Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango - four pieces depicting the evolution of tango from 1900 to the present day - are consistently among his ten most frequently performed compositions. They were originally composed for flute and guitar but have been performed on an endless variety of duos, occasionally expanded to trio or quartet and once, for a very notable performance, arranged as a piano concerto for Mario Parmisano and the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin (one of my all-time favorite performances). Today's video adds another combination, a concerto grosso format, and I think it is a very important contribution to the catalog of orchestral arrangements of Piazzolla's ensemble works.
The arrangements are by Vadim Venediktov. Perhaps that is Mr. Venediktov on the podium, perhaps leading the Volgograd Symphony - there is insufficient information with the video to know. I suggested that the arrangement was in the form of a concerto grosso - the term is normally applied only to those baroque pieces composed for a small set of instruments and an orchestra - but it seems appropriate particularly given the structure that Mr. Venediktov has chosen. He has retained most of the guitar/flute composition as Piazzolla composed it and brings in the orchestra to add body to the work. In much of the work, the orchestra is silent and the flute/guitar duo carries the piece, just as in a baroque concerto grosso. While I have embedded only the first of the four Histoire series, Bordel 1900, the pattern is the same in all of them. These arrangements are quite novel in the world of Piazzolla's music. I am not sure how such arrangements find their way from Volgograd to the rest of the world but those music mavens that are looking for new symphonic worlds to conquer should immediately contact Mr. Venediktov (some of these may work - email: email@example.com; phone: (8442) 38 3191; fax: (8442)38 30 78; snail mail: Municipal Music Theater, Chuykova Str. 4, 400131 Volgograd, Russia).
The orchestrations are imaginative and add a new and welcome level of dynamism to the Histoire. I have only one point of criticism which I strongly encourage Mr. Venediktov to address. In all four pieces he uses a pair of small tuned drums struck with mallets. Those should be removed from the score. The sound is distracting and the use of such percussion is totally inappropriate with Piazzolla's music and totally inappropriate to the tango in any period of the tango's history. I enjoy such drums in salsa music but this is not salsa music. The rest of the percussion - vibes, marimbas, tympani and drum kit - is appropriate and well done. There are places in the music where "thumps" are needed. They should be done by tapping on the guitar just as hundreds of guitar/flute duos have done ever since the pieces were composed.
I should not close this review without saluting the two soloists - Sergei Matokhin on guitar and Janna Froman on flute. Without their superb performance, even these nicely done arrangements would fail.
Links to all four videos are provided below although only Bordel 1900 is embedded in this blog. Two cautions on the videos: the sound and video are unfortunately not quite synchronized and second, instead of editing the videos, the sound has simply been shut off after the piece. You won't miss anything if you shut the video down at the end of the piece.
Click here for Bordel 1900
Click here for Café 1930 (this one is perhaps the best)
Click here for Nightclub 1960
Click here for Concert d'aujourd'hui
To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.
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