When you think about Astor Piazzolla you certainly think about “Tango”. And you are right; Piazzolla dedicated his life to the promotion and the development of the “Tango”. In case you are not familiarized with the “Tango”; the tango is a partner dance that originated in Argentina in the 1880’s. The music is usually in 2/4 or 4/4 and is usually played by a sextet. The sextet includes: violins, piano, double bass, and bandoneon. Earlier forms of the tango included instruments like the guitar, the flute and the clarinet.
In 1986, Piazzolla attempted to capture the history and the evolution of the Tango in a Suite of four movements. He called the Suite: “Histoire Du Tango”, “History of the Tango”. The movements of this Suite are: “Bordello 1900”, “Café 1930”, “Nightclub 1960” and “Concert d’Aujourd’hui”. The Henry Lemoine Edition of this work, provides a description of what was intended to be depicted in each of these movements. And I want to share those details about this work with you, my blog readers.
- Bordello 1900: The Tango originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1882. It was first played on the guitar and the flute. Arrangements then came to include the piano, and later, the concertina. This music if full of grace and liveliness. It paints a picture of the good natured chatter of the French, Italian and Spanish women who peopled these bordellos as they teased the policeman, thieves, sailors and riffraff who came to see them. This is a gay tango.
- Café 1930: This is another age of the tango. People stop dancing it as they did in 1900, preferring instead simply to listen to it. It became more musical, and more romantic. This tango has undergone total transformation: the movements are slower, with new and often melancholy harmonies. Tango orchestras come to consist of two violins, two concertinas, a piano, and a bass. The tango is sometimes sung as well.
- Nightclub 1960: This is a time of rapidly expanding international exchange, and the tango evolves again as Brazil and Argentina come together in Buenos Aires. The Bossa Nova and the new tango are moving to the same beat. Audiences rush to the night clubs to listen earnestly to the new tango. This marks a revolution and a profound alteration in some of the original tango forms.
- Concert d’Aujourd’hui: Certain concepts in tango music become intertwined with modern music. Bartok, Stravinsky, and other composers reminisce to the tune of tango music. This is today’s tango, and the tango of the future as well.
Originally, this work was composed and scored for Guitar and Flute. Now a days, the Suite is often performed in various instrumental combinations. Violin is commonly used instead of the Flute and Harp or Marimba for the Guitar. Also, Bandoneon is used instead of the flute as well.
Ok, now you know a little about the history behind this work. Listen to it, enjoy it, share it and embrace the beauty of the “Tango Nuevo”.
If you want to hear a really good performance of this suite, check out Jason Vieaux and Julien Labro. Also, my debut album “Initium” will have my interpretation of “Café 1930” in collaboration with flutist Lareine Han.
(“Initium” was recorded in the summer of 2014 and is currently being edited)