Piazzolla Tango with Marcela Fiorillo

“An intimate encounter with the music and dance of Buenos Aires”. The Street Theatre. 23 Jun 2012

Tango (as in the dance), like many other Latin American imports, has found a healthy little niche market here in Australia, fanning the flames of romance in a culture sometimes lacking in this department. But while the dance is capturing people’s imaginations, often overlooked is the passionate, story-telling music that accompanies this most intimate of forms.

Tango music, and its earlier cousin, the milonga, was born out of the various cultural influences of European and African immigrants in Argentina and Uruguay during the mid-19th Century and they have been evolving, just like any other art form, ever since.

In the 1950’s Astor Piazzolla, an Argentinian born to Italian migrant parents, shook up what had become traditional tango with his fresh take on the form – later to be known as Tango Nuevo.

A bandoneon player himself, Piazzolla’s work was both inspired by his time living in New York and being exposed to jazz and classical music, as well as the exposure to his father’s traditional tango orchestra records.

Marking the first anniversary of his death in 2011, Piazzolla Tango is both an album launch of ‘Piazzolla Anniversary’ and a tribute concert to the music of the late composer by Marcela Fiorillo, who is herself an accomplished, world-renown Argentinian pianist, now residing in Canberra.

A highly prestigious event on the Canberra arts scene, Piazzolla Tango was officially opened by the Ambassador of the Argentine Republic, his Excellency Pedro Villagra Delgado, and presented by Argentinian conductor, scholar and educator at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music , Dr Gerardo Dirie, whose ardent narration of Piazzolla’s work was both highly technical in musical terms, yet truly intriguing. Dr Dirie gave a stirring overview of Piazzolla’s character and influences, and eloquently set the scene for the evening’s entertainment.

The concert itself featured a mélange of both tango and milonga solo musical compositions by Fiorillo, and sitting beneath the yellow glow of a single, elegant chandelier, her dark, diminutive figure served to amplify the intensity with which she channeled Piazzolla’s work.  Awestruck, the man sitting a row behind pretty much summed up the sentiment the moment her carefully poised fingers made contact with the keys: “wow”.

Her playing was precise, purposeful, but dynamic and always full of emotion – moody even, and the rich satiny interpretations emanating from her piano encouraged one to close their eyes and succumb to the warm embrace of each note telling the stories of Piazzolla’s time – and what a time it must have been!

Also accompanied by a couple of spoken word performances from local poet, Geoff Page and his Tango Nuevo-inspired ‘Eight for Astor’ works, the chemistry between the two was just a little stilted and off-beat. However, the quirks of their communication and the overall film noir-style approach to their collaboration was nonetheless engaging, painting a picture of Piazzollo beyond what music could express.

Complementing the evening, the audience was also treated to spectacular tango and milonga dance performances by third generation Argentinian tango dancers, Karina and Fabian Conca, whose sophistication and collective years of experience permeated through their flawless and beguiling routines – and they were an absolute thrill to watch.

For those with a knowledge and love of Piazzolla’s work, Piazzolla Tango is the ultimate cultural experience, but for those who simply came along because they’re interested in this relatively new craze in Australia called Tango, well, they’d now have an appreciation of the music that breathed life into the dance form and kept it on its evolutionary path.

Deborah Hawke