Friday, September 28, 2012

Chant et Fugue - Trio Kardia

Faust's deal with Mephistopheles was for ten years, Piazzolla's deal with Aldo Pagani was for six. One result of Piazzolla's deal was the 1977 work, Chant et Fugue, a truncated version of which is our featured video today. The video captures a September 20th performance at the Casa Classica (just a five minute walk from Akasaka-Mitsuke station) by the Japanese group, Trio Kardia: Manami on flute, Saori on violin and Ayumi on piano.

Pagani played a significant initial role in Piazzolla's success in Europe. He was an agent/promoter for a number of noted musicians in Italy and offered Piazzolla a contract with a steady income and an apartment in Rome in exchange for certain rights to the music he created.  Many have suggested it was a Faustian bargain and, in a sense, it was.  Piazzolla and Pagani maintained the contractual relationship for six years and during that time, Piazzolla lived comfortably and benefited from Pagani's many contacts in the European music world which helped establish his fame on that continent.  Pagani gained a long term revenue stream from the music Piazzolla produced - roughly 30% of his recorded output comes from those six years.  The royalties from Libertango, a product of that period and a composition performed by more artists than perhaps any other composition of the twentieth century, alone must have made Pagani a wealthy man. Pagani has issued and reissued the recordings Piazzolla made during that period and is the single source of many of the scores performed today.  I have heard that he maintains a collection of Piazzolla's manuscripts from the period in a vault somewhere in Rome.  He continues to be an active promoter of Piazzolla's music.

Chant et Fugue appeared on the Persecuta album and you can hear the original here on YouTube.  It is performed by Piazzolla and nine Italian studio musicians hired by Pigani for the recording.  It is a very rarely heard Piazzolla composition. The original work is roughly 6'40" long with the "Chant" lasting four minutes and the "Fugue" the remaining time.  The two sections are in different keys, musically unrelated and separated by a mechanical silence. It would not surprise me to learn that Pigani created an assemblage of two unrelated pieces to fill-up the available time on the LP.  Without access to the original score, we may never know.

And where did Trio Kardia get their score?  I am only guessing but here is what I think happened.  Someone in the trio has enjoyed watching the Lombard twins dance to Chant et Fugue on YouTube - watch it here, you will enjoy it, too. Note that the Lombard twins use only the last 28 seconds of the Chant and do all of their dancing to the Fugue.  It is surely no accident that Trio Kardia starts with exactly the same 28 seconds of the Chant and play all of the Fugue.  Someone in the Trio has transcribed and arranged the truncated version of Chant et Fugue they enjoyed in the Lombard twin video.  My guess is that the violinist, Saori, did the transcription.  After all, if you are going to go to all of the trouble to transcribe the work, you might as well give yourself the lead part in the fugue.  Whether the arranger was Ms.Saori or someone else, they did a very nice job. It is not really possible to replace ten musicians with three but some good decisions were made on which parts to leave out and which to leave in.  The music stands as a whole and the Trio plays it very well.  I wonder if the audience at the Casa Classica recognized the uniqueness of the musical treat they received that evening - it was almost certainly the premiere of the work as performed by a trio.  Maybe someday Trio Kardia will bring us the first three and a half minutes of the Chant - I'll be watching for it.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prelude, Fugue and Divertimento

 In late 1971, Piazzolla expanded his Quintet to nine musicians, a group known as the Conjunto 9 or the Nonet, by the addition of a second violin, a viola, a cello and a percussionist to the existing bandoneón, electric guitar, violin, piano and contrabass. While the Conunto 9 played many arrangements of familiar Quintet tunes, Piazzolla composed a number of works uniquely for the ensemble. One of the rarer of those works is presented in today's series of videos. The work has no formal title (the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, refers to it as "the 9's") and consists of three movements: Prelude, Fugue and Divertimento. The performance is by Orquestra Filarmonica Jovem de Piracicaba under conductor and musical director Anderson Oliveira with guest soloists Eric Lawson on violin, Pedro Huff on cello, and João Paulo Casarotti on piano. The performance, the Brazilian premiere of the work, was at the concert, Casarotti Convida, at the Piracicaba Municipal Theater on 10 August, 2012. The concert was a fund raising event for the school Passo a Passo, a school for children with disabilities in the city of Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, Brazil. The musicians were all volunteers.

Piazzolla recorded the full work only once, on the recording Música Popular Contemporánea de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Vol. 2, although he did later record the Prelude and Divertimento without the Fugue suggesting that he may have considered the three as separate works.  José Bragato, the cellist in the Conjunto 9, arranged "the 9's" for piano and chamber orchestra. This was not unusual. Bragato's musical taste and instincts were totally trusted by Piazzolla and he frequently made "classical" arrangements of Piazzolla's Quintet music (and, I have heard, converted many of Piazzolla's quickly drafted scores into readable form for the Quintet). His arrangements, even today, provide the basis for most of the "classical" music performances of Piazzolla we hear.  It is probable that his arrangement of  "the 9's" was performed in Buenos Aires but it was apparently never published and really got its only broad exposure through Gidon Kremer's Kremerata Baltica recording, Tango Ballet. The performance in today's video uses virtually the same Bragato arrangement although there are some subtle scoring differences and some not-so-subtle interpretive differences.

Since they use the same arrangement it is tempting to compare the Filamonica Jovem version to the Kremerata Baltica version, but such a comparison would be unfair.  The Kremerata Baltica version shows the perfection of studio recording while the Filamonica Jovem version comes from a handheld video camera with limited sound capability.  The sound is good enough to show that the soloists do an excellent job and that the interpretation is less lush than Kremer's although probably closer to Bragato's intent. The Jovem ensemble shows less precision than Kremer's ensemble but few can match Kremer on that count. The Orquestra Filarmonica Jovem de Piracicaba performance is internally consistant and a totally valid reading of Bragato's arrangement.  I believe that pianist, João Paulo Casarotti, who is Coordinator of Piano Studies at the Southern University-Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a DMA candidate in Piano Performance at LSU is largely responsible for bringing this work back into public view and for that, I thank him.

A more interesting comparison exists between Piazzolla's original Conjunto 9's version and the Bragato arrangement. While a copy of the Conjunto 9's recording makes it possible to compare all three movements, a video recording of the Conjunto 9 playing the Divertimento which I have included below, will allow you to make a comparison of that single movement within the confines of this blog. The differences are greater than I would have expected. Admittedly, removing an electric guitar and a bandoneón from the original creates a bit of a musical hole which Bragato usually fills with the violin, but it is not the simple replacement that creates the large differences it is, rather, the music that Bragato has chosen to leave out. There are more musicians in the orchestral score but the music is simpler. Many of the character lines have been erased. As enjoyable as the Bragato version is, I believe he has "left music on the table" and that the work deserves a new and better "classical" arrangement.  The same is true of many Piazzolla works. The beauty and excitement of the music from the Quintet and the Nonet and the Sextet and the Octet are too often "left on the table." Even the best, Bragato, did it.

