Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rhapsody Harmonica Ensemble

The harmonica and the bandoneón are first cousins - related through the bisonic reed arrangement they share. And, performances where the harmonica replaces the bandoneón are not uncommon; but, the Rhapsody Harmonica Ensemble seen in today's videos goes beyond that and uses harmonicas to replace not only all of Piazzolla's quintet but also all of the Kronos Quartet.

I am not sure of the harmonica group's name: Google Translate suggests the group is called Crazy Ring Harmonica Orchestra but a related Facebook page suggests the name, Rhapsody Harmonica Ensemble. Under either name, these are special harmonica players who play a large variety of music, much of which can be seen on konekome's YouTube Channel. I believe the leader of this Taiwan ensemble is Chen Sheng Yi and if he is responsible for the musical arrangements and the training of the group, he is to be congratulated.

Two videos are included below. The first is Fear, the last of five movements of Tango Sensations which Piazzolla composed for the Kronos Quartet in 1989. He and the quartet recorded the work on one of Piazzolla's last recordings: Piazzolla: Five Tango Sensations. It is a difficult piece, even for an experienced string quartet, and I am amazed at the audacity of a harmonica ensemble to even attempt to play the piece. The ensemble handles the difficult fugues well and only stumbles once in one of the middle transitional sections. The second piece is Invierno Porteño, played here by a trio of harmonicas. The musicality these three put into the piece with such simple instruments is just astounding. If you watch nothing else, watch they way they end the piece starting with Piazzolla's salute to Vivaldi at six minutes into the video.

If you, like me, can't quite get enough of such unexpected artistry, also take a look at this samba.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Fear and here for Invierno Porteño.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

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