Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Piazzolla in the Park - Again

Twenty-five years ago, September 6, 1987, residents of New York City were treated to a free concert by Piazzolla and his Quintet at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park.  Last week, August 7, residents of New York City were again treated to a free concert of Piazzolla's music at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, this time provided by Pablo Ziegler and his Quartet accompanied by violinist, Lara St. John. Highlights from that concert are in our featured video today.

Twenty-five years ago, it rained on the concert. This year, the weather was perfect. Twenty-five years ago, the concert was broadcast live by New York's Public Radio station, WNYC. This year, the concert was broadcast live by WNYC's classical music sibling, WQXR - and it was shared live in a webstream provided by WQXR.org.  You can, today, hear the full concert on their website and I urge you to do so.You can hear the 1987 concert on the recording, Astor Piazzolla: The Central Park Concert.  Both years, Pablo Ziegler was on stage - in 1987, he was pianist in the quintet which included Piazzolla on bandoneĆ³n, Fernando Suarez Paz on violin, Horacio Malvicino on electric guitar and Hector Console on contra-bass; in 2012, he was pianist in a quintet which included Hector de Curto on bandoneon, Lara St. John on violin, Claudio Ragazzi on electric guitar and Andrew Roitstein on contra-bass.

If listeners or attendees to last weeks concert expected a reproduction of the 1987 concert, they were disappointed.  Six works from the 2012 broadcast had the same titles as the 1987 CD. In two of these, Adios Nonino and La Camorra/Tanguedia, the Ziegler/St. John performances closely followed the original Piazzolla scores; Mumuki and Lunfardo were similar to the originals with some improvisational liberties taken; Michelangelo 70 and Muerte del Angel were markedly different - restructured to better fit the jazz idiom more natural to Ziegler's quartet. Four pieces from the original concert CD were not covered: Verano Porteno, Milonga del angel, Contrabajissimo and Concierto para quinteto. Covered instead were Libertango, Escualo, Fuga y misterio and Chin chin (as an encore). They also performed two of Zieglers own compositions, Milonga del adios and Muchacha de Boedo, the latter of which was actually the musical gem of the evening from a performance perspective.

Pablo Ziegler is a well-known performer to regular readers of this blog and he was at the top of his game for the concert.  He played with the confidence, creativity and dexterity of a man twenty-five years younger.  Ziegler has made his own mark in the world of jazz tango but his respect for the music of Piazzolla still shows in his playing.  His presence made the concert a success.  Del Curto's sound level was too low in the broadcast mix but it was apparent that he was playing with more precision and accuracy than emotion. If one were to plot the first and second derivatives of his bellows pressure, it would look like the plains of western Kansas - a similar plot of the bellows of Piazzolla would look like the rocky mountains of Colorado.  His style is better suited to the subtle nature of traditional tango than to the existential nature of nuevo tango. Ragazzi's improvisational spins were a joy and his coverage of Malvicino's parts, more than adequate.  Roitstein's bass remained in the background - even in those spots in Lunfardo where Console brought his bass to the fore - but he did provide the rhythmic backbone which provides the "tango" to Piazzolla's "nuevo tango."  And that leaves Lara St. John for comment...

A during-the-concert interview of Lara St. John by the WQXR host, Midge Woolsey, revealed that the concert was St. John's idea.  She recruited Ziegler and his friends to the event. St. John is no stranger to Piazzolla's music, she grew up listening to it and has recorded a very successful CD of Piazzolla's four seasons but to my knowledge, she has never played any of the works in this concert in public before. You may note in the video, there is no music in front of her.  Ms. Woolsey observed in the broadcast that St. John was playing without music. For a classically trained musician, this is nothing short of incredible and demonstrates to me that this is music which goes to her heart. There was some penalty to be paid - there were times when she left out musical detail but she never lost the plot and she found the emotion in Piazzolla's music that Del Curto missed. She plays with a bit of the Romani soul that always seemed to touch Suarez Paz's violin (although she would benefit from applying a little more of Suarez Paz's discipline to her own violin). It is much clearer from the video than from the radio broadcast that she is feeling and enjoying the music.  St. John was the classical star that made the broadcast a legitimate target for classical station WQXR but she also proved that she is a legitimate carrier of the nuevo tango tradition. I look forward to hearing more Piazzolla in Ms. St. John's future recordings.

Bravo to all!

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