Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oblivion - Quatrotango

It is shortly after the goat herdesses sing Rest, way-worn man, in William Dimond's play, The Broken Sword, that Captain Zavier tells Pablo the story of  the little boy who leaped out of the tree in the woods of Collares:

Capt. Zavier: At the dawn of the fourth day's journey, I entered the wood of Collares, when suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork tree ..

Pablo (jumping up): A chestnut, Captain, a chestnut.

Zav.: Bah! you booby, I say a cork.

Pab.: And I swear, a chestnut - Captain! this is the twenty-seventh time I have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a chestnut, till now.

Zav.: Did I? Well, a chestnut be it then.

And from that dialog in Dimond's play, first performed in 1816, arose the expression "old chestnut" to describe a piece of music which has been played so often that it has become stale from repetition.

Piazzolla's old chestnuts are Libertango and Oblivion.

But as shown in today's video performance of Oblivion by Quatrotango, even an old chestnut can be a tasty morsel in the hands of creative musicians.  The roots of Quatrotango go back to 2000 as a duo of Gabriel Clenar on piano and Hugo Satorre on bandoneón. In 2002, they were joined by violinist, Marcello Rebuffi,  in 2005,contrabassist, Gerardo Scaglione joined and in 2007, Omar Massa replaced Satorre to form the  Quatrotango seen in today's video. For the last five years, they have toured around the world as a quartet and with the touring tango company, Tango Fire. The group, no doubt, can and probably have played Oblivion in its chestnuttiest form but that is not what they do in today's video. They have done what jazz musicians do all the time - extract a few meaningful motifs, take note of the chord progressions and reassemble them as they play in a novel way.  But what you hear in this video is not jazz, it is carefully composed music that starts with a deconstructed model of Oblivion and develops it into something which resembles the original before deconstructing it again into a completely different set of parts. You hear familiar fragments all the way through the piece but it is only the middle where they come together as a whole.  It is very creative and masterful arranging.  It is notable that they add a tango sensibility which was missing in the original (which was composed as a minor theme for the movie, Enrico IV). All four musicians list composing as a capability but I suspect that pianist Clenar may be the master architect here - it is the piano part that provides the framework for the piece.  Some of his reharmonizations are amazing.  The design of the work is no one-time accident, they have done a very similar job on Libertango which you can see in this video.  Both of these performances are captured in their most recent but difficult to find recording, Quatrotango Plays Piazzolla.

Ideally, a video of Rest, way-worn man would be inserted here but sadly, the music from that 1816 play has been lost. If the Oblivion video does not appear below, click here.

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