Monday, May 31, 2010

Remember This Name - Арсений Безносиков

Арсений Безносиков: in the world beyond the boundaries of the Cyrillic alphabet we'll probably see Arseniy Beznosikov and we will see him with cello in hand. This young Russian musician, born in 1991, plays one of the most accomplished versions of Le grand tango that I have heard. While it is not quite at the obsessive level (yet), my collection of performances of Le grand tango grows steadily and Beznosikov's version is among the very best. He plays with the exuberance of Yo-Yo Ma and the intonation and rhythmic certainty of Rostropovich. Success as a concert professional in music is difficult to predict since it depends on equal measures of talent, charisma and luck but if he gains just a little bit of the latter, I think that Beznosikov has a chance of becoming one of the leading cellists of the 21st century.

According to Carlos Prieto's book, The Adventures of a Cello, Le grand tango was commissioned specifically for Mstislav Rostropovich by Efraín Paesky in 1982 but it was Prieto, not Rostropovich who premiered the work in the Americas. The work is full of rhythmic challenge and uses intervals not frequently visited on the cello fingerboard which makes it a difficult but rewarding concert piece.

I believe that the video comes from the 2008, "New Names" competition at which Beznosikov was named a winning soloist from some 100 contestants from around the world. This is just one of many such awards that Beznosikov will collect on his way to world's concert stages.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

[Note added 3 June, 2010: This blog posting has been edited to remove comments unrelated to the performance of Beznosikov. Hopefully this video will be reposted at a later date]

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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Armaguedon - Beginning and Ending

Creative. Brilliant. Significant. I am almost left speechless by the music of François Salque (cello), Vincent Peirani (accordion), and Samuel Strouk (guitar) in today's video. The work opens and ends with music Piazzolla created for the movie Armaguedon but the opening credits composition to A. Piazzolla/V. Peirani/J. Mienniel. Piazzolla's music departs at about 2'30" and some of it returns approximately three and a half minutes later but there is genius in the music the whole piece. Peirani and Mienniel have achieved something difficult - they have improved Piazzolla's music.

The music for the movie was interesting enough to be issued as an LP in 1977, a CD in 1992 and reissued recently as a remastered LP. It is really a collection of musical fragments collected directly from the sound track - some less than thirty seconds in length. Today's video starts with the theme known as Devant la glace on the original sound track then moves to an allegro which I believe is unrelated to Piazzolla and involves, I would guess, a fair amount of practiced improvisation (by that I mean it is not scored but it's a musical neighborhood they have visited before) around music composed by Peirani and/or Mienniel and the piece closes with a return to something similar to the somber sound of Devant la glace theme but probably inspired more than composed by Piazzolla. It is extremely well put together and the musicians are superb. This work is much more satisfying than anything in the original soundtrack and certainly deserves broad listening. The video comes from a live concert in March of this year. I hope the music finds its way to a recording.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Libertango - In Other Words

Libertango is by far the most frequently performed Piazzolla composition - one of every four Piazzolla videos posted on YouTube is Libertango. It is an instrumental but that did not stop Grace Jones from penning words for her version, I've Seen That Face Before, which has become her signature song. Few others have stepped up to the lyrics challenge but we will feature two others who have in today's featured videos.

The first is a Russian artist, poet and singer-songwriter, Marina Bystryakova, who titles her version, Planet. Ms. Bystryakova steps away from her native language and sings in English. You can find the lyrics here. I salute her creativity but don't think that Ms. Jones needs to worry about the competition.

The second video features a jazz-tinged version of Libertango with the Piazzolla/Ferrer song Hay una niña en el alba interwoven into it. The melodies are kept separate but someone has cleverly recognized that the harmonic backing for both songs are similar enough to combine the two in a seamless and interesting way. The singer is Fernando Paz - unrelated so far as I can tell to the Piazzolla violinist, Fernando Suarez Paz - and the saxophone player is, unfortunately, unidentified. She deserves a credit with the video. You can find the lyrics to Hay una niña en el alba here and a video of it in a normal setting here. Paz has a few problems staying on pitch in the number but he is quite an entertaining singer. You can see more of his work from this same concert on marcosredo1's YouTube channel.

