Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zum - Pugliese Arrangement

Piazzolla was not the only tango composer to stretch the boundaries of the genre. Osvaldo Pugliese never abandoned the classic tango but injected a seismic shock into the music when his trademark repetitive rhythmic themes first appeared, most noticeably in the classic La Yumba. While Pugliese is a giant in the pantheon of tango composers and focused on his own music, he did also play and record some of Piazzolla's compositions including Adios Nonino, Marrón y azul, Verano porteño and today's featured video, Zum. In each case, Pugliese arranged the music to fit his signature sound. Piazzolla composed Zum in 1970 or 71 and it is one of the first of his pieces to signal the development of nuevo tango. Pugliese's arrangement and recording of the piece appeared in 1973. While Pugliese was one of the earliest of the traditional tango composers to recognize the importance of Piazzolla, the two did not appear on stage together until 1989 as discussed in a previous post in this blog.

Today's video features Sexteto Abran Cancha, a very talented group from Mar del Plata (birthplace of Piazzolla) which is recreating authentic sounding performances of many of the classic tango bands of the 40's and 50's. Members of the group are Marcos Peruzzo and Tomás Uriaguereca on bandoneón, Pablo Albornoz and Guillermo Olguin on violin, Sebastián Sartal on contrabass and Nicolás Dorzi on piano. They have four other videos available on this YouTube channel - every one of them is excellent. If you enjoy classic canyengue tango, watch them.

As a piece of related trivia, the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, reports that Piazzolla owned a dog named Zum. The music preceded the dog.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Adios Nonino - Solo Guitar

I first came across the guitar work of Gustavo Eiriz through some anonymous audio tests that he had posted under the titles "PCM 1644" and "otra preuba en AC3 256 kbits" and wrote the first version of this blog based on those videos. Fortunately, Gustavo responded to those first videos and identified himself and provided me the link to the final result which is today's video, a solo guitar interpretation of Adios Nonino. The arrangement is by Eiriz himself and he generously shares the tab for the arrangement in the video. He is playing a relatively rare Gibson Chet Atkins CEC guitar with nylon strings through a Mackie mixer. The timbre of the amplified nylon string guitar is warm and full and the playing is elegantly understated. The sound quality is superb. Together, it makes for an unusually beautiful version of Adios Nonino.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mstislav Rostropovich

Today's video contains no video other than a photo of Mstislav Rostropovich but it contains important audio: Rostropovich playing Le grand tango accompanied by Igor Uriash on piano. Piazzolla, inspired by the cello playing of Rostropovich, composed Le grand tango in 1982, dedicated it to Rostropovich and mailed the score to him. According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Rostropovich had never heard of Piazzolla and left the score in a drawer for years.

It was first heard, at least in North America, when Piazzolla encountered cellist Carter Brey at a Santa Fe music festival in 1987 and, impressed with Brey's playing, sent him a copy of Le grand tango. Brey recognized the importance of the work and performed it shortly after receiving it and later recorded it with pianist, Christopher O'Riley on the CD, Le Grand Tango: Music of Latin America, still my favorite interpretation of the piece.

Rostropovich did eventually discover the piece and in 1990 traveled to Buenos Aires to be coached by Piazzolla on it's playing. Rostropovich first performance of the piece was in New Orleans that same year with pianist Sara Wolfensohn and he recorded it only one - in November, 1996. That recording has never been sold separately. It has only been available as part of a large and relatively expensive boxed set of Rostropovich's work issued by EMI. Thus, prior to this YouTube video it is likely that this historic recording has been heard by dedicated Rostropovich fans but not by many Piazzolla fans.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Libertango - the Gugak Version

Today's video showcases a most unusual setting of Libertango. The introduction is in English, the instruments are Korean and the music is unmistakably Piazzolla although your ear may not recognize any of the timbres involved. The style is traditional Korean music, a style known as gugak, and the group is known as Garamhui. The instruments are listed in the notes with the video. The wind instrument in the center is a Saenghwang, a Korean relative of the Chinese Sheng. Like a bandoneón, it is a free reed instrument - the reeds are fitted within 17 bamboo tubes. Such instruments are frequently cited as precursors to the accordion family of instruments. The bowed string instrument played by the leader of the group is a haegeum - from the same family of instruments as the western violin and Chinese erhu. The remaining three instruments (other than percussion) are all members of the zither family. Two are identified in the video notes as gayageum and geomungo. The third zither, the one to the far left in the video, is an ajaeng - note the bowing 5 1/2 minutes into the video. Although you can't see the percussion instruments, I would wager they are using traditional Korean percussion instruments also.

