Sunday, November 21, 2010

La Muerte del Ángel - One to Five

La muerte del ángel was composed as incidental music for the 1962 play, Tango del ángel, by Alberto Rodriguez Muñoz. It was frequently played by Piazzolla in concert and he recorded it on at least fourteen different occasions. On more than half of those, Pablo Ziegler was the pianist in the recording. Ziegler continues to perform La muerte del ángel providing more than thirty years of continuity to the composition. What follows is a one to five salute to Ziegler's contribution to the work, La muerte del ángel.

One: First comes the man, Pablo Ziegler. He joined Piazzolla's second quintet as it was formed in 1978 and was the pianist for the quintet throughout its existence. According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Ziegler was viewed as the outstanding young jazz pianist in Argentina at the time and came highly recommended by Oscar Lopez Ruiz, the initial second quintet guitarist and long time friend of Piazzolla. Ziegler is a talented jazz improviser as well as a disciplined pianist and creative composer. Piazzolla's influence on Ziegler is apparent in his work, for example in the excellent 1998 CD, Asfalto, but I suspect that Ziegler also influenced Piazzolla to incorporate more of the jazz idiom into the performances of the quintet.

Two: While to my knowledge, Ziegler never recorded a solo piano version of La muerte del ángel (I am sure he could and wish he would), he and Emanual Ax did record what has become the gold standard piano duo of the work in the 1997 CD, Los Tangueros. While I do not believe a video of Ziegler and Ax playing La muerte del ángel exists on YouTube, Ziegler's arrangement has been published by Tonos and it is frequently performed by piano duos in concerts all over the world. The arrangement is highly derivative of Piazzolla's original and a fusion of classical and tango styling. Most pianist playing the arrangement perform it in the context of classical music. As an example, I have include below one of the better performances you will find on YouTube by tangopuntodos (Ángel Huidobro Vega and Jorge García Herranz).

Three: Ziegler does, however, appear in a video with a trio format. Joined by Quique Sinesi on guitar and Walter Castro on bandoneón, the trio version opens in nuevo tango mode but around the 2'30" point, the group loosens and enters a not particularly inspired improvisational section before returning to the "original" at 3'45". You can hear more of this trio in the 2005 CD, Bajo Cero.

Four: More recently, Ziegler along with Hector del Curto on bandoneón, Claudio Ragazzi on guitar and Pedro Giraudo on contrabass provided a quartet arrangement of La muerte del ángel at the 2009, Fujitsu Jazz Festival in San Francisco. Once again, improvisation enters at about 2'30" but this time extends for a full two minutes. In contrast to the trio, the musicians in the quartet enhance the music with the improvisational skills - Ziegler is particularly on his game in this performance. To my knowledge, this quartet has, unfortunately, not yet produced any recordings.

Five: For Ziegler in a quintet performance of La muerte del ángel, we turn to Piazzolla's quintet performing the work at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1984. Ziegler and Piazzolla are joined by other quintet members Oscar Lopez Ruiz on guitar, Fernando Suarez Paz on violin, and Hector Console on bass. This performance is available on both DVD and CD and represents one of the peaks of the second quintet's success.

Interestingly, a similar "one to five" overview of Ziegler's work may be on the way to a stage near you. He has scheduled performances in New York City on April 23, 2011 and in Sacramento, California on April 29th which are described with these words on the Ziegler website, "Pablo Ziegler Beyond Tango progresses from piano duo, through trio, quartet, quintet and finally larger chamber ensemble." Let's hope the videographers bring the concert to YouTube or, better yet, to a DVD.

If the videos do not appear in the above, click here for the piano duo; here for the trio; here for the quartet; and here for the quintet.

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

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