PBS's GREAT PERFORMANCES to Present Tangos Under the Stars, 3/31

Gustavo Dudamel accents the colors, rhythms, and passion of music by leading composers from Argentina in this invigorating evening under the stars on Dudamel Conducts Tangos Under the Stars with the LA Phil -- recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in August - coming to GREAT PERFORMANCES Friday, March 31 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.)

"Temperatures cooled off last night but the music making remained hot as Gustavo Dudamel began his final week this summer at Hollywood Bowl," reported Robert D. Thomas of the Southern California News Group the day after the concert.

With guitarist Angel Romero, bandoneon player Seth Asarnow, and dancers from Tango Buenos Aires, maestro Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in works by the Astor Piazzolla, once described by Stephen Holden in The New York Times as "the world's foremost composer of tango music," symphonic composer Alberto Ginastera (who was Piazzolla's teacher), and film score composer Lalo Schifrin ("Mission Impossible"), a friend of the late Piazzolla.

Newly filmed interviews with Dudamel, Schifrin and Romero are interspersed throughout the musical program, together with archival footage of Piazzolla.

Schifrin's Concierto de la Amistad (Concerto of Friendship), a world premiere performance, is a follow-up to his Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra premiered by guitarist Angel Romero in 1984 at the Bowl. The composer wrote the latest guitar concerto especially for his long-time friend Romero.

"The structure is three movements, and sometimes sonata form, sometimes theme and variations... it's like a journey," says Schifrin in the program. "I start with a kind of dance ... a kind of dance of the Middle Ages combined with 21st or 20th century music. So in that sense, it's a journey. But it's a journey also in terms of geography, because it has African elements, obviously European - especially Spanish - European elements, South American elements all over."

Among the leading lights of 20th-century concert music in South America, Argentina's Alberto Ginastera is acknowledged for his successful blending of indigenous music with the more rigorous elements of European art music. The four dances from Ginastera's ballet Estancia were inspired by the folklore of Argentina: the movements signifying the field hands, the wheat field, the cattle men, and the Argentine cowboys (gauchos).

Estancia, written in 1941 on a commission from American Ballet Caravan, was intended as a "ballet in one act and five scenes based on Argentine country life," originally including spoken and sung elements. Because of problems on the part of Ballet Caravan, the ballet itself went unperformed until 1952, but the suite of four dances from the score was introduced at the venerable Teatro Coloacuten in Buenos Aires in 1943.

Piazzolla, for his part, wrote a more modern harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic tango, as we hear in hisTangazo, and later, in his most famous tangos including "La muerte del angel," "Adios nonino," and "Libertango."

Born in Mar del Plata, Piazzolla immigrated to New York with his family, where he grew up on the Lower East Side. Sports and other activities interested him far more than did the tango, the music of his father. The gift of a bandoneón began to change that, however.

He was 16 years old when his family returned to Argentina, and he was soon working regularly in the best tango orchestras. In 1944 Piazzolla formed his own ensemble, the Orquesta del 46, to play his own compositions. At that time he also was studying composition with Ginastera. A symphony he composed in 1954 for the Buenos Aires Philharmonic earned him a scholarship to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, who advised him to cultivate the tango as his true mode of expression.

Schifrin admiringly calls Piazzolla "the voice of the tango," and Dudamel observes that Piazzolla created a new form of the genre: "very modern, harmonically, melodically, rhythmically, it is very, very modern and it's only Piazzolla."

From the 1960s comes La muerte del ángel(from a series of 'angel' pieces), one of the distinctive pieces with which Piazzolla shook the conservative world of tango. "Nuevo tango = tango + tragedy + comedy + whorehouse" was an equation Piazzolla used to define his new direction. To that could be added greater harmonic sophistication and an elusive jazz swing. The selection of four tangos on the program are accompanied by dancers from the Tango Buenos Aires troupe.

The Agricultural Workers
The Wheat Dance
The Cattle Men
Piazzolla: Selection of Tangos
La Muerte del Angel
Adios Nonino
Schifrin: Concierto de la Amistad (world premiere)

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