I find this music absolutely delightful. The musicians are excellent and the Libertango arrangement is cleverly done to showcase the sound of these traditional Korean instruments. The same group has provided videos of three additional pieces: Boat song, Help me through the day and Dream Road. Watching these, it is apparent that this group is trying to do for Korean traditional music much the same thing that Piazzolla did for the tango. They are retaining the essence of the roots of a traditional regional music but bringing an entirely new musical perspective to create something new and exciting. I hope the music brings them great success.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Choir Wars

Blame it on the BBC. As if the world did not have enough television contests to find the best singers, dancers and "talents", Britain's BBC One had to invent Choir Wars in 2007 to find the best choral ensembles in that fair land. The program did survive one season under the name Last Choir Standing and then mercifully disappeared.

But, like the famous whac-a-mole, Choir Wars is back - this time in Lithuania where the show is known as Chorų karai. And we wouldn't be talking about this if Piazzolla's Libertango did not make the finals. So here they are, the Kauno šampaninis choras going for the gold with Libertango in today's featured video.

Did they win? Yes, they did and the choir will spend the rest of the year touring Lithuania and abroad. I suspect that Libertango will make an appearance at all of their concerts. If you enjoy the showmanship and music of this choir, you can find several more of their performances at this YouTube Channel.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Susana Rinaldi

Susana Rinaldi is "the most celebrated female singer of her generation" according to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango. It is disappointing, at least to this fan, that she never recorded with Piazzolla and perhaps never even performed with him although she did appear with him on several occasions including sharing a performance cycle with him at the club Michelangelo in the 70's. Azzi/Collier notes that they were both part of a lavish tango festival in Toulouse in 1984 and that she was "on hand" at a Piazzolla performance at Heraklion in Crete in 1985. Rinaldi herself recalls in a 2009 interview being at Luna Park in 1969 when Balada para un loco was introduced and awarded second place to the outrage of the crowd (and to Ms. Rinaldi). There are many parallels - both were superb tango musicians who were rejected by the classic tango crowd in Buenos Aires, both had strong and feisty personalities, both found much of their initial fame in France and both were eventually welcomed back to Buenos Aires as musical heroes.

Ms. Rinaldi is best known for her interpretation of classic tango but, for many years, her concerts have included a few Piazzolla favorites including Balada para mi muerte and Los pájaros perdidos. The latter is featured in today's video. The performance is from a 1999 tango festival in Markkinat, Finland. The full concert is available on DVD. For comparison, I have also included a video of Ms. Rinaldi performing the same song in 1983 at a UNESCO function. Like a fine wine, I believe she has improved with age.

If the video does not appear below, click here for the 1999 performance. To see the 1983 performance, click here.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Organic Piazzolla

Organic Piazzolla - that is what today's video contains. Libertango, as we have seen in this blog, is everywhere from the orchestral concert stage to the late night club in Tokyo. But, some of the best of Libertango comes not from such venues but rather from the heart and fingers of those who just love making music together. I don't know where today's video was made - it looks like it might be in a luthier's shop in Italy - and I don't know who the musicians are. They are not rank amateurs since they are producing an ornamented version of Libertango but they are relaxed and in the company of friends having a good time with Piazzolla's music. The spontaneity and natural/organic quality of the music is refreshing in these days of so much over-produced commercial music.

My thanks to the musicians for sharing their good times with us.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Libertango - The Tzigane Version

Forgive me father, I have strayed to the music of Django. Fortunately, today's video provides the path to redemption as the Quartetto Gipsy Tzigano plays Libertango in a style that Django might recognize as Tzigane or Gypsy. The source of my detour through gypsy jazz was an excellent book, well researched and well written, Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni. A good read for anyone interested in the life of one of the more fascinating musicians of the twentieth century - I recommend it.

