Four to Tango

Israeli quartet Pitango members violinist Hadar Cohen, bandoneon player Amijai Shalev, pianist Shahar Ziv and double bass player Rinat Avisar are making their annual tour of the country, giving chamber concerts and a joint program with the Netanya Kibbutzim Chamber Orchestra under its artistic director Yaron Gottfried.

“These are two different programs,” explains Amijai Shalev. The first, in which we are joined by tango dancers Ronen Hayat and Maya Schwartz, is more intimate. It is for those who want to hear tango of different styles and periods as it sounds in cafes of Buenos Aires. The second is for those who prefer a big symphonic sound. It is like you take music from the street and bring it to a symphony hall – it both gains and loses and takes on a new aspect. We perform Astor Piazzola’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, especially arranged for quartetand orchestra.

Tango is folk music, it is never written for this or that instrument, so every new ensemble requires a new arrangement,” he explains.

Shalev, who has been living in Buenos Aires for six years, where he studies bandoneon, performs and teaches, says that although the bandoneon is now associated first and foremost with tango, the instrument was invented in Germany, where it never gained popularity. “It was created for religious services as a mobile replacement for an organ. In Latin America it immediately became part of the tango music due its melancholy voice and its ability to play in a rhythm and to produce an explosive sound, which provides a performer with a lot of opportunity for expression.”

He goes on to explain that “Just like a clarinet allows one to reflect the chanting of an Ashkenazi cantor (which is why it was chosen for klezmer music), the bandoneon expresses the manner of speech of the Porteño – people of Buenos Aires.”

Speaking about his personal attachment to the instrument, Shalev says that aside from the bandoneon’s special voice, the very way it produces sounds is dear to him. “You keep the instrument between your hands, and it is all about how you make the air flow – the instrument moves with you. The bandoneon is an instrument with energy, and with a lot of presence – it never hides behind the others.”

As for the concert program, Shalev says that Piazzola’s Four Seasons (which, unlike Vivaldi’s concerto of the same name was not written as one piece but consists of several compositions) is music that speaks about life as seen through the eyes of the people of Buenos Aires.

“In its spirit and mentality, this is city music, like jazz. What is characteristic of music by Piazzola is that it reflects urban life of the 1970-80s.”

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