If the videos do not appear below click here for the Prelude, here for the Fugue, here for the Divertimento and here for the Conjunto 9's version of Divertimento.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

El Gordo Triste - Mundial de Baile 2012

Tango Festival y Mundial de Baile 2012 - Buenos Aires was the official title of the event and it is appropriate - winning the dance (baile) contest at this event is the tango dancer equivalent of winning football's World Cup. This year's winners, Cristian Sosa and María Noel Sciuto, will travel broadly this year and be recognized and rewarded as the best tango dancers in the world. Some, but not all, will recognize the significance of the music to which they danced to win the finals.  That music, featured at the very end of today's featured video, is a 1972 recording of Piazzolla's El Gordo Triste performed by Piazzolla's Quintet with vocalist, Roberto Goyeneche.

The Tango Festival was dedicated this year to Astor Piazzolla in honor of the twentieth anniversary of his death so it was fitting that the last dance was to a Piazzolla melody, no accident I am sure. They could not have chosen a better song - it honors not only Piazzolla but also three other giants of the tango world: Anibal Troilo, Horacio Ferrer and Roberto Goyeneche.  Troilo was a mentor and great friend of Piazzolla. A bandoneónist and composer himself, he gave Piazzolla his first job as a bandoneónist in a "big time" orquesta tipica and Piazzolla soon became the arranger of the music for the group. El Gordo Triste was not, as some people believe, composed to honor Troilo after his death - it was composed in 1970 some five years before Troilo's death - and was meant to be a living tribute to the man nicknamed "El Gordo."  The lyrics were composed by Horacio Ferrer and are less mystical than most, conveying some sense of Troilo's character. The singer, Goyeneche, was also a friend of Troilo and recorded some 26 records with Troilo's orchestra - it is no wonder his gravelly voice sings the work with true feelings. El Gordo Triste was first recorded by Amelita Baltar and an orchestra led by Piazzolla in 1972 but not released until 1976 on the difficult to find RCA recording, El Gordo Tristi, although a re-release can be heard on the CD, Piazzolla and Amelita Baltar. But it is the recording by Goyeneche that made the song famous. The Goyeneche version used in the Tango Festival performance was recorded live in May of 1982 at the Teatro Regina in Buenos Aires and is available in the CD, Piazzolla - Goyeneche en Vivo. Goyeneche and Piazzolla's Quintet appeared together at the Regina for nearly two weeks. According the the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla composed many new songs for the concerts but as a courtesy to Goyeneche, whose health was failing, ultimately performed a concert of traditional tangos familiar to Goyeneche. It is one of the few times that Piazzolla included traditional tangos composed by others in a concert.

The video below is long and includes some wonderful traditional tango dancing as well as a performance by Piazzolla Electronico of Otoño porteño (at 24' 00" in the video) and an appearance by tango dancer legend, Maria Nieves. If you want to jump directly to the final dance performance to the music of El Gordo Triste, you can click here.

Again, if  you only want to watch the final dance performance to the music of El Gordo Triste, you can click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Libertango - the Graller Version

The collection of videos of Libertango played on unusual instruments expands today with a video of the group Els Carreter performing on a set of gralles accompanied by a timbal (snare drum). The gralla is one of several Catalan versions of the ancient shawm. Shawms are usually associated with the Renaissance period but predate that period and have their roots probably in the middle East. Many European cultures have had shawm derivatives in their folk music history but only in Spain have the instruments continued to flourish - particularly in Catalonia. The name of the instrument derives from the Catalan word for Jackdaw, a noisy member of the crow family, and the double reed of the instrument can indeed be made to sound very much like the bird. The familiar oboe is a refined derivative of the shawm. 

The members of Els Carreter are Ramon Fontova, Oriol Junyent, Pau Plana, Albert Solé on gralles and Robert Querol on timbal. They appear to play modern, fully chromatic versions of the gralla although the sound is much the same as the traditional open hole model. Els Carreter were formed in 2001 in the city of Lleide in the western part of Catalonia. The performance in this video comes from Festa Major de Vilafranca in August of this year. Els Carreter were one of thirteen gralles ensembles performing - you can find the full program here.  If you want to hear more traditional music played on gralles, view this video. If you want to learn more about the gralla, visit

I am no judge of gralla playing but Libertango is all here - perhaps from an arrangement originally created for four clarinets - and I enjoyed it.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


The third generation of Piazzolla Electrónico made its debut at the recent Tango Festival of Buenos Aires.  That festival was devoted to the music of Astor Piazzolla in honor of the twentieth anniversary of his death. A highlight of the festival was the performance by Daniel Astor "Pipi" Piazzolla's Electronico ensemble featured in today's video.

The first generation Piazzolla Electrónico was that created in 1975, when Astor Piazzolla decided to modernize his sound by "plugging in" and formed the Electronic Octet. He replaced the acoustic bass of his Quintet with an electric bass guitar and added synthesizer (played by his son, Daniel), electronic organ and a full set of drums to form the octet. The group had some success, they performed at Carnegie Hall, and their performances are captured in a series of eight YouTube videos which begin here.  There was a brief second version of the group formed in Europe with a completely different set of musicians except for his son, Daniel.  According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla did not view the Octet as a success and fairly quickly returned to the sound of his Quintet.

Shortly after Piazzolla's death, his son Daniel, who retained the original scores of the Electronic Octet, reformed the octet, the second generation Piazzolla Electrónico, and made a recording in honor of his father. Three of the tracks on that recording follow the original Octet scores. The sound of that octet can be heard on the recording, Piazzolla by Piazzolla.  Significantly, Daniel's son, Pipi, played drums in that octet recording.  It was perhaps the first time that three generations of Piazzolla's had been united musically - Astor's music played by son and grandson.

And now we have the third generation Piazzolla Electrónico - not an octet but an extended version of the group, Escalandrum, which produced the album named by this blog as Piazzolla Recording of the Year, Piazzolla Plays Piazzolla. Added to Escalandrum were Lautaro Greco on bandoneón, Lucio Balduini on guitar, and Esteban Sehinkman on synthesizer.  Martín Rur replaced the usual Escalandrum bass clarinetist, Martín Pantyrer. And, Pipi's father, Daniel, made his return to the stage playing percussion alongside his son.

The group performed all four of Piazzolla's Seasons. To my knowledge, Escalandrum has not previously performed the Seasons so this was new new territory for them.  Escalandrum's pianist, Nicolas Guerschberg, provided the arrangements and they are excellent. In an interview, Pipi mentioned that his Electrónico's version of Verano Porteño was based on the version Piazzolla created for his Nonet which you can hear on the 1983 recording, Concierto de Nácar.  You will find reviews of the concert which suggest that the other Seasons are based on the original Electronic Octet scores but in the absence of recordings from the Octet, that is difficult to confirm.

