Saturday, January 28, 2012


Bragatissimo is rarely heard Piazzolla. It was recorded by Piazzolla and his Nuevo Octeto in 1963, reportedly in a basement in Uruguay, but released only in a limited edition 7" 33 rpm record. It was never included in subsequent collected works or, to my knowledge, performed again by Piazzolla. I had never heard Piazzolla's version of the work until it appeared this week in a YouTube video which is one of two featured performances in today's blog.

José Bragato, to whom the work is dedicated, was the cellist in that Nuevo Octeto and had a close musical relation with Piazzolla throughout their professional careers. He produced "classical" arrangements for ensembles and orchestras of Piazzolla's work which are still widely played today and most of Piazzolla's handwritten scores passed through his hands on their way to becoming finished musical products. I understand that many of those scores have been placed in a small museum in Mar del Plata by Bragato for the benefit of future generations of musicians. Bragato is an important composer in his own right and someday, hopefully, an enterprising writer will capture the relationship between Bragato and Piazzolla in a book (are you listening Ms. Azzi?).

Bragatissimo was composed in more of a classical than nuevo tango mode although there are hints of classical tango in the mid-section. It opens with a lyrical passage which shows well the musicianship of Bragato but at roughly the two minute mark, a bombastic nuevo classical element enters the work and Bragato, unfortunately, never returns. The contrast is striking. One wonders if Piazzolla is not modeling the two men and their relationship - Bragato the calm, elegant classical musician and Piazzolla, the brash, rule breaking new wave musician. The two meet in the middle but never resolve into a single entity. The lack of resolution is, to me, a weakness in the work but appears to be quite purposefully done.

A second video is included for comparison. It is a chamber orchestra version of Bragatissimo arranged and conducted by Marcel Costas. There is still no resolution but I believe that Costas' arrangement takes a little of the bombastic edge off the work and adds a musicality that is missing in the original. To my ears it is better music. Oscar López Ruiz has recognized Costas as providing "a sensitive interpretation of the Piazzolla feeling" and commented most favorably on the performances captured in Costas' recording La Música de Astor Piazzolla. López Ruiz, it should be noted, was a member of the Nuevo Octeto heard in the original. While the Costas recording does not include Bragatissimo, a video possibly recorded at the same time does include it and is included below.

If the original does not appear below, click here.

If the Marcel Costas version does not appear below, click here.

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

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