Monday, July 18, 2011

Retrato De Mi Mismo

Q: What do Astor Piazzolla, Alfredo Gobbi and Milton Nascimento have in common?

A: Each was the subject of a musical portrait (retrato) created by Astor Piazzolla.

Retrato de mi mismo (which translates as Portrait of myself) is by far the rarest of the three retratos composed by Piazzolla. There are only two versions on YouTube and virtually no available recordings of the work. I have chosen to feature both of the available videos today.

The first video is an interesting and well done video montage which uses the recording made by Piazzolla's first quintet in 1967, as a sound track. Joining Piazzolla in that quintet are Jaime Gosis on piano, Antonio Agri on violin, Kicho Díaz on contrabass and Oscar López Ruiz on electric guitar. That 1967 recording is to be found on the very rare LP titled Astor Piazzolla - Egle Martin which is now only available on the Japanese reissue Piazzolla Para Coleccionistas. This video provides you an opportunity to hear a very rare Piazzolla recording.

The second video is the only live performance video of the work available on YouTube. The performers are Marcelo González on violin, Vera Pavlova on piano and Omar Massa on bandoneón. If the score to Retrato de mi mismo were readily available, many groups would no doubt play it. The arrangement is the work of Ms. Pavlova, and I suspect she is also the one who went to enormous effort to transcribe the work by listening to the original. A superb job was done on the transcription - the original comes through strongly and authentically. Pavlova and González are well known for their authentic covers of Piazzolla's works in the group Quinteto Nuestro Tiempo and they have extended the authentic sound to this trio. The bandoneónist, Omar Massa, is not the usual bandoneónist for Quinteto Nuestro Tiempo but is a well known free lance bandoneónist. His recent work includes an appearance with Plácido Domingo which was captured in this delightful video. I express my appreciation to the musicians in this video. They have provided an important gift to the Piazzolla community by resurrecting this work. I hope they will record it and share the score with others in the future.

If this was truly a musical self-portrait capturing the way Piazzolla imagined himself in the mid-1960's, my interpretation would be that it was time of melancholy, steady toil at difficult tasks and eventual triumph. Others will no doubt read the emotion of the music differently - comments relating your interpretation are welcomed below.

If the videos do not appear below, click here for the original Piazzola version and click here for the live performance version.

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

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