If the singer-songwriter version does not appear below, click here; if the Fernando Paz version does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Libertango - Daisy Jopling

Fortunately for us, today's video of Libertango performed by Daisy Jopling and her band at a live concert in Sonora, Mexico in December 2010 represented the best of the night. Libertango was penned as an unabashedly commercial pop tune aimed at radio play and record sales. It lends itself well to interpretation in any genre and Ms. Jopling's jazz version is valid, creative and well performed. I enjoyed it. Perhaps I should just remain pleased with the Piazzolla and ignore the rest of the concert but public duty calls and I shall comment further.

Ms. Jopling was a prodigy on the violin, appearing as a soloist at the Royal Albert Hall at the age of 14. She began to stray from the straight classical path with the group Triology but appears now to have lost the path with her new, rock/classic band. Other members of the band are Daru Jones on drums, Ben Zwerin on bass, and Pierre Miller on keyboard. The full evening's performance of the band is well documented in ten videos which can be seen on Ms. Jopling's YouTube Channel. In addition to Piazzolla, you will find Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Prokofiev, and Albeniz at the concert all in "rock" format. Ms. Jopling, dressed in black bra, black negligee and gold lamé pajama bottoms, prances and poses through the concert like a Bond girl and her fiddling does indeed resemble that group. The boys in the band appear bored and ignored although Daru does a superb job of injecting a little edge into the classics. Others have done the rock/classic thing - some better, many worse; but, my overall impression is over-the-top and over-the-shark.

Note to Ms. Jopling: It was a fun experiment. Now, please come home.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bandoneón Row

It's not Piazzolla but who can resist a row of ten of the best bandoneónists in the world playing Osvaldo Pugliese's La Yumba. The occasion was a celebration of Pugliese's 80th year of life on December 26, 1985 in a famous concert at the Teatro Colón. La Yumba was composed in 1943 and undoubtedly set traditional tango music on a new path. It remains his signature song. Piazzolla fans prize the video of Piazzolla joining Pugliese to play La Yumba at a joint concert held in Amsterdam in 1989.

But in today's video, it is not Piazzolla on the bandoneón. Rather it is Alejandro Prevignano, Roberto Alvarez, F.Lapinta, Ismael Spitalnik, Oscar Castagnaro, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Arturo Penon, Julian Plaza, Víctor Lavallén and Daniel Binelli.

You might also want to view Pugliese's comments at the event.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Oblivion - MIAKE

The song is Oblivion - a theme Piazzolla composed for the movie Enrico IV. The video is from a performance titled MIAKE at the Movies. But understanding what MIAKE is took a bit of work. The MI stands for Millennia Institute, a remarkable college-prep school in Singapore. The AKE stands for Angklung Kulintang Ensemble. And here it gets interesting, at least for this western eared blogger. The angklung and the kulintang are instruments originating in the Malay Archipelago.

[The kulintang is an instrument made up of a set of gongs organized in a horizonal row, struck with a beater. In today's video, the kulintang are in the back rows - not clearly visible. You can get a better view and hear the instrument here.] Note added 31 May, 2010: The information in the brackets above appeared in the original posting of this blog and, as a reader points out in a comment below, is wrong. The kulintangs played here are from Sulawesi, Indonesia and they are made of wood and are more related to the marimba than to a set of gongs. The reader suggests this video to provide an example of the kulintang played my MIAKE.

The angklung is a pair of carved pieces of bamboo. tuned an octave apart and arranged on a frame so the bamboo pieces are struck when shaken. It is not unlike a bell. In today's video, I believe the angklung players are on the floor in front of the stage - also not clearly visibly. You can get a better view of angklung's being played in this video (not Piazzolla, but precious - don't miss it). It is hard to tell, but I think that the angklungs in today's video are arranged on racks so one player can play multiple angklungs. You can see an example in this video.