The quality of the sound in the video below is not very good but a video found here is much better suggesting that we may someday have a recording directly from the sound board - maybe even a DVD.  You will hear three of the Seasons in today's video.  The first is Invierno Porteño and except for the synthesizer prelude it is a very standard version of the work - modified only for the unusual instrumentation of the group. The second piece, Primavera Porteña which begins at 8'50" begins to show the jazz capabilities of Escalandrum with an improvisational section at 12'40" and a nice piano solo. The third piece, Verano Porteño, which starts at 14'30" into the video, is the most creatively arranged.  It opens with a synthesizer prelude which can be described as creative but irrelevant. After the prelude, it does indeed follow the Nonet arrangement for the first five minutes, although with some liberties taken with rhythm and counter-melodies.  At the five minute point, the Nonet version enters a lyrical string phase and Guerschberg wisely makes a decision that lyrical strings are not an Escalandrum strength and brings the work to a close with some of the best jazz of the concert.  The Electrónico's version of Otoño Porteño is not included in the video below but is available on YouTubeOtoño opens with a drum solo, giving Pipi a chance to show his skills, and proceeds in a fairly standard manner.  Greco's bandoneón work in Otoño is excellent, played with feeling and expression. Guerschberg's transposition of some of the violin parts to bass clarinet works well - I wish he had made more such decisions to give prominence to the violin parts in the other Seasons. The saxophones finally get a chance to break loose at about 8'30" into the video but the arrangement returns then to a classic ending.  

All things considered,  the concert was a success and a fitting tribute to Astor Piazzolla.  I hope better quality audio or video of the concert is eventually made available.

If  the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Piazzolla in the Park - Again

Twenty-five years ago, September 6, 1987, residents of New York City were treated to a free concert by Piazzolla and his Quintet at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park.  Last week, August 7, residents of New York City were again treated to a free concert of Piazzolla's music at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, this time provided by Pablo Ziegler and his Quartet accompanied by violinist, Lara St. John. Highlights from that concert are in our featured video today.

Twenty-five years ago, it rained on the concert. This year, the weather was perfect. Twenty-five years ago, the concert was broadcast live by New York's Public Radio station, WNYC. This year, the concert was broadcast live by WNYC's classical music sibling, WQXR - and it was shared live in a webstream provided by  You can, today, hear the full concert on their website and I urge you to do so.You can hear the 1987 concert on the recording, Astor Piazzolla: The Central Park Concert.  Both years, Pablo Ziegler was on stage - in 1987, he was pianist in the quintet which included Piazzolla on bandoneón, Fernando Suarez Paz on violin, Horacio Malvicino on electric guitar and Hector Console on contra-bass; in 2012, he was pianist in a quintet which included Hector de Curto on bandoneon, Lara St. John on violin, Claudio Ragazzi on electric guitar and Andrew Roitstein on contra-bass.

If listeners or attendees to last weeks concert expected a reproduction of the 1987 concert, they were disappointed.  Six works from the 2012 broadcast had the same titles as the 1987 CD. In two of these, Adios Nonino and La Camorra/Tanguedia, the Ziegler/St. John performances closely followed the original Piazzolla scores; Mumuki and Lunfardo were similar to the originals with some improvisational liberties taken; Michelangelo 70 and Muerte del Angel were markedly different - restructured to better fit the jazz idiom more natural to Ziegler's quartet. Four pieces from the original concert CD were not covered: Verano Porteno, Milonga del angel, Contrabajissimo and Concierto para quinteto. Covered instead were Libertango, Escualo, Fuga y misterio and Chin chin (as an encore). They also performed two of Zieglers own compositions, Milonga del adios and Muchacha de Boedo, the latter of which was actually the musical gem of the evening from a performance perspective.

Pablo Ziegler is a well-known performer to regular readers of this blog and he was at the top of his game for the concert.  He played with the confidence, creativity and dexterity of a man twenty-five years younger.  Ziegler has made his own mark in the world of jazz tango but his respect for the music of Piazzolla still shows in his playing.  His presence made the concert a success.  Del Curto's sound level was too low in the broadcast mix but it was apparent that he was playing with more precision and accuracy than emotion. If one were to plot the first and second derivatives of his bellows pressure, it would look like the plains of western Kansas - a similar plot of the bellows of Piazzolla would look like the rocky mountains of Colorado.  His style is better suited to the subtle nature of traditional tango than to the existential nature of nuevo tango. Ragazzi's improvisational spins were a joy and his coverage of Malvicino's parts, more than adequate.  Roitstein's bass remained in the background - even in those spots in Lunfardo where Console brought his bass to the fore - but he did provide the rhythmic backbone which provides the "tango" to Piazzolla's "nuevo tango."  And that leaves Lara St. John for comment...

A during-the-concert interview of Lara St. John by the WQXR host, Midge Woolsey, revealed that the concert was St. John's idea.  She recruited Ziegler and his friends to the event. St. John is no stranger to Piazzolla's music, she grew up listening to it and has recorded a very successful CD of Piazzolla's four seasons but to my knowledge, she has never played any of the works in this concert in public before. You may note in the video, there is no music in front of her.  Ms. Woolsey observed in the broadcast that St. John was playing without music. For a classically trained musician, this is nothing short of incredible and demonstrates to me that this is music which goes to her heart. There was some penalty to be paid - there were times when she left out musical detail but she never lost the plot and she found the emotion in Piazzolla's music that Del Curto missed. She plays with a bit of the Romani soul that always seemed to touch Suarez Paz's violin (although she would benefit from applying a little more of Suarez Paz's discipline to her own violin). It is much clearer from the video than from the radio broadcast that she is feeling and enjoying the music.  St. John was the classical star that made the broadcast a legitimate target for classical station WQXR but she also proved that she is a legitimate carrier of the nuevo tango tradition. I look forward to hearing more Piazzolla in Ms. St. John's future recordings.

Bravo to all!

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Todo Buenos Aires - Astor Piazzolla Quintet

While many jump to the conclusion that Astor Piazzolla's only concert appearance in New York City was the 1987 event immortalized in the Central Park Concert CD, David Butler Cannata has pointed out in a Latin American Music Review article that he had five other concert appearances in New York City.  His first was more than twenty years earlier when he and his first quintet appeared at the Philharmonic Hall in May of 1965. That concert is represented in a recording, Concierto de tango en el Philharmonic Hall of New York although the recording was actually made in a studio in Buenos Aires upon the Quintets return home. Todo Buenos Aires is included in that recording and appears on no other Piazzolla recording.  Much to my surprise, a video recording recently appeared on YouTube and is our featured video today.

