Manuel Gregorio Aroztegui El Apache Argentino
Agustin Bardi El Gallo Ciego
Angel Gregorio Villoldo El Choclo
Jose Razzano Mano a Mano · Duel Criollo
Jose Luis Padula 9 De Julio
Alfonso Lacueva Intimas
Enrique pedro Delfino Griseta · Melodia De Arrabal
Santiago Paris De Rincona Rincon
Emilio Fresedo Vida Mia
Edgardo Donato A Media Luz
Francisco De Caro Flores Negras
Gerado Matos Rodriguez La Cumparsita
Astor Piazolla Verano Porteno · Invierno Porteno
Retrato De Algredo Gobbi · Adios Nonino


[61:31] full-price

by Johann D'Souza

This disc of Tangos makes an interesting buy as a gift for a lover, spouse or girl/boy-friend - the music is utterly sensuous from the word go. The notes quickly point out that the music is the epitome of machismo and you can tell it straightaway just by listening to the first two pieces. Even the cover of the CD helps you frame up this image and idea immediately.

Many countries can boast of their own unique music: for example, the Malaysians and Indonesians have their Bengawan Solo and Keronchong (music to a type of slow dance), while the Polish have their own Polonaises, of which Chopin is one of the most noted exponents. Other nationalities have their own music which in many ways give identity to the people. Well, in Singapore with its diverse cultures, it is hard to pin-point exactly what music describes its people, but I am sure it will evolve, and maybe one day it will be able to boast of its own music.

Recently we have seen a spate of releases of music from Argentina - the origin of the Tango. Yo Yo Ma, Emmanuel Ax and Daniel Barenboim, seeing new light in this music, have all recorded this music. In this disc, 'the best of the best' of the Argentinian composers' music are here played by the eminent pianist Arminda Canteros.

From the first Tango the music totally mesmerizes you - I am sure you would want to add this to your music collection. One can so easily imagine a lady in high heels with her arms stretched out, tapping to time as her partner in his tuxedo swings her across and holds her intimately, body to body, looking at her eye to eye (no drooling please….). While words may give you just a fair idea of this intimacy (with passion and sensuality all thrown in), one has to both visually and aurally appreciate the music to understand this art form.

In his CD "Soul of the Tango" (Sony SK63122), Yo-Yo Ma said that the music caught him "like a fever" and he straightaway wanted to perform it. Ma explains this deep intimacy by citing the problems Argentina has gone through, thus bringing out a new heightened level of expression, a mixture of "dance, music, poetry, song and gesture". Due to the sensual way the Tango is danced to and expressed through, it has had to gradually achieve acceptance in the upper class in Buenos Aires (bearing in mind that the Tango was said to have had its origins in brothels and beer halls). It is my opinion that the cocky upper class realised what they were missing out and wanted a piece of the pie; the best way was to give it the "imprimatur", thus making it acceptable. I suppose this happens in any society anyway.

Much of the music has its own distinct characteristics - its syncopated rhythms, the right hand playing the main melody with the left hand supporting. There is also a noteworthy extended pause on the second last note before ending on a soft note. They are very much like the rags of Scott Joplin, which if one makes a study, all actually share very similar characteristics. Even then, they may sound the same but are unique.

The Tango is a Latin American song and dance genre. The origin of the word is uncertain, and has been traced to sources in Spain, Africa, Castile and South America itself. The word itself has been used in reference to percussion instruments, festive carnivals and carnival groups, the locale of the dance and the dance itself.

Musically speaking, the Tango is related to the Cuban contradanza and the habanera. All dances relating to Tango typically are in duple metre, with its distinctive (LONG-short long-long) rhythm.

The Tango is said to have developed in the arrabal or orillas (poor slum areas) on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. It is the most popular Argentine urban dance of today, and is widely regarded as the most expressive and nationalistic symbols of Argentine culture.

Info adapted from the New Grove Dictonary of Music and Musicians, ed. Sadie.

Personally I do not think that the music is technically difficult to play, however what differentiates this album from others is the fact that Arminda Canteros is an Argentinian (and former student of Nadia Boulanger); she plays these Tangos with a sense of consummate understanding as if each is composed for her. I tend to believe that music associated with a culture should be played by members from that culture - with one notable exception: Yo Yo Ma, who defies this theory and has proven time and again that music is truly universal for an artiste of his stature.

Anyway, there is this sense of nationalistic fervour in her playing, as if she is fighting for some cause, perhaps the freedom of expression. Arminda Canteros may not be famous but her credentials are pretty astounding - she has studied with Vincenzo Scaramuzza (Martha Argerich's teacher) and Walter Gieseking, the Debussy specialist. She once had an active international concert piano career until she had an accident that almost rendered her bedridden. However she survived and has made a gradual comeback. Knowing her past has also brought new meaning to the music; one can sense that she works hard to communicate to the listener the struggle the various composers have had to endure as well.

Two Tangos which caught my attention immediately were El Gallo Ciego ("The Blind Rooster") and La Cumparsita, which I will definitely be looking out for the score to learn. La Cumparsita is said to have met with much controversy, spawning many modified versions.

Many of these Tangos are filled with exquisite rhythms and catchy dancing tunes. In fact it is these that have inspired many people to learn its dance. The music may have been written in difficult circumstances, as portrayed through the images of prostitutes and slums, however there is also this sense of abandonment to and acceptance of their fate. Thus, while there may be an underlining sense of remorse most of the music is actually rather happy in mood and very pleasing to the ear. And sensuous - which seems to be the main draw to this music.

The four works by the noted Argentinian composer Astor Piazolla (1921-1992), who was brought up in New York, are interesting compositions with a touch of something American yet are fully Argentinian. His music is filled with techniques developed by him in the form of multiple glissandi's and syncopated rhythms for the Argentinean instrument- bandoneon

This Retrato de Alfredo Gobbi was written for his close friend Alfredo Gobbi. Its sad, repetitive melodic theme is heard with a rising scale, ending on a descending fifth. There is a second dedication (to his grandfather) in the form of Adios Nonino: this is another sad but beautifully written work for the piano.

I picked up this CD by chance and I haven't been at all disappointed. Albums of Tango arrangements, like the Kronos Quartet's Piazolla disc, continue to emerge - and I hope they don't stop dancing.

Pictures from Tango Argentino website from Buenos Aires

It would be very interesting, if one day, we could catch Johann D'Souza actually doing the Tango...

Click to Return to the Classical Index!...
or Visit the Inkvault archives!

529: 10.7.1999 ©Johann D'Souza

Explore the Flying Inkpot

They're Alive!
Concert Reviews

Bit deadish:

Other Resources at The Flying Inkpot

  • Tangos for Piano featuring Arminda Canteros (Philips)

  • "Timeless Tango" - The Soul of the Bandoneón. With the Ensemble Piacevole (Channel)

  • "Elegia" - Virtuoso Guitar Music from Brasil

  • [an error occurred while processing this directive]