This class in world music is now dismissed. If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Michelangelo 70 - Tango Fuerte

It may sound like music from the Río de la Plata but Tango Fuerte resides on the banks of the Vistula in Warsaw, Poland. They were formed in 2006 by students of the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. Clearly, they are also students of the sound of Piazzolla's quintets and capture that sound very well in today's video of their performance of Michelangelo 70. Members of the group are Magdalena Kotowska on piano, Rafał Grząka on bandoneón, Maksymilian Grzesiak on violin, Mateusz Szemraj on guitar and Wojciech Gumiński on double bass. The piece they are playing was composed in 1969 and named to honor the San Telmo nightspot where Piazzolla's quintet frequently performed (although the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, indicates that Piazzolla told Tony Staveacre in 1989 that it was also a tribute to the great Michelangelo himself).

While this is the only video that Tango Fuerte has on YouTube, they have posted excerpts from their new CD on their MySpace page. I have listened to all of those excerpts and the authentic sound is there on every track. They are all excellent musicians but a special note of recognition needs to be made to violinist Grzesiak who could step into any nuevo tango quintet in the world today and be applauded by the other four musicians for his skills. He really feels this music, understands it and is able to communicate it flawlessly.

This is a wonderful group of young musicians. I hope we see more of them in the future.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Maria de Buenos Aires - Cambra XX

If I were able to attend only one more performance of Maria de Buenos Aires between now and the time that giant asteroid destroys our species, I would choose a production by Pablo Zinger and his Cambra XX. Today's video of Milonga carrieguera para María la niña demonstrates why. While the instrumentation may not be authentic to the original (what, no bandoneón?), I think the sound and the intent is. It is more oratorio than opera, as was the original, and the singers style the sound more as "street" music than as opera music. It is very much in the spirit of the original as captured in Piazzolla's recording of Maria.

Today's video is from a December, 2009 production at the Palau de la Música in Valencia but that is clearly not the first time that Zinger has provided the musical direction for the work - I find traces on the web of productions in 2007 and 2008 also. In each case, vocals are by Carina Gringoli and Ramón de Andrés but narration is by a different actor in each year. I am quite happy to have Gringoli and de Andrés in that final pre-asteroid production but since Zinger is still searching for just the right voice for narrator, I will request Horacio Ferrer who not only wrote the book for Maria but also provided the narration in the original and countless productions since then.

If you want a feel for the broader production, you may want to view this highlights video from 2008. If the video of Milonga carrieguera does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nightclub 1960 - Andy Miles and Orchestra

This blog recently marveled at the various instrumental combinations that have interpreted the four movements of Piazzolla's Histoire du tango which were originally composed for flute and guitar. At the risk of repetition, today's video features another unusual combination: clarinet and full orchestra. The clarinet is that of Andy Miles and the orchestra is the well known Cologne Rundfunkorchester, in this case conducted by Klaus Sallmann.

Miles is one of those amazing musicians who moves easily from jazz to classical to tango (and from clarinet to saxophone to Irish tinwhistle). His repertoire includes quite a bit of Piazzolla so he must be a fan. I have admired his Histoire performances with string quartet (you can view one here) and he does not disappoint in today's video. His interpretation leans more towards jazz than classical which provides a very nice contrast with the orchestral half of the duet. But, the thing which really stands out in the video is the orchestral arrangement of the guitar part. The arrangement is uncredited in the video but it is outstanding. Admittedly, it is a bit more Mussorgsky than canyengue but what a great sound. I certainly hope similar arrangements of the other three movements of the Histoire are available and will eventually show up on a recording or on YouTube.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adiós Nonino - Carel Kraayenhof

Today, a reminder of the elegance and beauty of Piazzolla's ultimate legacy to the history of music: a solo bandoneón performance of Adiós Nonino by Carel Kraayenhof. Kraayenhof is an important person in the world of Piazzolla. He is Dutch and a self-taught bandoneónist. He was selected by Piazzolla to play the bandoneón in the musical ensemble for Tango Apasionado, the short-lived but highly interesting musical production created by Piazzolla. He performed Adios Nonino for 55 million television viewers in the largest single viewed Piazzolla performance in history - at the wedding of Prince Willem-Alexander to Princess Máxima in February, 2002. The video of that performance remains one of the most viewed Piazzolla videos on YouTube.

