Music Review by David Steinberg
The Alejandro Ziegler Tango Quartet’s Albuquerque concert today was a workout for the musicians …but pure pleasure for the National Hispanic Cultural Center audience.
They played 75 minutes without intermission. No tango dancers. No vocalists. All instrumental music vibrantly and intensely presented as a unit yet independently expressed.
Ziegler was a monster on piano. Javier Stromann played the bandoneón expertly, effortlessly. Alfonso Santini Darino provided ample, glowing rhythm support on upright bass.
And Ignacio Quiroz gave a clinic on the many ways one can express the sounds of the violin. Quiroz used his bow, in front and behind the bridge; bowing behind produced a güiro-like scratching. He slapped the top of the body, he tapped the bottom of the body, he plucked the strings, he ran his fingers down the strings while bowing.
The concert was a potpourri of moods – brooding, attacking, romantic – from many decades and many composers.
Ziegler introduced three compositions from the 1940s and ‘50s, decades when Argentina sported its own big bands (“orquesta tipica”) but with tango not swing and spotlighting the bandoneón, the small button accordion that’s the signature instrument of the tango.
It was a time of “tango fever” in the country, he said.
Argentine tango originated in the Buenos Aires brothels of the 1890s and the early part of the 20th century before gaining broad popularity. The quartet showed the music’s evolution by closing the concert with “Otoño Porteno,” from Astor Piazzolla’s nuevo tango work “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.”
“Now tango is our classical music of Argentina,” Ziegler explained.
The ensemble played a milonga, “Payadora,” which he described as a tango from gaucho country with a faster rhythm.
About half of the concert program was filled with Ziegler’s own compositions, which are more traditional tango melodic structure and harmonies than Piazzola’s.
One composition, “Valentina,” Ziegler wrote for his wife to settle matters after a spat. “But it didn’t work,” he said.
Another Ziegler composition, “Buen Viaje,” was written as an encouragement for the band’s first European tour. The band has made six tours of Europe. The Albuquerque concert is one of 40 stops on the quartet’s fourth tour of North America.
At the end, the audience gave the Buenos Aires-based quartet the standing ovation it earned. The concert was part of the NHCC’s Chispa series.
(Ziegler is not related to nuevo tango pianist/composer Pablo Ziegler.)