The Quartetto Gipsy Tzigano is fronted by violinist, Gianfranco Riccio, a classically trained musician who lists among his interests Tango Argentino and Manouche Jazz (Django was a Manouche gypsy). The other members of the quartet are Enzo Grimaldi on accordion, Sergio Fusaro on bass and Rocco Di Maiolo on soprano saxophone (hot, hot, hot).

The songs that follow Libertango are not Piazzolla but they are fun listening. All are done in a version of gypsy style with Fusaro's bass providing "la pompe" which is characteristic of gypsy jazz. Only the third piece, a medley of swing tunes including All of me, are Django related. The second piece, Artigana, is a contemporary Balkan piece by accordionist Admir Shkurtaj. The closing piece in the set is Guaglione, a Neapolitan tune by Giuseppe Fanciulli which has famously been latinized in this Perez Prado classic.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Adios Nonino - Vocal'Son

Buenos Aires, London, New York, Paris - maybe Moscow. Those are the places you might expect to find just the right singers to assemble a chorus to pay honor to Piazzolla's signature song, Adios Nonino. Unexpectedly, you will also find those voices in Wissembourg in the northern Alsace region of France singing together as the group Vocal'Son under the direction of Stéphane Hummel.

Mr. Hummel has put together a very well phrased and perfectly pitched four part mixed chorus version of the classic Adios Nonino. While Eladia Blázquez did provide some Piazzolla-approved lyrics to Adios Nonino, Hummel has wisely chosen an arrangement by Nestor Zadoff which allows the 25 voices of Vocal'Son to highlight the melodic and harmonic beauty of the piece through the use of Swingle Singer style syllabication. The chorus is exceptionally well balanced and has no dominant voice to spoil the overall sound of the group.

There are quite a few choral versions of Adios Nonino posted on YouTube and this is one of the best. If the video does not appear below, click here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

February 2010 Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 495 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of February, 2010, an increase of 30% over February, 2009. 339 (69%) of the videos were performance videos featuring live performances. The others were videos which used Piazzolla’s music as a sound track for photo or video montages. I have highlighted my journey through these many videos in this blog.

Forty-four percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 18% in Nuevo tango, 23% in pop and 15% in jazz.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 29% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Adios Nonino
3. Oblivion
4. Verano Porteño
5. Invierno Porteño
6. Milonga del ángel
7. Otoño Porteño
8. Ave Maria
9. La Muerte del ángel
10. Primavera Porteña

The top three on this list seem to be fairly stable month-to-month but the bottom seven change every month. This is the first month in which none of the Histoire du tango series appear in the top ten. Sixty-nine different compositions were covered in the videos this month.

The performance videos came from 39 different countries. Italy posted the most videos: 52. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

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

There were eight Piazzolla original performances posted. All of them have been previously posted.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. My choice for best of the month is the performance of Libertango by clarinetist Giora Feinman and the Gershwin Quartet.

The choice for most bizarre this month is a promotional video from the Tango Nuevo Cabaret show which hit the bizarre button when the dancers came out in military fatigues.

I have put a table with links to all 495 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the February, 2010 link in my Piazzolla on Video website.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Artisane - Roberto Capocchi

In 1983, Piazzolla in collaboration with accordionist/bandoneónist Richard Galliano wrote accompanying music for a production of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream staged by Jorge Lavelli at the Comédie Française. Piazzolla never recorded the music although Galliano did in the 2003 release, El Sueno de una Noche de Verano. Curiously, the music from this production is probably better known to students of piano and guitar than to most fans of Piazzolla's music. This is the result of the publication of parts of the score from the production in a variety of formats, including piano and guitar.

In today's video, Roberto Capocchi provides the first ever YouTube performance of the Artisane from Midsummer Night's Dream. Capocchi included Artisane as an encore after a concert presented at GiG Performance Space in Santa Fe, New Mexico on January 15th of this year. It is a brief piece, presumably announcing the appearance of one of the artisans who are putting on the play, Pyramus and Thisbe, within the play, Midsummer Night's Dream. It's not going to make any lists of "most frequently played" Piazzolla works but it makes a nice little encore piece.