The occasion for this video was the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. The church was the site of the wedding mentioned above and was also the place in which Queen Beatrix, the mother of Prince Willem-Alexander, was officially crowned Queen of the Netherlands in 1980. She was present for this performance also. The performance was only part of a much larger ceremony more of which can be seen in a video by Frank Buis, a celebrated celebrity spotting photographer from AT5.

This is an important video, copyrighted by Mr. Buis and AT5, that we are fortunate to be able to share. If it does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fugata - Coamorous Trio

The Coamorous Oriental Tango Project is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea and have a stated mission to "introduce a higher level of Tango to as many people as possible." And judging from their website and posted videos, "higher level of Tango" means largely the music of Astor Piazzolla. Based on their sound, they have a good chance of meeting their mission. Others agree: the group won first prize at the 10th Osaka International Music Competition. Members of the group include leader and pianist Andrey Vinichenko, violinist - Anna Fedotova, accordionist - Alexander Sheykin and bassist, Garan Fitzgerald. Bassist Fitzgerald is absent in today's video performance of Fugata but can be seen with the group in their performances of Libertango and Escualo. The musicians are quite talented and capture well the nuevo tango spirit of the music.

Fugata is from a three part suite composed in 1968 which is referred to by two names - Tangata and Silfo y Ondine. The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, contains two comments about the suite - one that it was written for a never released documentary movie about the tango and the other that it was written to honor the spirit of air, Sylphe, and the spirit of water, Ondine. Perhaps both apply but certainly, Fugata and the other two parts of the suite, Soledad and Final, are well constructed pieces of music. Fugata opens as a eight bar, four part fugue which is developed through the first 2 minutes of music. Interestingly, the last minute of music is, while thematically similar, quite different in the two versions recorded by Piazzolla. The first, in 1969 on the Trova LP, Adios Nonino, closes with a relatively simple "expiring clock" motif while the second recording, made almost twenty years later in 1988, La Camorra, closes with a complex and agitated musical escape attempt. The performance in today's video is very much in the original 1969 mode.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tardecita pampeana

According to the Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music, Tardecita pampeana was composed by Piazzolla in 1949. The site suggests the piece was composed for Argentine pianist, Carlos Garcia. The recording, Folklore en Piano, vol 3 captures Garcia playing it in a 1963/64 broadcast from Radio Municipal de Buenos Aires. That is quite a gap between composition and first recording so I am not sure what the real date of the piece is. It is a rarely heard piece although it is another one of those "rarities" which is readily available as sheet music(BA 1023). Today's video is the only performance of the piece available on YouTube.

The performance is by the Orquesta Juvenil Amadeus under the leadership of Guillermo "Willy" Sotelo in Mar del Plata, Argentina - the birthplace of Piazzolla. I can find no references to commercial arrangements of Tardecita pampeana for chamber orchestra so it is quite possible that this is an arrangement created by Mr. Sotelo. On the other hand, there is a "Piazzolla Museum" in Mar del Plata which has an extensive collection of Piazzolla scores. Perhaps it is an unpublished arrangement from that museum. Regardless, it is a nice arrangement and is competently performed by the student orchestra.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Invierno Porteño - Cellistanbul

Cello quartets are relatively unusual; cello quartets that play Piazzolla's music, even more so. And the fact that the quartet is from Istanbul makes Cellistanbul even rarer. The quartet is made up of four graduates from Hacettepe University State Conservatory. The four continued their training, each in a separate country, but have returned to Istanbul where all are members of the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra. Members of the quartet are Çağ Erçağ, Melih Kara, Ozan Tunca, and Murat Berk. For today's featured performance of Invierno Porteño (winter, from Piazzolla's Four Seasons series), Cellistanbul is joined by Tolga Salman on bandoneón and Orçun Orcunsel on piano.

