TUE, JUL 19, 2018, 8:00 PM
Kaul Auditorium, Reed College
3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard,
Portland, Oregon 97202
Letters from Argentina & Piazzolla
David Shifrin and Cho-Liang Lin join the tango quartet for the reprise of Lalo Schifrin’s Letters from Argentinaand works by tango master Astor Piazzolla.
LALO SCHIFRIN Letters from Argentina
Lalo Schifrin (b. 1932)
Tango del Atardecer
Danza de Los Montes
Tango a borges
Malambo de Los Llanos
“Like the clear sky, like the rain, like the clouds, music has always been part of the Argentinean atmosphere, ever present in the literature, in the visual arts, and in the history of the country.” These words of composer Lalo Schifrin vividly describe the inspiration for his Letters from Argentina. In these eight vignettes, the composer weaves the nostalgic sounds of his childhood into a wistful musical impression. Schifrin describes recreating an “unreal past in which a memory persists and invites us to a journey full of promises and dreams.” He draws from the auditory imprints of having grown up in the vibrant sonic landscape of his homeland – his father’s violin playing, the drums of indigenous peoples, the impassioned strains of tango that emanate from forbidden cafés and radio speakers, the festive dance music that saturates the streets of entire villages and barrios, the faint strumming of the gauchos’ guitars on tranquil evenings in the pampas – and fashions an imagined reawakening of these experiences.
Schifrin brought these musical memories with him to Paris, where he ventured at the age of twenty to study at the Conservatoire. In the nightlife of the city of lights he discovered jazz and found a way to fuse Argentinean folk and tango with this newfound medium. It was in Paris that Schifrin shared the stage with the great Piazzolla, playing piano alongside the composer/bandoneónist. His life changed forever when the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, passing through Paris, met and commissioned music of the young Schifrin, later inviting him to New York to join his quintet. The rest is history: Schifrin would go on to write numerous Hollywood scores and, most famously, the theme from the television series Mission Impossible.
As the opening Tango del Atardecer begins, the style seems grounded in Argentina, yet like Schifrin himself, it evolves to absorb new influences as the dance progresses. The tango takes place, as its title suggests, in the late afternoon, but after a time the sun descends and evening closes in, announced by ghostly sul ponticello violin and distant drumming. In the subdued Tango Borealis, dawn dances as she wakes from her slumber, and a sense of hazy relaxation pervades the music (this is tango before coffee). The Danza de los montes reflects Schifrin’s New York jazz influence, while frequent shifts in mood give the movement a capricious quality. The Tango a Borges is possibly inspired by, or a tribute to, the Argentine writer. Like its namesake, the piece is adventurous, often humorous, and inventive, with wild flourishes and an air of witty nonchalance. At the start of the closing Malambo de los llanos, a lone rustic violin seems to improvise on a repeated dance motive; perhaps this is a subtle childhood memory of his father practicing at home. Soon, other instruments join in as the piece awakens and comes alive, as though more dancers of a village on the plains were spilling into the streets from their homes in jubilant celebration. The drumming rhythms of the Calchaqí peoples of the northern heath dominate the scene, and we become lost in the carnivalesque frenzy of festivity.
Letters from Argentina was jointly commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society, and Chamber Music Northwest. Composed in 2005, it was premiered on April 17, 2005, in New York City by members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
—© Patrick Campbell Jankowski
PIAZZOLLA Six from PiazzollaAstor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
La Muerte del Angel
Born into an Italian family on the Argentine coast, Astor Piazzolla came of age in Greenwich Village in the 1920s: a vibrant, working-class neighborhood of immigrants with an air of an emerging Bohemian art scene. The melodious mélange of noises from the street, the sounds of jazz halls and gramophone records, and of course the strident, pained sounds of the bandoneón formed the eclectic mixture from which the young Piazzolla would cultivate his musical style. By the late 1930s, he had settled in Buenos Aires and begun to perform frequently in tango orchestras. The genre had grown immensely popular both at home and abroad: it is said that of all gramophone records sold in the first decades since their invention, one-third were tango recordings.
While delving further into the tango world, Piazzolla cultivated a strong interest in classical music, and worked to pay for his own composition lessons with Alberto Ginastera, the preeminent classical musician in Argentina at the time. These lessons, along with his later composition studies in Paris (where he met and recorded with Lalo Schifrin) helped to form the composer’s distinctive approach to the genre: an amalgam of tradition and experimentation, folk and classical, old and new.
Piazzolla’s Nuevo tango was a free tango that he defined it with the equation Nuevo tango = tango + tragedy + comedy + whorehouse. By virtue of that instantly recognizable rhythmic pattern and pulse, percussive drive, and passionate tone, Piazzolla’s music encapsulated the traditions and origins of tango while elevating the genre to new heights of craftsmanship and art. The selections heard this evening span decades of the composer’s output and offer a snapshot of the various stages of his career, from La muerte del angel of the 1960s to Libertango, written while in Milan in 1974. Adiós nonino poignantly memorializes Piazzolla’s father, and was written in 1959 just after learning of his death. This tango was itself based on an early work from 1954.
—© Patrick Campbell Jankowski