It is difficult to decide whether the star of this video is Piazzolla's composition, Escualo, the arranger, Kyoko Yamamoto, or the performers, Duo Kutrowatz. The three certainly work together well.
Escualo (the title translates to Shark) was composed in 1979 and is one of the most rhythmically challenging of Piazzolla's works and one of my favorites - this is the ninth time the work has been featured in this blog. In a two year survey of the most frequently performed Piazzolla compositions, it was number 17. I think the challenge of the work keeps its performance frequency down. Piazzolla recorded the work four times. My favorite was captured live on October 13, 1983 in Lugano, Switzerland and can be heard on the readily available CD, Adios Nonino. A later but very similar performance by the quintet can be seen in this video.
It is a great challenge to capture the essence of that quintet performance in a work for two pianos but Kyoko Yamamoto has done an excellent job of just that. Ms. Yamamoto is a classically trained pianist from Kobe College but her fame has not come from her work as a pianist but rather as an arranger of the works of Piazzolla for piano - both solo and duo piano. You can find many pianists playing her arrangements on YouTube. The Yonezawa Piazzolla score list references 31 pieces Ms. Yamamoto has arranged and I believe there are even more which have not yet been made commercially available. Many young musicians receive their first exposure to the music of Piazzolla through her arrangements. She is an important person in the Piazzolla world.
Ms. Yamamoto has been fortunate to have attracted the attention of such superb pianists as Eduard and Johannes Kutrowatz. The Kutrowatz brothers were trained at Josef Haydn Conservatory in Eisenstadt and at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. They have performed professionally as a duo since 1986 and have an uncanny rapport at the piano. They have toured the world and made a name for themselves particulary with the works of Liszt. Their attention to Piazzolla is relatively recent but they have clearly been captured by his music. Their latest recording, Tango Nuevo, is devoted entirely to the works of Astor Piazzolla as arranged by Ms. Yamamoto. Escualo is included on that recording. You can find a video of their performance of Michelangelo '70, also on that recording, here. Escualo is rhythmically challenging and it a credit to the Kutrowatz brothers that they are in perfect synchronization throughout the performance. I think their performance does capture the compositional creativity of the work but it moves forward with Teutonic certainty rather than with the Latin swing that Piazzolla's quintet brought to the work. That swing may be impossible to capture on two pianos, it is largely due to accent pattern - which is different for each instrument in the quintet - and the subtle moving of those accents before and behind the beat. I am curious what a pair of truly canyengue pianists like Pablo Ziegler and Mario Parmisano would do with Ms. Yamamoto's arrangement of Escualo. Could they make it swing?
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