The cello has had a role in tango music since 1913, when Eduardo Arolas first introduced the instrument in an orquesta típica and Piazzolla incorporated the cello in most of his larger ensembles (the electronic octet was an exception). And while the Cellistanbul quartet is excellent, it is the addition of the bandoneón that moves the sound from the standard classical interpretation of Piazzolla to something more special and more authentic. Their arrangement is unique and captures the essence of the composition. I have noted a few other recent examples of small classical ensembles which have added a bandoneón for Piazzolla performances. I hope it turns into a trend.

Cellistanbul, joined by Orcunsel and Salman, have posted two other Piazzolla videos - both are worth watching: Libertango and Oblivion.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Friday, May 14, 2010


No question that TANGO FATAL is good. These five young women are among the best creators of tango music I have heard. But there are questions. Which of the two recently posted videos should I feature in the blog - Vuelvo al sur or Jacinto chiclana? Which do I prefer: the vocal work of Sandra Cartolari or the fine instrumental work of Alessandra Fogliani on piano, Anna Palumbo on accordion, Elena Luppi on viola and Michela Tintoni on violin? Fortunately, the rules of this blog allow the answer to be "both." You will find both videos below.

Much of the music of tango canción is rooted in sorrow and Ms. Cartolari is one of the vocalists who can bend the micropitch in a way that goes straight to the part of your brain that feels sorrow. Her phrasing, her perfect pitch and the well calibrated vibrato make her a good singer but it is the emotion in the delivery that makes her a great singer. Few are better. Her role is further strengthened by the quality of the musicians in the group. A light touch on the piano, just the right rubato from the accordion and well matched strings with a sweet sound create a rewarding tango experience. You will also note that in Jacinto chiclana, Ms. Palumbo leaves her accordion and provides a well chosen percussion pattern for the group.

They have some other videos that are worth your time: an original, award winning composition of theirs, La voz and a "highlights" video featuring excerpts from a number of Piazzolla compositions.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Vuelvo al sur and here for Jacinto chiclana.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Café 1930 - DUOPRIMO

Piazzolla's Histoire du tango is a set of four duets depicting four periods in the development of tango music. They were originally composed for flute and guitar but have been transcribed and performed on a variety of instruments. But none quite so unusual as the combination of marimba and euphonium seen in today's video of Café 1930. Replacing the guitar with the marimba is not uncommon but it is quite a leap to go from flute to euphonium - a member of the tuba family.

The two musicians in the video are from Brazil and perform together as DUOPRIMO. On marimba is Danilo Koch and on euphonium, Fernando Deddos. They are both masters of their instruments. I have never seen or heard a better euphonium player than Deddos. He plays with great feeling and technical skills that only come through a combination of natural skills and enormous amounts of practice. The last three or four measures of his performance are just amazing - note the synchronization of the trill on the euphonium with the mallets on the marimba. Café 1930 is written as a genuine duet - it is not a guitar accompanying a flute - and moving the guitar part to the marimba is no simple matter. Koch does it extraordinarily well and captures as much emotion from the marimba as others do from the guitar. Quite a feat and a real tribute to Koch's skills as a musician.

I am anxious to hear more from these young musicians - hopefully, the other three movements of the Histoire are in rehearsal or already on video waiting to be posted on YouTube. You can find one other YouTube video of DUOPRIMO performing a Deddos composition, Ratatá (not a success to my ear), and several videos featuring the euphonium work of Deddos. Deddos also has a CD, EuFonium Brasileiro, which contains more of his own compositions as well as euphonium works written by others.

