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Pablo Ziegler brings tango — as concert music — to Mondavi

Argentinian composer Pablo Ziegler will present a program titled "Beyond Tango" on Friday, April 29, at the Mondavi Center. Courtesy photo

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April 25, 2011 | Leave Comment

Details

What: Pablo Ziegler’s “Beyond Tango”

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center

Tickets: $25-$49 general, $12.50-$24.50 for students, available at http://www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787

Friday’s “Beyond Tango” performance by pianist/composer Pablo Ziegler will be a little bit different than previous tango shows that have visited the Mondavi Center.

Shows like “Tango Fire,” which came in 2009, and again in March of this year, “Tango Buenos Aires” (2003 and 2007) and “Boccatango” (2006) were primarily dance programs.

Pablo Ziegler’s “Beyond Tango” will be a purely musical experience.

“This is really a concert. No dancers,” Ziegler confirmed in a phone interview from New York.

And the program will feature plenty of Ziegler’s original tango material — as scored for two pianos, jazz trio and various ensembles incorporating classical strings (two violins, viola, cello, bass), plus winds (clarinet, bassoon, flute) as well as drums.

And, of course, a bandoneón, a member of the accordion family, which originated in Germany, but became closely associated with the tango in the 1930s and 1940s as well as with “new tango” composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), who did much to bring the tango into the concert hall in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ziegler, who was born in Buenos Aires, was the pianist in Piazzolla’s band from 1978 until health problems led to Piazzolla’s retirement in 1989. The following year, Ziegler launched the first of his own groups — Quartet for New Tango. And ever since, Ziegler has been advancing the art form in his own way, reflecting both the traditional tango and inflections from Ziegler’s background as a jazz musician and a classical pianist and arranger.

The program to be heard at the Mondavi Center on Friday will include a number of Piazzolla tunes, like “Michelangelo 70,” “Revirado,” “Chin Chin” and “Libertango.” A generous sampling of Ziegler originals are planned: “Buenos Aires Report,” “Maria Ciudad,” “Elegante Canyenguito” and “La Rayuela,” among others. There also will be a traditional tango, “Nostalgias,” by pioneering composer Juan Carlos Cobián (1906-1953), whose arrangements during the 1930s and 1940s did much to establish the tango internationally. All told, there will be 17 pieces, most around four or five minutes long.

“The tango spirit is in all the arrangements, whether they are for two pianos or strings or whatever,” Ziegler said. “And the violin is very central to the tango. The traditional tango bands (of the 1930s and 1940s) had four or five violins, in addition to several bandoneóns, bass and piano.”

The tango — as a musical form and as a dance — emerged during the late 1800s in Argentina and Uruguay, and is generally thought to have sprung from a “melting pot” mixture of European and perhaps African influences. The advent of gramophone records helped spread the tango overseas — it became hugely popular in Paris in the years after World War I, and from there, the tango spread worldwide.

For instance, the French connection carried the tango into Japan. In 1920, a 24-year-old Japanese nobleman named Tsunayoshi Megata (the grandson of a samurai) visited Paris, and learned the tango there. When Megata — a reputed playboy, now best remembered for his stylish work on the dance floor — returned home, he took with him several French pressings of tango recordings, which Megata enthusiastically introduced to the Japanese aristocracy, leading some Japanese fans to initially assume that the tango had originated in France.

The tango is still quite popular in Japan; Ziegler’s band has been there several times, and will tour there again in June.

Ziegler added that he’s much more interested in performing the tango live — with an audience listening — than he is in making albums. “I get bored in the recording studio. The live version is always much better,” he said.

This will be Ziegler’s first visit to the Mondavi Center. He played the Gallo Center in Modesto a few years ago, and he’s played at the SF Jazz Festival several times, as well as in San Jose and Santa Cruz.

UC Davis music professor Pablo Ortiz, who is also from Argentina, has known Pablo Ziegler since the 1980s. “Pablo Ziegler was the pianist in one of the best groups that Piazzolla ever had, so he comes from that lineage,” Ortiz said. “But he’s also a wonderful classical pianist and a wonderful jazz pianist.”

Ortiz added that he and Ziegler were involved when the American Composers Orchestra did a program in the 1990s that was dedicated to Argentine composers. “So I have known him for a while.”

Ortiz will give a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m. Friday, offering a sampler of Ziegler’s work over the decades.

“I’m going to play one of solos from a recording of the Piazzolla group in the early 1980s, and also some recordings of Ziegler’s more recent pieces, because there’s a progression that’s quite interesting. He’s been bridging the gaps between tango, classical and jazz for pretty much all of his career.”

—Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8055.

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