzolla y Maria de La Fuente.

Today's video is a solo bandoneón, instrumental version performed by Orlando Dibelo. I suspect it is his own arrangement and it is excellent. Dibelo captures the wistfulness of the original and provides a masterclass in harmonization and ornamentation of traditional tango on the bandoneón in his performance. I much prefer his version to the original. There is more of Dibelo's excellent work on the bandoneón available on his YouTube channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, July 5, 2010

June 2010 Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 606 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of June, 2010, an increase of 15% over June, 2009. 464 (77%) of the videos were performance videos featuring live performances. The others were videos which used Piazzolla’s music as a sound track for dancing or photo/video montages. I highlighted my journey through these many videos in this blog.

Fifty-one percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 10% in Nuevo tango, 24% in pop and 15% in jazz.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 33% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Oblivion
3. Adios Nonino
4. Verano Porteño
5. La muerte del angel
6. Histoire du tango - Cafè 1930
7. Histoire du tango - Bordel 1900
8. Primavera Porteña
9. Histoire du tango - Nightclub 1960
10. Tango suite

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

The performance videos came from 49 different countries. Argentina posted the most videos: 73. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

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

There were three Piazzolla original performances posted and they all had been previously posted.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. My choice for best of the month is the performance of Tanguango by the Zinger Trio. If the video does not appear below, click here.

The choice for most bizarre this month is a video of a Dutch marching band performing Adios Nonino (which starts 1'52" into the video). If the video does not appear below, click here.

I have put a table with links to all 606 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the June, 2010 link in my Piazzolla on Video website.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Libertango - the Kannel Version

It is quite a journey from a bandoneón in an Italian recording studio to seventeen Kannels in Estonia but Libertango has, inexplicably, made that journey. Adding to the growing set of videos of Libertango played on unexpected instruments comes today's video by Sotto Voce, a student ensemble of Kannel players in Estonia led, in this video, by Ruth Kuhi.

The Kannel is an Estonian member of the family of Baltic psalteries. Closely related to the Finnish Kantele, it is a member of the zither family of instruments (characterized as stringed instruments in which the strings do not extend beyond the sounding box). Originally a small, diatonic instrument with 5 to 6 stings, modern interpretations feature 30 or more strings as seen in today's video. While it is a bit difficult to really see the instruments in the video, a better view is afforded in this solo performance.

The group brings an interesting sound to Libertango. You can hear them play a number of other works at the SottoVoceOrkester's YouTube channel. One of my favorites is Polska a-moll.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, July 2, 2010

Vuelvo al Sur - Let's Tango

What, no seagulls? The sound of Koop's remix of Vuelvo al sur is so pervasive on YouTube that it is almost a surprise to find the song without an upbeat drum track and the sound of seagulls. That perverted (but entertaining) version is a favorite of folks looking for an upbeat tune to put behind the slide show of their trip to the islands. But from an unexpected place, Doha, the capital city of Qatar, comes a very sensitive and smooth version of this classic from Piazzolla with lyrics by famed film director Fernando “Pino” Solanas. The performance is by Let's Tango, also known as the Doha Tango Trio, comprised of Patrizia Döringer on violin, Christoph Schmitz on cello and Joris Laenen on piano with vocals provided by Paz, a guest singer from Buenos Aires. Members of the trio are also all members of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra which explains the high quality of their performance but not their interest in the music of tango - that remains a mystery. The video is one of a set of six which can be seen on the Dohatango YouTube channel and is related to highly praised concert given in Doha in February of this year. For an overview, I particularly recommend the Cool Intro video. If these videos are not part of upcoming CD/DVD release, they should be. The group is good.

The composition is from the score for the Solanas film, Sur, which won Solanas the award as Best Director at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. Piazzolla also wrote the score for Solanas famous movie, Tangos: L'exile de Gardel and two compositions for his movie, El viaje. Piazzolla's original recording with vocals by Roberto Goyeneche can be found on the CD, Tanguedia de Amor and heard on this YouTube video.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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