3 2 Tango and Friends – pleasures of the dance

Music by Astor Piazzolla and Peter Ludwig

LUDWIG : Tango Triste / Casar der Hund / E / Tango Nuevo / A.G.Mius

PIAZZOLLA : Oblivion / La muerte del angel / Seasons of Buenos Aires / Sprng and Winter / Le Grande Tango   Libertango

Catherine McKay (piano)

Slava Fainitski (violin)

Brenton Veitch (‘cello)

Matt Collie (percussion)

Rebekah Greig (accordion)

St.Andrew’s-on-the-Terrace March Series of Concerts

Wednesday 17th March, 12.15pm

For this concert, the group 3 2 Tango became four, and then five, firstly with percussionist Matt Collie joining the group, and a little later, accordion player Rebekah Greig. And, as if the pleasures of those tango rhythms and tones alone weren’t sufficient, we in the audience were able to luxuriate in the tango dancing of a couple who were introduced as “Sharon and Stephen”. What was more, we were invited by concert organiser Richard Greager to join in with the dancing if the spirit moved us so; but I suspect the presence of two fairly confident and polished dancers made it difficult for anybody else to feel they had something as good to put on display – and so only one other person, a woman, dancing solo, took up the invitation to the floor to join in, almost at the very end. For myself, I can report that my enjoyment of both music and dancing was sufficiently palpable for me to feel as though I’d been treated to a real-live tango experience, without ever leaving my seat!

Although the concert was described in the blurb as one “focusing on the legendary Tango composer Astor Piazzolla”, much of the first half featured the music of Peter Ludwig, a modern exponent of the tango both as composer and performer, the pianist in a duo called Tango Mortale, with ‘cellist Anja Lechner. The five tangos of his which 3 2 Tango presented during this concert were interesting and varied pieces, the composer preserving the traditional “fixed rhythm” of the dance while avoiding what a European reviewer called “the gloomy, depressive and low-spirited tangos which come from Argentina” – doubtless a sideswipe at the great Piazzolla and his imitators, here! For myself, I thought Ludwig’s music on the present showing itself lacked nothing in sultry expressiveness, though perhaps not as consistently dark-browed as Piazzolla’s, having more of an “emotion recollected in tranquility” feel to it. But, untrained though my ear might be in such things, I detected no marked “lurch into the mire of humanity” when, during the concert, Piazzolla’s music became the focus of our attention.

The concert began with Peter Ludwig’s Tango Triste – piano and violin evoking cool ambient spaces at the very start, into which Brenton Veitch’s ‘cello poured the most sonorous of tones, a lovely beginning.  Slava Fainitski’s violin and Catherine McKay’s piano dug into the rhythms, adding snap and volatility, with some percussive help from Matt Collie – the mood swung readily throughout from full-blooded and heartfelt physical address to sombre and sultry withdrawal, with lovely string slides adding to the ambivalence of the atmosphere. The dancers joined in with the next tango, Casar der Hund, their movements quite “tight” and controlled, very “together” and with little open space explored in the way that I imagined tango dancers did (of course, I’m conscious of showing my limited knowledge of things, here!)……

The next tango, enigmatically called E, ran a volatile course, with frequent changes of metre and lots of rubato – a lovely ‘cello solo once again, some “gypsy-sounding” violin-work, and then skyrocketting glissandi from the piano all built towards a spectacular flourish at the end. Again, with Tango Nuevo, feelings both ran deeply and coruscated the surface of things throughout, the agitated rhythms digging fiercely in, suggesting darker passions and emotions suited to a nightscape, whose uneasy calm was evoked by violin tremolandi, ‘cello pizzicati and piano murmurings, before irrupting once again and concluding with a spectacular downward slide – great stuff! And A.G.Mius (another enigmatic title) brought out a headlong helter-skelter dash from the trio, strings bouncing the bows rhythmically as the piano called the tune, the players generating terrific momentum throughout, the music suggesting more than a touch of Magyar gypsy to me in places, and none the worse for that.

Piazzolla’s music made its first appearance on the programme with Oblivion, the group being joined by accordion-player Rebekah Greig. Despite a short pause for some player re-alignment as a result of music being mislaid,  not a beat was missed after the restart, the music redolent with suspense and tension, and the accordion adding both colour and “edge” to the sound – the dancers moved haltingly and asymmetrically to this one, their steps seeming almost improvisatory, as did the music. La muerte del angel was much the same in effect, the piece building tensions by intensifying rhythms and crescendi. Almost thankfully, Seasons of Buenos Aires I found rather more discursive and easeful, though still atmospheric and descriptive; as was Spring and Winter, whose deep, sonorous and languid opening rhythms metamorphosed into something resembling Red Indians on the warpath before returning to a more piquant note to finish. Perhaps the most well-known of Piazzolla’s pieces, Le Grand Tango, written for and premiered by Mstislav Rostropovich in the 1980s, delighted us with its full-on explorations of instrumental colour and gesture, the players revelling in the composer’s demands, and flexing their imaginations in the music’s different directions. After this, the final Libertango seemed comparatively straightforward, definitely one to dance to, though including our single free-spirited audience member, it remained a dancing menage a trios, the rest of us content with paying tribute to all of the performers at the end for a wonderful and spirited lunchtime’s music-making.

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