Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tango Suite - Assad Brothers

Is it addition or subtraction? Either a minute of music was added to the original Tango Suite to create the standard work with which we are familiar or a minute was subtracted to create the performance in today's video of the Andante and Allegro sections of Tango Suite as performed by brothers, Odair and Sérgio Assad. Available data strongly suggest the latter.

Piazzolla first met and was impressed with the Assad brothers in Paris in 1983. This was early in the Assad's career but they had already received enough recognition to leave their native Brazil and tour Europe. In 1984, Piazzolla composed Tango Suite specifically for the Assad's. According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla's guitarist, Oscar López Ruiz, reviewed the score before it was sent to the Assads and pronounced it "difficult and complicated but perfectly playable by virtuosos like the Assads." There are three parts to the suite: Deciso, Andante and Allegro, with the latter two normally played as a single unit. The Assads first recorded it in 1985, on the LP, Latin American Music for Two Guitars. They also recorded it with Yo-Yo Ma in 1997, on Soul of the Tango but their definitive performance appears on the wonderful CD, Sérgio & Odair Assad Play Piazzolla. That performance was recorded in Brussels, now home to Odair Assad, in 1999.

Today's video appears to be from a 1989 Brazilian television production. I believe it is the earliest video record of a performance of Tango Suite and for that reason, it is important. Curiously, in today's video the Assads have omitted a minute of music from the original version of the Andante section. The original consists of an A and B section, which are repeated and then followed by an extended bridge section before recapitulating A and B to end the piece. Today's video eliminates the extended bridge which in most performances fills the work from roughly the two minute to the three minute mark. Perhaps this was an experiment or perhaps it was done to meet some scheduling demand in the television programming - we may never know. There is another YouTube performance of the work by the Assads here. It is a 1997 performance from Japanese television and it is contains the missing minute although I much prefer the 1989 performance of today's video because it conveys more emotion and has a freedom of motion that is missing in later performances.

Unfortunately, I find no video record of the Assad's playing the first movement of the suite, Deciso. Let's hope it exists and will appear at a later date.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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