If the video does not appear below, click here (don't be put off by the mechanical problems at the beginning - things are quickly resolved).

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

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Piazzolla made his first acquaintance with vibraphonist Gary Burton in 1965 but it was not until 1986 that he composed works specifically for performance with Burton. Those works were presented at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1986 and and can be heard on the album, The New Tango. Vibraphonissimo is viewed by many as being the best of those tunes.

The piece has an unusual structure: modal, maybe pentatonic, in the beginning progressing to traditional intervals with quotes from Offenbach in the middle. It is either the jazziest of Piazzolla's nuevo tango music or the most canyengue of his jazz works - a very clever blend of styles. Others have covered the piece but no one comes as close to capturing the energy of the original as does Ryota Komatsu and his quintet with guest vibraphonist Nanae Mimura. Komatsu is certainly the best interpreter of Piazzolla in Japan and among the best in the world. He is one of the few that brings the same energy to the bellows that Piazzolla did in his prime. Nanae Mimura is a new musician to me but she handles the part with grace and skill. I will seek out more of her music. This is an excellent performance by any measure.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Double Concerto - Di Meola and Parmisano

In 1985, Piazzolla composed a double concerto for bandoneón, guitar and orchestra. It was premiered at the 5th International Guitar Festival in Liège, Belgium with Cacho Tirao playing guitar, Piazzolla the bandoneón and Leo Brouwer conducting the Liège Philharmonic. That performance has been preserved on the CD, Hommage a Liège. Sometime within the next twelve months the performance was repeated with Alvaro Pierri on the guitar, Piazzolla on the bandoneón and Pinchas Steinberg leading the Kölner Rundfunk-Orchester. That performance was captured on video and is available on the DVD, The Next Tango.

Today's video has quite a different feel than the distinctly classical mood of those two performances. Two of my favorite interpreters of Piazzolla, Al Di Meola and Mario Parmisano, bring a jazz-tinged version which puts a entirely different and entirely satisfying perspective onto the music. It is an arranged version and purists may note the absence of certain portions of the original (approximately eight minutes of the original have been dropped) but the music sings in their hands. Di Meola, in places, covers the original exactly but more often adds swing and well chosen runs within and between the phrases. Parmisano does an amazing job of covering the bandoneón and the orchestral parts on a pair of midi keyboards. This is an excellent addition to the jazz catalog of Piazzolla works. While Parmisano and Di Meola have recorded a version of this on the CD, The Grand Passion, the version in this video has an elegant simplicity which is missing in the one found on the CD. You can find a video similar to the version from that CD here.

Since embedding has been disabled for this video, you must click here to see the video.

If you wish to see the Piazzolla original, click here for part one and here for part two.

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weidman - Jérôme Pradon

In 1982, Piazzolla provided the music for a rock extravaganza created by Pierre Phillippe and Jean Guidoni. According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla even played the bandoneón part at the opening which was held at the Bouffe du Nord in Paris. While the production was not a critical success, a recording, Crime passionnel, was produced by Guidoni (apparently without Piazzolla on the bandoneón) and released in Europe. The music from this production is among the least heard of Piazzolla compositions. You have the opportunity to hear one of the songs, Weidman, in today's video.

Other than the Guidoni recording, the production disappeared until August of 2001 when the versatile and talented actor Jérôme Pradon brought a production to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A CD, Crime of Passion, from that production is still available, at least in the UK and Pradon still performs pieces from the production including the performance with pianist, Patrick Laviosa in today's video.

I am not familiar with all of the music in Crime Passionnel. Weidman does not sound like something Piazzolla would write although at least one other piece, Qui crie, is very clearly a Piazzolla composition - you can hear it at this website. You will find a photo of Piazzolla, Guidoni and Philippe at the same site. If the topic of this rather obscure production intrigues you, you need to visit this cult site which includes a plot summary explaining the title of the song, Weidman.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Libertango - Tche-tchet-ka!

