Orchestra Miami pays homage to Piazzolla in his 100th birthday season

By Inesa Gegprifti

Guitarist Pablo González Jazey, bandoneónist David Alsina and bass Susan Dirgins-Friend in Orchestra Miami’s Piazzolla concert Friday night at the Scottish Rite Temple.

Astor Piazzolla’s tango nuevo is a vibrant synthesis of multiple genres and influences. Due to his upbringing, education, and mostly artistic ego, Piazzolla created a musical language that is unequivocally his own and that shaped the way the world views, hears, and feels tango. 

In it one can hear tinges of jazz, rock, old tango (from the 1920s guardia vieja), enveloped in meticulous classical craftsmanship coupled with freedom of expression. The freedom that is inherent in this genre that stemmed from the people, the urban life of Buenos Aires in the turn of the 20th century.

Because of this, his music offers something for everyone, and so did Friday night’s program presented by Orchestra Miami at the Miami Scottish Rite Temple and live-streamed online. The concert celebrated two important milestones: Argentina’s Independence Day (July 9, 1816) and the 100th birthday year of Piazzolla (born March 11).

The ensemble, led by guest conductor Andrés Cárdenes, performed a mélange of vignettes and some substantial works by Piazzolla, ranging from his famous (and depending on the arrangement, infamous) Libertango, to more seldom-heard songs (tango canciónes) like Chiquilín de Bachín, to staples like Histoire du Tango, Adiós Nonino, and Balada para un loco.

Overall, the Orchestra Miami musicians displayed capable control of the music and were enthusiastically applauded by the audience. Still, the playing often lacked the bite and grip that is needed in the marcato basses or the inflected syncopations in Libertango. The lyrical fragments, while generally paced well, missed the mark with regard to intonation and sensitivity to harmonic changes, as with Milonga del Ángel. The redeeming quality of their performances was the evident commitment to sustaining an expressive and engaged rendition throughout.

The highlights of the evening came from the guest soloists: bandoneónist David Alsina, guitarist Pablo González Jazey, and singer Annelise Skovmand.

Alsina and González Jazey joined forces in Piazzolla’s Concerto for Bandoneón, Guitar, and String Orchestra, a three-movement work that was written in 1985. This concerto opens with an improvisatory “Introducción,” rich in rhetorical nuances with the guitar roaming between phrases, evoking images of the wide-ranging pampas that so inspired fellow Argentinean composer, Alberto Ginastera. The concerto builds into an overall crescendo as it journeys through a layered “Milonga,” the middle movement, and climaxes in homophonic sharp syncopations in the “Tango,” final movement. Both soloists showed excellent chamber musicianship as they intertwined phrases well and maintained a sense of extemporaneity while locking in their parts.

Alsina’s arrangement and rendition of the iconic Adiós Nonino for bandoneón and string quartet showcased his assertive accents and ability to swiftly shift characters and tonal shades. Though he at times lacked agility in what ought to be quickly tossed virtuoso passages, Alsina managed to convey the drama and visceral nature of this emotional tango that Piazzolla wrote after his father’s passing while in New York in 1959.

The concert concluded with five songs, all arranged by González Jazey for voice, guitar, and string orchestra, which featured soprano Annelise Skovmand. Three stood out particularly in delivering a sense of melancholy mixed with bravado: Alguien le dice al Tango, with text by Jorge Luis Borges, and from the collaboration with Uruguayan-born Horacio Ferrer, Balada para un loco and Milonga de la anunciación (from the tango operetta María de Buenos Aires,). Skovmand captured the subtleties of the surrealist text allowing her voice to emerge from whispered mysterious tones to soulful legato phrases. She possesses a rich middle range less focused high register, but the emotional content of the music remained present throughout.

In honor of the victims of the trying past Covid year, and those of the Surfside building collapse in Miami a couple of weeks ago, the soloists and the orchestra performed as an encore Piazzolla’s touching Ave Maria.

Guitarist Pablo González Jazey and soprano Annelise Skovmand (Duo Incaina) will also perform 3 p.m. Sunday at the Miami Beach Woman’s Club. www.orchestramiami.org

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Sat Jul 10, 2021
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