There is no information with the video but it is probably from a 1965 television broadcast in Buenos Aires.  Perhaps a reader more familiar with Argentine TV from that era can provide more information. The members of the first quintet in the video are Piazzolla on bandoneón, Antonio Agri on violin, Jaime Gosis on piano, Oscar López Ruiz on guitar and Kicho Díaz on double bass. The performance is almost identical, note-for-note with the recording although there are some differences in the percussive effects used.  Unfortunately, the sound and video get progressively out of sync as the performance progresses but this is still a wonderful addition to the collection of original Piazzolla videos.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Libertango - Ferhan & Ferzan Önder

In August of 2010 this blog commented that for Piazzolla's works, one pianist never seems to be enough. It remains true that there are essentially no concert quality, solo piano arrangements of Piazzolla's quintet catalog; but, the list of concert quality arrangements for duo pianists, whether on one or two pianos, continues to grow including the Libertango example in today's blog provided by the piano duo,  Ferhan & Ferzan Önder.

The Önder sisters, of Turkish ancestry, call Vienna home and maintain a teaching studio there but from a look at their schedule it would appear that their students may have a lot of time to practice between lessons.  They have toured extensively in Europe, Asia and America and I see South America on their 2012 calendar. Their repertoire is extremely broad, Bach to Busoni to Balakirev and, of course, Brahms and Beethoven. However, you will not find Piazzolla on their repertoire list - I suspect he is reserved for that light, flashy encore that audiences always enjoy.

You will find much of their serious repertoire in their six CD's but sadly very little video is available of their work. Today's video comes from an April, 2012 appearance on a French television program, Arte Lounge. There is a second video from that same broadcast in which they perform Wintermorgan in Istanbul by Fazil Say.  I strongly encourage you to watch that video - it is a better work of music than Libertango and it shows much better the breadth of talent of the Önder sisters. They play with remarkable precision and display a wide range of dynamic touch but it is the emotional intensity they bring to their playing that creates a direct link to the listener which commands attention and ultimately, delivers pleasure.

But, regular readers of this blog will know that it is rarely the virtuosity of the musicians that leads me to linger on a video long enough to write about it - it is usually the arrangement. Through a personal communication with the Önder sisters, I learned that their arrangement of Libertango is by the Greek pianist and composer Achilleas Wastor.  I can find very little information about Mr. Wastor other than that he is a frequent accompanist to famous Greek mezzo-soprano, Agnes Baltsa.   I would like to hear more of his work.  Perhaps he can create those much needed concert quality, piano arrangements of Piazzolla's Seasons. His Libertango arrangement is very imaginative and challenging in a way that kept my interest to the very end. There are many arrangements of Libertango for four hands.  I am going to add Mr. Wastor's to my list of favorites which include those of: DuoalleviguidiAnderson & RoeKyoko YamamotoPablo Ziegler, and Uli Rennert.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Story of Nocturno

Remember the date: 21 September 1940

The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, describes the events surrounding that day in some detail.  It is the day that Piazzolla met Odette Maria Wolff, known to all as Dedé, who was later to become his wife and mother of his two children.

The story begins in Café Germinal on Calle Corriente in Buenos Aires sometime in December of 1939.  Hugo Baralis, a young violinist in Anibal Troilo's band, notices that Piazzolla is a frequent visitor to Café Germinal, where Troilo's band performs nightly, and strikes up a conversation with him.  Learning that Piazzolla is a bandoneónist who claims to know all of Troilo's repertoire, he arranges for Piazzolla to audition for Troilo.  From this encounter, Troilo gained a new bandoneónist for his band and Piazzolla gained a new lifelong, best friend in Hugo Baralis.

As young, single male friends will do, Baralis invited Piazzolla to a party at his family apartment to meet some girls. The girls were his two sisters, Olga and Delia, and their two school friends, Poupée and Liebe Wolff.  The Wolff girls brought along their little sister, Dedé.  The party took place on the 21st of September in 1940.  Piazzolla was apparently absolutely smitten by Dedé.  When he returned home after the party, he told his parents that he had found a girlfriend.

And here the story departs from the account in Le Grand Tango.  He not only told his parents he had a girl friend, he also sat down and composed a song. On the score, he wrote a dedication that translates roughly as, "to the princess 'Dedita', your prince Astor." He signed the score and dated it "21 September (Primavera) 1940."  He probably gave the score to Dedé at their very next meeting which was on October 19th.  The song was titled Nocturno - the subject of the previous blog.  I did not realize the significance of the work when I wrote that blog. It was only after Yazmina Raies sent me a photo of the date and signature on the score that the story began to reveal itself.

We may thank Alberto Gerding, a founder of the Centro Astor Piazzolla de a Ciudad de Buenos Aires, for uncovering the score.  Dedé gave a copy to Gerding during an interview in which Dedé was describing her first encounter with Piazzolla.  Gerding, some time later, gave the score to Mistango7, an all female tango band he manages. Yazmina Raies, the pianist in Mistango7, arranged it and performs it in the video below with vocalist, Rowina. The performance captured in the video represents the premiere of the work, nearly 72 years after it was composed.

According to Ms. Raies, the original score for Nocturno still remains in the Piazzolla family.  It predates his formal musical education with Alberto Ginastera - giving us a glimpse of Piazzolla's native talent as a composer. There is a logical argument that says Nocturno is the piece that he famously showed Arthur Rubenstein, leading to his studies with Ginastera.   It is probably his earliest surviving work - I know of none which predate it. And with the romantic story attested by the notes on the score itself, the score is truly priceless.  It should be an Argentine national treasure on display in a glass case at a museum.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nocturno - Yazmina Raies and Rowina from Mistango7

It is a rare and exciting occasion to hear a newly discovered Piazzolla work but that is exactly what you will get in today's featured video performance of Nocturno by pianist, Yazmina Raies and vocalist, Rowina.

Ms. Raies and Rowina (also known as Lady Rowina on Facebook and as Guillemina Casey in her pre-performance days) are half of a quartet known as Mistango7 which focuses on the music of Astor Piazzolla.  The other members are Sibila Colino, bandoneon, and Eva Albert, violin. With the exception of Ms. Albert, who is new to the group, you will find biographical information about the performers here. In 2010, the quartet won an award as the best quartet in the Hugo del Carril Tango contest and from the limited exposure I have had from their MySpace page and their videos on YouTube, they deserve it. The group has a unique sound and the arrangements which are provided by Ms. Raies are respectful of the originals but well tailored to the musicians in the group.  Rowina has a beautiful and well controlled voice with a timbre that is perfect for Piazzolla's music.  The group released an album of eleven Piazzolla works earlier this year but it appears to have limited distribution.  I hope it will become more widely available, perhaps through iTunes.

