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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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