It's just another Russian version of Libertango, he thinks, with a domra and a bass balalaika. But as the finger is poised above the move-on-to-the-next-video button, a man in a red suit strolls onto the stage. Aha, he thinks, now the woman in black will come from stage-left and they will dance the tango - seen that before, let's move on. But then, the man in the red suit busts a move from Fred Astaire and the next thing you know he is tapping up a veritable storm. Haven't seen that before - looks like a blog topic.

The dancer is Vladimir Kirsanov - an Honored Artist of Russian and a teacher, a writer and all around evangelist for tap dancing or step dancing or as his website suggests, tchtchetka. I don't know how young he is but I've seen many younger men who would call for the oxygen after a few minutes at Mr. Kirsanov's pace. And he dances with such grace, ease and creativity - the man is Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire reborn.

While the man in the red suit steals the show, the musicians deserve our attention also. That is Andrey Tarasov on the alto domra and Dmitri Averin on the bass balalaika. Both are members of the Quartet Skaz. You can see more of their work on this YouTube Channel. The bass work in the latter part of the video is particularly notable. Frequently, the bass balalaika is assigned to provide the pulse on the root of the chord behind the music but Averin shows he is quite a capable musician with a strong jazz sensibility. Listen carefully to his work.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Libertango at the Wedding

There are a couple of surprises in today's Libertango video. While it may not be surprising to find Libertango at a wedding party, it is surprising when the bride also turns out also to be the Libertango pianist. And she is a very good pianist; if she is not a professional musician, she could be. The second surprise arrives when two sohaegeums (sometimes spelled as sohegum) join the pianist. The sohaegeum is an unusual instrument developed in North Korea in the 1960's. The instrument combines the four strings of a violin with the vertical fiddle form of the haegum (the Korean version of the more familiar erdu). The instrument is little known and rarely seen or heard outside of North Korea. There is only a glimpse of the sohaegeum in the Libertango video but after you have enjoyed this unusual rendition of Piazzolla's greatest hit, I encourage you to watch a second video from the same wedding where the bride and the sohaegeumists play Hibari. You will get a better view of the sohaegeum and be sure to watch the action which begins at 3'40" into the video. This was one glorious wedding with wonderful music.

To YongHee and HyangSook, I wish a long and happy marriage. May you enjoy together the music of Astor Piazzolla for many years.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

You can learn more about the sohaegeum and see a very nice video featuring a sohaegeum duet with piano at this site. In fact, the sohaegeumists may be the same as those at the wedding.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Six Up and Two Down

Six up and two down. That's the primary theme from Adios Nonino: six rising notes followed by two falling notes. And, that is just about all that survives in this remarkable performance of Adios Nonino by Zubin Mehta and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance was captured on a cell phone by Jorge Liebermann in Buenos Aires in August, 2009. The video quality is what you might expect from a cell phone but the sound is surprisingly good. Mr. Liebermann was not there alone - there were 6,000 people at Luna Park sharing the moment. To have such a famous conductor and orchestra honor a hometown composer must have pleased the crowd. The performance was executed flawlessly and to one only vaguely familiar with the original composition, it must have been a thrilling experience.

But, there must have been more than one attendee leaving the concert shaking their head. I have never heard a more insulting arrangement of the piece. The intent, the structure, the rhythmic core, the harmonies - they are all gone. On a few occasions the music Piazzolla wrote struggles to escape only to be strangled and stuffed back into the sack of musical lyricism. To bring such an arrangement to Buenos Aires, the source of Piazzolla's musical inspiration, suggests that Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic have a cultural tin ear of huge proportion.

What a disappointment.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Libertango - Live from the Greco

Libertango, Piazzolla's most often played composition, provides such an opportunity for interpretation and improvisation that it is a favorite of jazz musicians. A recent blog featured the cool sounds of a bossa nova version from the European Jazz Trio. Today's version falls more on the hot side of jazz and is from Japan, not Europe. The video comes live from the Greco Bar near Ōtsuka Station in Tokyo.