Ms. Raies tells me the Nocturno was composed by Piazzolla and given to his first wife, Dedé, as a present.  Dedé gave the original score to Alberto Gerding, Mistango7"s manager (also a friend of Piazzolla and a founder of the Centro Astor Piazzolla de a Ciudad de Buenos Aires), who gave it to Mistango7 for performance.  It was composed as a piano solo and was arranged for voice and piano for the performance we see below. Ms. Raies and Rowina gave the historic premiere of the work on July 5 at notorious, a jazz/tango venue in Recoleta, in a concert in honor of the twentieth anniversary of Piazzolla's death.   I would guess that the work was composed some time between 1945 and 1950 while Piazzolla was studying with Alberto Ginastera.  He composed several works for piano during that period which you can hear on the Allison Brewster Franzetti's wonderful CD, The Unknown Piazzolla, including his Piano Suite No. 2 (composed in 1950) which, interestingly, contains a movement called "Nocturno."  Piazzolla appears to use the term in the same manner as Chopin, to describe a contemplative piano work.  I have not seen the score but the work sounds like it is in C# minor, a relatively unusual key according to Google, but a key favored by Chopin for his nocturnes and the key of Beethoven's famous Moonlight Sonata to which Nocturno bears some resemblance.  One can almost imagine Ginastera's assignment to pupil Piazzolla that led to the work.

I am very grateful to Yazmina Raies for bringing the piece to the public and for her sharing with me the information on the origin of the work.  While I enjoyed the Raies/Rowina arrangement, I hope that a solo piano version will arrive soon so we can hear the work as it was originally conceived.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

Note added 11 July, 2012: The original version of this blog posting was edited to include Mistango7 in the title and to provide more information on how the score was given to Mistango7.  I believe there is more to the story behind this piece which will at some point be shared.

Note added 14 July 2012: My speculation on the date of composition was proved to be wrong. Read the full story of Nocturno in the next blog posting.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Será que estoy llorando - Jairo

All good things come to an end and, according to Fabián Russo, the collaboration between Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer came to an end with the creation of the canción, Será que estoy llorando - featured in today's video.  It may not be the very last collaboration but it is certainly among the last.  According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla and Ferrer during a four or five month period together in Paris in 1981, created "more than a score of new songs, with the singers Jairo and Rubén Juárez specifically in mind."  Many of that score of songs appear to be lost but Será que estoy llorando survived and was recorded by Jairo in Paris in 1981 with Piazzolla accompanying him on bandoneón on an LP titled, Este amor es como el viento. While copies of that LP are very difficult to find outside of Argentina, today's video provides us the opportunity to once again hear Jairo perform the work. The performance was from a concert last Saturday at the Usina del Arte in Buenos Aires in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of Piazzolla's death. Since that twentieth anniversary falls on this very day - 4 July, 2012 - it seems appropriate to feature the video.

Jairo's birth name is Mario Rubén González.  He was born in Argentina and has lived most of his life there but also lived for periods in Spain and France and has considerable popularity there also. He first met Piazzolla in 1978 when they performed together on a television program. In spite of an age difference of nearly thirty years, the two were evidently friends as well as musical colleagues.  Le Grand Tango documents that Jairo was present at Piazzolla's 60th birthday party and was at Piazzolla's bedside the day after his ultimately fatal stroke in August,1990.  Piazzolla no doubt recognized Jairo's vocal gifts and the works he wrote for Jairo require perfect vocal control that few others can provide. His performance in today's video has a minimalist accompaniment and shows well the crystal purity of his voice. You can find more Piazzolla sung by Jairo on his excellent 2003 CD, Jairo Canta Piazzolla.

You can find the lyrics that Horacio Ferrer wrote for Será que estoy llorando here.  The book, Le Grand Tango, suggests that Piazzolla had created the music and shared it with Ferrer before the lyrics were written. Ferrer, with the tune in mind, was walking to his apartment in Paris when he paused and rubbed the snow from a parked car - inspired, he took out pen and paper and began to write the lyrics.  The last two verses seem poignantly appropriate today:

Nieva y nieva,
y sin saber por qué he venido,
en los vidrios ateridos
vi tu rostro reflejado,
desolado, blanco y breve.

Debe ser que te he adorado.
O será, tal vez, la nieve.
O será que estoy llorando

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Paula Cautiva

In its time, Paula Cautiva was an important movie.  In 1963, when it was released it made appearances at film festivals in both London and San Francisco and brought some recognition to its young director, Hector Olivera. It tells the story of some wealthy Americans arriving in Argentina to do a business deal.  They are hosted by the young and beautiful Paula Cautiva on her aging grandfather's ranch. The movie provides opportunities to see both Buenos Aires of the 60's and the pampas sections of Argentina.  The ending is a bit strange but it is not a bad movie. Piazzolla wrote the score for the movie and has a cameo appearance in it which is featured in one of the two videos below.

The IMDb lists 86 titles containing music Piazzolla composed. Eliminating documentaries and shorts, there are still more than fifty full length movies for which Piazzolla was hired to compose scores.  Some produced famous pieces - for exmple, Oblivion, Piazzolla's second most often performed work came from the movie, Enrico IV.  Most, however, contain music which future scholars will eventually extract to build a full picture of Piazzolla's oeuvre but until that day, the music will go largely unheard. There is much music in Paula Cautiva and you can hear it all and see the full movie here. My guess is that our future scholars will find four pieces of music worthy of attention - one of these is already famous, Revirado, one should be famous, the cancion, Paula Cautiva.  Two others in the hands of imaginative arrangers could become nice performance works for Piazzolla-type quintets.

In the latter two, I include the opening theme of the movie which runs about 1'45" under the opening credits.  You can hear it here.  The second, is just a minute of music which plays under a quick tour of Buenos Aires which you can hear here.  There are other fragments of interesting music including some very un-Piazzolla-like dance numbers. The Film Compilation page indicates that some of the jazz in the film was selected by Piazzolla rather than composed by Piazzolla but apparently all the rest is his.

The first featured video below captures Piazzolla playing Revirado in a nightclub. You can hear other members of his quintet but they are not visible.  I believe that Revirado was composed for the film but it was also included in one of the Quintet's early albums, Tango para una ciudad, and was captured in a 1963 television broadcast of the full quintet - featured in an early edition of this blog. Interestingly, Piazzolla resurrected the piece twenty years later and included it in live performance recordings at Vienna and Lugano and Milan.

The second featured video below covers a lovely cancion, Paula Cautiva, sung by the star of the film,  Susana Freyre. While the lyricist is not identified in the film, a little work in the SADAIC database suggests that the lyricist was the poet (and Piazzolla friend) Albino Alberto Gómez. To my knowledge, this piece has never been recorded or performed outside of this film.  That should change - this piece deserves exposure to a broader public.

If Revirado does not appear below, click here.  If Paula Cautiva does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adios Nonino - Wu Lung-Yung

Now I understand. Today's featured video of Wu Lung-Yung (he also goes by the name, Mark Wu) playing Nestor Marconi's solo bandoneón arrangement of Adios Nonino helps explain why Mr. Wu won the contest at Klingenthal rather than Mr. Hayakawa (featured in this blog last month).

