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.