It is not well known that Niccolò Paganini, one of the most famous violin virtuosi of his day, was also a guitarist. He, in fact, composed for both instruments. So it makes some sense for Lorenzo Gatto and Denis Sung-ho Janssens, virtuosi on violin and guitar, respectively, to collect a couple of friends and put together a concert titled Travelling Paganini. But why should such a concert include Piazzolla's Zita as captured in today's featured video? The answer is to be found in the story of Denis Sung-ho Janssens.
Sung-ho was born in Korea and raised in Belgium. It is in that country that he studied guitar with Odair Assad at the Conservatoire royal de Mons and with Sérgio Assad at the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles. His teachers, the Assad brothers, were the guitarists for whom Piazzolla composed Tango Suite. They are renowned for the performances and arrangements of Piazzolla's music. The Assad's recording, Sérgio & Odair Assad Play Piazzolla, is a classic. They no doubt sparked Sung-ho's interest in Piazzola and Sung-ho, no doubt encouraged the incorporation of Piazzolla in the Travelling Paganini concert.
Lorenzo Gatto also studied at the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles, probably meeting Sung-ho there. I first became aware of their joint interest in Piazzolla in a video of the two performing Concert d'aujoud'hui at break-neck speed which was featured in this blog (unfortunately, the video has been removed from YouTube). For the Travelling Paganini concert, the pair added Song Young Hoon on cello and Lyda Chen Argerich on viola. Interestingly, Mr. Song performed Piazzolla's Le Grand Tango in his Carnegie Hall debut in 2005 so he too has Piazzolla interests. Ms. Argerich is the daughter of famed Argentine pianist, Martha Argerich, so an interest in Piazzolla might also be expected there. They are remarkable young musicians and we are fortunate that, for whatever reason, they have chosen to apply their talents to the music of Piazzolla.
Skilled as they are, it was not their musicianship that attracted me to the video; rather, it was the arrangement of Zita which, unfortunately, is not credited but I am told that the arranger is Korean. Zita is one of four movements in Suite Troileana which Piazzolla composed in 1975 to honor his friend, mentor and former boss, Anibal Troilo. The four movements are related to the four loves of Troilo's life: Zita (his wife), Bandoneon, Whiskey and Escolaso (gambling). The four represent some of the best music composed by Piazzolla in the 1970's. You can hear Piazzolla's performance of Zita here and hear what may be the inspiration for today's video in this performance by the Assad brothers and Yo-Yo Ma. The guitar work in today's video sounds very derivative of the work of the Assad's until those wonderful "bent" Asian notes at 1'25" into the video. But the bowed string work in this video is much more important - the arranger has done a superb job in converting the music into string trio format. Suite Troileana has always had classical potential but this is the first time that potential has been fully met. Let's hope the unknown arranger will undertake the other three movements of the work and if the four young musicians should perform those for YouTube, let's hope the camera is moved in a little closer.
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If you enjoyed this, give their Paganini video a look also.
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