Since I began writing this blog I have "met" many musicians whose musical lives have been changed after discovering the music of Astor Piazzolla but few have pursued the music as aggressively as Mr. Wu. During his senior year as a flute student at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan he was introduced to the music of Piazzolla. Within a year of his graduation, the flute was back in its case and Mark Wu was on his way to Argentina to learn to play the bandoneón. He somehow managed to arrange to study with one of the most respected bandoneón players in the world, Walter Ríos.  He continued studies on his own when he returned to Taiwan, supplemented by lessons via Skype with Mr. Ríos. To progress from never having touched a bandoneón to the performer we see in today's video in less than five years seems hardly possible. His technique is flawless but more impressive is his phrasing, his ornamentation and the emotion he brings to the music.  He sounds like an Argentine master who grew up with the instrument. The four videos of his contest performances, which you can see here, are admittedly a small sample but they do suggest that he is among the best bandoneónist in the world and was a deserving winner at Klingenthal.

Wu's win at Kingenthal was reported in the Taiwan press but most citizens of Taiwan probably found out about his win from his appearance on the popular Saturday night CTV program,  你猜你猜你猜猜猜, which translates roughly as "You guess, you guess, you guess guess guess."  You can see the show here: part one and part two. Without language capability, the show will remain a mystery to me but at least Wu is getting his ten minutes of fame although he does, at times, appear a bit uncomfortable with the animated people surrounding him. At the end of part 2, you get to see a little more of the "real" Mark Wu including a photo of Wu with Walter Ríos at the 5'20" point of video. You can also see Wu playing with the ensemble, Mr. Tango Quartet, in videos here.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Concierto Para Quinteto - Camarada

It should be a crime for dancers to appear on stage while a quintet is performing Concierto para quinteto. If Piazzolla had been in the audience watching Camarada during the performance in today's featured video, he would have stopped the music and told the dancers to sit down and listen to the music. Haydn would have done the same thing if dancers appeared on the stage during the performance of his string quartets. Fortunately the dancers appear in only four of the nine videos posted by Camarada from their April 29, 2012 performance at the Neuroscience Institute in La Jolla, California and the music is good enough to forgive Camarada for including them on stage.

Camarada appears to be a bit of a collective chamber ensemble, their website lists twenty different musicians associated with the organization.   Beth Ross-Buckley is a founder and the driving force behind Camarada - she is the flutist in the quintet in today's video. Other members of the quintet are David Buckley on violin, Dana Burnett on piano,  Fred Benedetti on guitar and Jeff Pekarek on double bass.  They are all fine musicians but I am particularly drawn to the tone and sensitivity shown by violinist Buckley - watch his performance of Tanti Anni (and ignore, please, the dancers). It is hard to believe this guy has a day job as a radiologist. But the performance I found most interesting was that of bassist, Jeff Pekarek, in Kicho. He is evidently not deeply familiar with the work - notice how intently he follows the music, carefully sight reading - and yet his playing is nuanced and fluid, a performance that even Kicho would have enjoyed. I would really like to hear what he can do once he has internalized the music.

So why feature Concierto para quinteto if I like Kicho and Tanti Anni so much?  Because it better shows Camarada to be a smooth, well integrated, and self-aware ensemble - not just a collection of skilled musicians. Because it provides an opportunity to give an arranger a well deserved word of praise. And because the dancers made me realize that the section of the piece from approximately 2'50" to 4'05" could be viewed as a Zwiefacher.

I have been unable to find credit given to the arrangements played by Camarada but someone has done a very nice job - perhaps Mrs. Ross-Buckley. They all show the work of someone who is intimately familiar with and fond of Piazzolla's music. The only commercial arrangement of Concierto para quinteto of which I am aware is the one written for Piazzolla's quintet itself.  To take that arrangement which relies heavily on Piazzolla's bandoneon and replace the bandoneon with a flute is a challenge few would undertake.  But it is well done here - the bandoneon voice is not assigned to the flute but rather is shared between flute and guitar and possibly with the violin and piano on occasion.  But it is done in a way that is respectful of the original.  Inevitably there are things lost, for example there are some missing parts in the counterpoint section at the end, but to a listener unfamiliar with the original, the work stands entirely on its own as a fully developed piece of music.  The same comments apply to all of the quintet pieces - a difficult arranging job very well done!

And finally, what does a Bavarian folk dance like the Zwiefacher have to do with Piazzolla? Listen carefully to that section that starts at 2'50" into the video. It sounds like two measures of a waltz followed by one measure of a polka, over and over.  That is what Zwiefachers are: measures of waltz interspersed by measures of polka. I have listened to the work many times but never heard the Zwiefacher until I noticed at one point in the video, the male dancer's footwork starts down a waltz pattern. Now I can't get it out of my brain. For those who read music, you can follow the score of Concierto para quinteto in a string quintet arrangement in this video and see the structure quite clearly - it starts in measure 80. Piazzolla has basically placed a rest at the standard 3-3-2 accent points and scored eighth notes where the rests would normally be.  The result is an om-pa pa, om-pa-pa, pi-vot feel that the Bavarians could dance to as a Zwiefacher. In the Piazzolla original, the tempo is slowed by a factor of two for that section so the waltz beat is at the same pace as the previous true 4/4 beat. It is a clever compositional strategy which keeps the overall pulse intact but dramatically changes the feel of the piece.

Are there other Zwiefachers buried in Piazzolla's music?  I don't think so but I will let you know if I find one. If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tanguísimo - Leoncio

The featured video today is a three violin, multi-tracked recording of Tanguísimo. Miguel Angel García Leoncio arranged the work and plays all three parts. Leoncio is a Professor of Music at the Escuela Municipal de Música in Fuenlabrada, Spain - a suburb of Madrid. He clearly has computer skills in addition to his violin performance skills - it is not easy to make such a perfect recording. Leoncio dedicates the work to a friend, Julián Núñez Olías, who happens to be one of the best bandurria players in the world in addition to being a composer, arranger and a captain of industry in Spain.  You can see the two friends in a virtual duet with piano accompaniment here.

Leoncio's arrangement of Tanguísimo is a little gem and deserves to be discovered. But Leoncio's Tanguísimo is a ruby to Piazzolla's diamond.  The basic eight bar theme of Tanguísimo is so compelling that many have arranged it and none have done more damage than the unknown arranger who put it in a Hal Leonard book of Piazzolla arranged for violin and guitar - creating a cubic zirconia.  Many performances are derived from this arrangement including, I believe, that of Leoncio although there are hints that he may have listened to the original.  He has created a wonderfully baroque feeling in the piece and has worked some variation into the repeated sections which converts the cubic zirconia to ruby.

Piazzolla recorded the work only once.  It was with his first quintet in 1961 on the album Piazzolla interpreta a Piazzolla. If you are fortunate to have Spotify available where you live, you may find it there - I did. Much of that album is chamber music slightly disguised as nuevo tango.  The original score probably exists but I have never seen it so my limited understanding of the structure comes only from listening. The composition is as clever as one created by Mozart and worthy of study by serious musicians. It is fundamentally a classically structured theme and variation.  The theme is stated in the first eight bars - call it theme A.  Three variations on that theme follow with hints of a second theme, B.  That theme B then takes over for the two sections but theme A continues quietly in the background. Then a return to A for two more variations followed by a third variation which runs a full ten measures, rather than eight as do all other sections, and flows into masterful coda fading to a cadence-less nothing.  A diagram might look like this: AA2A3A4BB2A5A6A7coda. The rhythmic and harmonic complexity, which grows with every variation, begs for analysis which is beyond my ability.