Capocchi is a very talented young guitarist with a nice touch and a sense of rhythm that promises a rewarding future relationship with the music of Astor Piazzolla. I note in his website that a future recording project will include music of Piazzolla so that promise will hopefully be fulfilled. Meanwhile, I highly recommend the investment of some of your time listening to the many mp3's posted on his website. Don't miss his performance of Capricho Arabe - you will find it in the Spanish music mp3 section.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Martha Argerich

Martha Argerich is almost as famous for her shunning of publicity as she is for her prodigious talent on the piano (reference this profile by Alex Ross). Born in Buenos Aires she might seem a natural as an interpreter of Piazzolla's music, but she is not. Her focus is the classical repertoire and one gets the impression that Piazzolla's music is not up to her standards. And, in a sense, I agree. Except for some very early compositions and several preludes to Adios Nonino, Piazzolla did not compose for the piano and no one has yet provided concert quality piano arrangements in the classical mode of his works. She does include three Piazzolla pieces in her portfolio and all three have just appeared on YouTube. The featured performance is of Tres minutos con la realidad but you may also be interested in viewing the related performance of Libertango and Oblivion.

All three were recorded at a Paris concert on March 7 of this year. All three were arranged by Eduardo Hubert, also an Argentine, and all three are performed as piano duets with Mr. Hubert. The video begins with a two and a half minute long piano stool chase which inexplicably was not edited out of the video. Unfortunately, the piano stool confusion is the most interesting part of the video. While Ms. Argerich's technical skills are apparent, the arrangements are uninspired and fail to capture the magic of Piazzolla's music. Tres minutos is the best of the three - the arrangements of Libertango and Oblivion approach awful. If Ms. Argerich is going to play Piazzolla, it is a shame she has attached herself to the arrangements of Mr. Hubert.

The same three pieces appear on the well received CD, Martha Argerich And Friends - Live From The Lugano Festival 2008, and hopefully come off better in that format.

Embedding has been disabled for this video so to view it you must click here.

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

Monday, March 8, 2010

Adiós Nonino - The Movie

Today's featured video has been available on the web for several years but it appeared on YouTube for the first time this week. It is one of my favorites for the simplicity and eloquence in telling the story of Adiós Nonino .

The film is one of a series of silent films created by Kat Eiswald. You can see her other films at Feminale Films. They are all done to the music of Piazzolla and represent a collection of real jewels by one of America's most creative young filmmakers.

The music for the video is one of the several piano preludes to Adiós Nonino which Piazzolla composed for the pianists of his Quintet. Here the prelude is performed by Seth Asarnow, a bandoneónist (and clearly a superb pianist) and a central figure in the California tango world.

As a final note, Nonino is an Italian nickname for grandfather and is the name Piazzolla's two children called their grandfather.

Embedding has been disabled for this video so to view it, you must click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Real Divertimento 9

In a recent blog posting, I featured a video of Zum played by Piazzolla's Conjunto 9 (also known as the Nonet). That video mistitled Zum as Divertimento 9 and so did I until a reader corrected me. Today's video again features the Conjunto 9 but this time they are indeed playing Divertimento 9 (although the piece is untitled in the video). The video comes from a 1972 broadcast of the series Teatro 10 which was hosted by Alberto Lupo. Piazzolla is introduced by Lupo in the video. While this video has been previously posted on YouTube, the version posted this week is of much better quality. Note in the video the way Piazzolla moves his bandoneón to best capture the sound with the single microphone provided. (Since a bandoneón produces sound from the two ends of the instrument which can be more than a meter apart when instrument is extended, it is standard practice to use two microphones when recording it - one at each end of the instrument. Italian TV provided only one microphone but Piazzolla seamlessly orients his bandoneón to best capture the sound he is creating.)

I have also included a second video from the same broadcast. In this video, Mina (Anna Maria Mazzini) joins the Conjunto 9 to sing Balada para mi muerte. This Balada is one of the early collaborations between Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer. It was originally composed for the Quintet and was first recorded by the Quintet with Amelita Baltar in 1970. You can hear that version on the CD, Amelita Baltar Interpteta A: Piazzolla-Ferrer. But, it was Mina's recording of it on her LP, Signori...Mina, which provided an early exposure of Piazzolla's music to European audiences.

These are both important videos to fans of Piazzolla.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Divertimento 9 and here for Balada para mi muerte.

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