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