The group's name is M.Locura and it is led by violinist, Momoko Aida, who has a strong interest in nuevo tango which, fortunately for us, centers on the music of Piazzolla. In this performance the quartet starts with a fairly straight version of Libertango well grounded by the bass of Keisuke Torigoe who is steady as a rock throughout the piece. Then as the members of the quartet each take a solo break, the music gets interesting and the capabilities of the musicians become apparent. The first to solo is bandoneónist, Satoshi Kitamura, who plays in a classical tango style with excellent technique and perfect phrasing. He does not yet have the explosive command of the bellows of Ryota Komatsu but is perhaps the best of the young bandoneónist in Japan. The pianist, Nobumasa Tanaka, leaves all traces of traditional tango behind with his percussive and creative attack at the piano - perhaps the Henry Butler of tango piano. Then, Momoko Aida, brings her very creative violin to the front. Ms. Momoko is an accomplished tango violinist - she played in one of Komatsu's ensembles - but she brings a dark, tension filled solo to this Libertango allowing resolution only as the group approaches their wrap-up chorus. I am not sure I liked or understood it, but it held my attention and given the approximately 2,000 versions of Libertango that I have heard in the last fifteen months, that is saying something.

This is a very fine, nuevo tango jazz group that deserves more global exposure. I hope we will hear more from them in the future. The group has also posted an excellent performance of Michelangelo 70.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Una Reunión de Amigos

Classical musicians have polished much of Piazzolla's music into fine finished gems, many times removing important roots as they did so. The music is strong enough to withstand such pruning but it is refreshing to come upon performances which retain not only the roots but some of the dirt around those roots. Today's video of El Gordo Triste is such a performance.

The setting is informal. The video production is simple. The three musicians are all professionals but so far as I can tell, they do not perform together as a band. The performance represents rather, as the notes to the video suggest, a gathering of friends. The singer is Gady Pampillón - more often found as a lead guitarist in an Argentine hard rock band. While Pampillón's publicity photo might not suggest it, he has a great voice for Piazzolla's canción and could be the heir to Roberto Goyeneche if he should choose to turn his career that direction. The bandoneónist is Miguel Frasca - a session musician with experience in many tango ensembles in Buenos Aires. The guitarist is Alberto De Los Santos - leader of the Quarteto los Santos. They have grown up with this music and their understanding and feelings for it show. This is music from the heart.

The song is a tribute to Piazzolla's friend and mentor, Anibal Troilo, with lyrics by Horacio Ferrer. It was composed in 1967, one of the earlier results of the Piazzolla's partnership with Ferrer. The title refers to Piazzolla's nickname for Troilo (Troilo, in turn, called Piazzolla "Gato.") You can find the lyrics here - they are a bit abstract, at least to a non-native speaker, which is not unusual for Ferrer's poetry and lyrics.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Monday, May 3, 2010

April 2010 Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 610 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of April, 2010, an increase of 25% over April, 2009. 487 (80%) 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-three percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 22% in Nuevo tango, 22% in pop and 13% in jazz.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 27% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Oblivion
3. Adios Nonino
4. Invierno Porteño
5. Histoire du tango - Café 1930
6. Histoire du tango - Bordel 1900
7. Histoire du tango - Nightclub 1960
8. La Muerte del ángel
9. Verano Porteño
10. Primavera Porteña

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

The performance videos came from 51 different countries. Argentina posted the most videos: 61. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

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

There was only one Piazzolla original performances posted and it had been previously posted.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. My choice for best of the month is the performance of Libertango by the European Jazz Quartet.

The choice for most bizarre this month is a video of Balada para un loco being performed by beginning violinist Stacey who has charm if not yet skills.

I have put a table with links to all 610 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the April, 2010 link in my Piazzolla on Video website.