Thursday, February 23, 2012

Duo de Amor - Beltango

I can identify more than 250 bandoneónists in the world but I can only identify one in Serbia, Aleksandar Nikolic. Aleksandar and his wife Ivana, a pianist and vocalist, are founders and two/fifths of the Beltango quintet featured in today's video performance of Duo de amor. Other members of the group are Jovan Bogosavljevic on violin, Bogdan Pejic on guitar and Ljubinko Lazic on double bass. The group is headquartered in Belgrade but perform all over Europe The work they perform in today's video, Duo de amor, is from Piazzolla's score for the 1985, Fernando Solanas movie, Tangos, the Exile of Gardel.

I do not fully understand the connection between musicians of the Balkans and the music of Piazzolla but there is no question that their musical roots give them some advantage in the interpretation of tango - both traditional and nuevo tango. The rhythms and phrasings seem to come quite naturally to them. I would guess that the incredibly complex rhythms of the folk music of the region are the source of the advantage. Balkan folk music is famous for its "asymmetric" meters of 5,7,9,11,13, or 15 beats per measure which are played in groups of beats which musicians come to feel as slow and fast rather than counting the complex combinations. I suspect that slow/fast feel translates to a very natural adaptation to the rhythms of tango. The naturalness of playing is quite apparent both in today's video and in the many other Beltango performances you can find on their YouTube channel. The excellence of Beltango has not gone unrecognized. They were the only European tango ensemble to be invited to the 2007 World Tango Festival in Buenos Aires and they are often invited to perform at tango festivals throughout Europe.

The work they perform in today's video is notable as one of Piazzolla's only "right hand" compositions. While the first couple of opening measures utilize the bass side of the bandoneón, all the rest is performed with the right hand on the treble side of the instrument. Listening to Piazzolla's performance of the work, found on the CD, Tango, el Exilo de Gardel, it appears that he also is playing with the right hand only. If you doubt Nikolic's ability to play with both hands, take a look a this delightful performance of Libertango which also provides a wonderful opportunity to compare the difference in sound between a bandoneón and an accordion.

But perhaps the most important part of today's blog is not Piazzolla, it is 100% Beltango. Nikolic is not only a superb player of the bandoneón, he is also a composer - perhaps the most capable composer in the style of Piazzolla alive today. It is exciting to realize that through the pen of Nikolic, we could enjoy another thirty years of new, nuevo tango music. The group has recorded a full CD of music they refer to as "Balkango." You will find music samples and a place to buy the CD here. Fortunately for us, a performance of Nikolic's compositional contribution to that CD, a piece titled Balkango, can be seen in a video which I have posted below today's featured video. Nikolic adopts a classic Piazzolla structure - opening with a fugue which is developed in the first section, an up-tempo second section (note the Balkan rhythms), a slow melodic section, and a return at the close to the theme of the fugue. The music could be easily mistaken for a Piazzolla composition with only some slight doubt induced by the rhythm of the second section. If Nikolic has more such music in his brain, I hope he gets it into performance as soon as possible and shares it with the world. The man is channeling Astor.

If the video of Duo de amor does not appear below, click here.

If the video of Balkango does not appear below, click here.

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

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