So, you might ask, if this is such a clever composition why isn't it well known and played by the best musicians.  I suspect it is because it lacks the emotive thread of Piazzolla's best work.  It is musician's music not listener's music. Almost a compositional stunt.  Perhaps it is appropriate that the theme is what has survived for listeners and Leoncio has polished the theme just enough to keep it interesting.  He has certainly done more with it than previous arrangers.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Balada Para Un Loco - Brancaleone

In a recent blog, I marveled that Lionius Treikauskas could listen to Piazzolla and Gerry Mulligan perform Twenty Years After and hear the potential for a chamber orchestra piece.  It is no less marvelous that someone in the Argentine rock band, Brancaleone, could listen to Piazzolla and Amelita Baltar perform Balada para un loco and hear a rock anthem. But as today's featured video demonstrates, that is exactly what they did.

Brancaleone is not to be confused with the Italian band of the same name (although I suspect they share the same drummer).  Brancaleone is a long established Buenos Aires rock band in the style of some of the great heavy metal bands from the 70's (think Black Sabbath).  They are fronted by vocalist, Martín Dufou, who is probably the man who inspired the band to undertake Balada para un loco.  I have long maintained that only singers who are good actors should put themselves in the position of singing the Balada loco and Dufou seems to fulfill that requirement.  He is an emotive and energetic singer who never seems to give anything less than everything as he belts out a tune.  He has been belting out Balada para un loco with Brancaleone at least since 2007 and they even have an acoustic version for what passes as quiet moments in the rock sphere. While I don't find it on the track lists of any of their four albums, there is a polished, studio version which you can hear here.

For musical quality and as an example of how Piazzolla's music easily crosses musical boundaries, that studio version is the best. But, the live version from a performance this week at Fiesta Clandestina has an energy that is missing in all the other versions.  That two bar repeating riff at the end of the song is true rock anthem stuff. Makes me want to stand on my chair and wave a lighted BIC over my head.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Libertango - Jun Hayakawa

Perhaps it wasn't clinically depressed, but it was certainly sad.  It's bellows sagged, it's lower registers were flat, and the keys didn't spring back quickly when they were depressed. Probably just homesickness. After all, it had not been home for nearly seventy-five years. So Jun Hayakawa bought his bandoneón a ticket to go home to that tiny corner of German Saxony where it was born and he accompanied it on its journey.

They arrived in Klingenthal, Germany in early May.  Klingenthal is arguably the birthplace of free reed instruments like concertinas, bandoneóns and accordions. According to Dan Worrall's book, The Ango-German Concertina, A Cultural History, the Glier brothers, living in the Klingenthal area, were among the first to put a housing around an aeolina making what we might recognize today as a harmonica. They put it into production in 1829. Carl Friedrich Uhlig in nearby Chemnitz, took the next step in 1835 adding buttons and a bellows.  But serious production did not get underway until Carl Friedrich Zimmermann built a factory near Carlsfeld, about 10 km northeast of Klingenthal.  I refer you to Christian Mensing's wonderful Bandoneón Page for the details of the rest of the story but the bottom line is that most of the bandoneóns played today came out of that factory and its descendents in Carlsfeld. That includes the fine bandoneón of Mr. Hayakawa which, I am happy to report, shed all signs of depression as soon as its bellows filled with the fresh Erzgebirge air in Klingenthal.

Secondarily, Hayakawa traveled from his home in Japan to Klingenthal, Germany to participate in the 49th annual Accordion Festival there.  This is one of the more important accordion festivals in the world and almost certainly, the oldest. We do not have a video of his performance at Klingenthal, but we do have videos of him rehearsing, perhaps in the breakfast room of his hotel, including today's featured video of Libertango. I was unprepared for the virtuosity demonstrated in this video.  Hayakawa has been a student of the most famous Japanese bandoneónist, Ryota Komatsu, among others, but I believe he has surpassed the technical skills of his master.  He has lightening speed, detailed bellows control, plays equally well on push and draw, maintains complex rhythms with either hand, employs a broad range of dynamics and uses complex but totally appropriate chords. Hayakawa has laid down the gauntlet for other bandoneón players - let's see them top that performance.  And it is not just that he can play fast, he can play with feeling also - watch his version of the classic La casita de mis viejos.

I was shocked to learn that he came in third at the Klingenthal festival with first place going to Wu Yung-Lung from Taiwan and second place going to Gierster Lukas from Germany.  There is a video of Wu playing at the contest and he is indeed a superb bandoneónist.  But, if there is ever a rematch - perhaps at Castelfidardo in September?- I'll put my money on Hayakawa.

Incidentally, they still build very fine bandoneons in Klingenthal.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Twenty Years After - Intermezzo Chamber Ensemble

Today's featured video of Twenty years after performed by the Intermezzo Chamber Ensemble is not authentic Piazzolla.   But, it is wonderful Piazzolla.

Twenty years after was composed in 1974 for an album conceived by Aldo Pagani for two musicians he happened to represent in Italy: Astor Piazzolla and Gerry Mulligan. The story of the recording of the album, Summit (Reunion Cumbre), is wonderfully told in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango.  It was a rocky start - Piazzolla was disappointed in Mulligan's ability to read music and Mulligan was flummoxed by the lack of chordal structure in Piazzolla's compositions. But the result was a commercially, if not critically, successful album and Mulligan met his future wife, a photographer friend of Piazzolla, in the course of the recording. There is some good music on the CD but Mulligan's talents are misused in most of it - including the piece, Twenty years after.  It is a work that I have dismissed as a Piazzolla mistake - until today's video.

Some astonishingly talented arranger could hear that Twenty years after was not a mistake. Could hear that underneath that hyperactive drummer and inside the uninspired playing in the recording existed the bones of a fantastic work of classical music.  The arranger could be someone in the Intermezzo Chamber Ensemble, a twelve member string group headquartered in Vilnius, Lithuania. Perhaps even Lionius Treikauskas, cellist and leader of the ensemble who includes composition amongst his talents. Some compositional freedom was taken with the first half of the piece - the motifs are there but both harmonic and rhythmic changes make the opening much more like something Piazzolla would write for the Kronos Quartet than for Gerry Mulligan. It is much more coherent than Piazzolla's original and the arranger has wisely chosen to ignore Mulligan's improvisations. The piece follows a familiar Piazzolla pattern - a fast, disjunctive, minor, descending theme section, followed by a slow, lyrical, major ascending theme section, and concluding with a synthesis of the two to bring the work to resolution at the end. The latter half of the arrangement follows Piazzolla's work quite closely. The more I listen to the Intermezzo Ensemble version, the more links I find to the Piazzolla original.  This is truly masterful arranging and the result is an extremely satisfying chamber orchestra work which should find its way into the repertoire of other chamber orchestras.  In fact, I think there is room to expand this into a full orchestral version to good effect.

If I were not so taken by the arranging work, I would be commenting on the skills of the Intermezzo Chamber Ensemble.  They are a disciplined, well rehearsed unit and much of the pleasure of the performance is the result of their skills.  Bravo!

This is the best Piazzolla performance posted on YouTube so far in 2012 - it may just turn out to be the best of the year.  If the video does not appear below, click here.

Note added 22 May, 2012: A private communication from Lionius Treikauskas confirms that he is indeed the arranger of the piece.  The performance was in February, 2011 at the home of the Lithuanian National Philharmonic.  The performance was broadcast by Lithuanian national television.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Libertango - Yo-Yo Ma and Friends

It is the most watched performance of a Piazzolla work on YouTube: Libertango performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Friends. The video first appeared on April 27, 2006, posted by darkcurita but it is essentially the same video, posted on August 14, 2006, by BambaMaker, that has received the most views - more than 6.7 million to-date.  Many others have since posted a copy of the same video - I estimate that there have been more than 150 copies of the video posted on YouTube (the estimate is based on an actual count of 26 postings over 2009 and 2010) and with those copies included, it has probably been viewed nearly nine million times.

The video originated as part of a full hour broadcast by America's PBS network of the series, Sessions at West 54th, on October 25, 1997.  The appearance of Yo-Yo Ma on this program was part of the publicity campaign for his CD, Soul of the Tango, which was issued that same month and later went on to win a Grammy as Best Classical Crossover Album. The posted videos apparently all result from a Korean DVD or rebroadcast of that program. A video of the performance is also available on a commercial DVD, The Best of Sessions at West 54th, Vol. 1.

Libertango was composed in 1974 as part of a set of short tunes aimed at capturing radio play.  The song almost immediately became popular and has remained so for nearly forty years. It has become a standard. During a detailed study of Piazzolla performances posted on YouTube during 2009 and 2010, it was found that 30% were performances of Libertango.  It is, by far, the most frequently performed Piazzolla work. There are hundreds of arrangements for almost any imagined combination of instruments.  The arrangement for the Soul of the Tango recording, which is the same as used in the video, was created specifically for Yo-Yo Ma by the famed Argentine composer/arranger/producer Jorge Calandrelli.  The initial recording for the CD was made in May, 1997 in Buenos Aires.  Yo-Yo Ma was joined for that recording by three members of Piazzolla's quintets: Antonio Agri on violin, Horacio Malvicino on guitar and Hector Console on bass along with Néstor Marconi on bandoneon and Leonardo Marconi on piano. Rather than fly all these musicians from Argentina to New York City for the PBS video, the producers brought only Nestor Marconi and hired Pablo Aslan,  a young bassist and leader of the New York Buenos Aires Connection band, to provide the other musicians. Aslan added musicians he was working with at the time: Claudio Ragazzi on guitar, Jacqui Carrasco on violin, and Ethan Iverson on piano.  Those four plus Nestor Marconi and Yo-Yo Ma are the musicians seen in the video. No doubt, to be able to play with Yo-Yo Ma was a career high for Aslan and his three young friends. In addition to appearing in the video performance, Aslan also toured the U.S. and Japan with Yo-Yo Ma performing music from the Soul of the Tango recording.

The video deserves the large viewership - the arrangement makes the most of the limited musical vocabulary of the composition. The musicians play with precision and sensitivity to each other. Yo-Yo Ma, as always, brings an immense amount of musicality and emotion to his performance. There are some performance differences between the video performance and the performance recorded in the CD.  In the CD, Agri includes some of his trademark lija (the scratching sounds which are made by bowing the D string behind the bridge) - those percussive sounds are missing in the video performance.  The short, staccato bridge that occurs at about 1'45" in the video is more accented  in the video than in the CD, making it more of a separation than a link. At about 2'10" in the video, Marconi adds, to good effect, some syncopated notes that are absent in the CD.  A guitar counter-melody, perhaps improvised by Malvicino, starts at around 2'15" in the CD and is totally absent in the video - I miss it.  And the most noticeable difference is the ending - the CD just fades out while the video ends abruptly with a full stop at the end of a phrase.  I find the video ending much more effective.  If I could retain only one video of Libertango in my collection, it would be this one - even in preference to the video that Piazzolla himself made.

My thanks to Pablo Aslan for the information he provided identifying the musicians in the video.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

While this blog was created to focus on newly available Piazzolla Performance videos, I have chosen to review this classic video in celebration of my 500th posting to this blog. 

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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Invierno Porteño - Ro Gebhardt Trio

Jazz guitarist, Roland Gebhardt, is the star of the trio bearing his name but Pedro Giraudo, making back-to-back appearances in this blog, is the star in today's video of Invierno Porteño.  Ro Gebhardt is one of the best known jazz guitarists in Europe.  He has his own recognizable style which blends the mellowness of Wes Montgomery, the agility of Django, and the musical sensibility of Charlie Byrd.  Like Montgomery, he plays a Gibson L-5 CES archtop, a jazz favorite whose design dates back to 1922. Ro plays with many musicians but in this trio is joined by Bernd Oezsevim on drums and by Giraudo on bass. Giraudo is a currently a resident of New York City but is originally from Argentina. In addition to being a bassist, he is a composer and has his own Latin jazz orchestra with a new award winning recording, Córdoba. He frequently plays with Pablo Ziegler (see this blog) and is no stranger to the music of Piazzolla. Today's video provides an excellent opportunity to see Giraudo's talents up close.

You might assume that Giraudo brought Piazzolla to Gebhardt but I think that is not the case.  In 2005, Gebhardt included Invierno Porteño  in an album titled, Solo – improvisations and variations on music from different centuries.  That album is difficult to find but you can hear the entire recording of Invierno Porteño  here.  While the playing is excellent and creative, the arrangement is a bit scattered and lacks consistency.  In 2008, Gebhardt created a quite different and much better arrangement.  The 2005 version covered the entire work - even the Vivaldi-like bits at the end, but the 2008 version was more of a jazz meditation on the principal theme of the work. That version can be found on his 2008 CD, European Jam, with Davide Petrocca on bass.  It is essentially that same arrangement that is found on today's video with Giraudo on bass.

The performance showcases Giraudo's absolute perfection of pitch and his rhythmic sensitivity to the tango roots of the work which are often lost in the hands of others. In most of the video, Giraudo plucks the melody and Gebhardt improvises beautifully around it while drummer, Bernd Oezsevim, provides very discreet and tasteful brush work in the background. This is not finger-snapping jazz.  It is jazz to be enjoyed by the fire with good friends and a glass of wine.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

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

Follow Piazzolla on Video on Twitter.