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Concert Reviews

Pablo Ziegler: The Pianist That Caresses Our Listening

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Pablo Ziegler - Photo by Manuel Pose Varela

“Tango is a musical style that must constantly evolve and not be some ridiculous folklore to lure tourists” – Astor Piazzolla

The celebrated Argentinian pianist Pablo Ziegler returned home after two years, to mesmerise us with a performance that features Jazz Tango repertoire, and a performance of “Dos Pianos Quinteto” at the national auditorium, Kirchner Cultural Center [CCK] in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Pablo Ziegler - Pianist, Composer and Arranger - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Pablo Ziegler – Pianist, Composer and Arranger – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

Ziegler has played “Dos Pianos Quinteto” with such great classical pianists as Emanuel Ax and Christopher O’Riley. This performance was a debut of the work in Argentina, with the Japanese pianist Masae Shiwa.

“Masae has shown that she mastered Astor’s music and mine, and interprets it with great depth and elegance,” Ziegler said. “We have been working together for many years but finally, I have discovered the possibility of playing together. I’m really happy with how this duo sounds,” the pianist affirmed.

Performance of "Dos Pianos Quinteto" - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Performance of “Dos Pianos Quinteto” – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

This performance included themes by Piazzolla as well as his [Ziegler’s] own compositions. He was accompanied by: Walther Castro on bandoneón, Armando de la Vega on guitar and Horacio “Mono” Hurtado on double bass. The special guest was Astor Piazzolla’s grandson, Pipi Piazzolla, who played drums.

The auditorium was packed to capacity. The air was heavy with melancholy and joy; the kind you can only experience when you listen to music like Ziegler’s… and Piazzolla’s… then you are transported to another world, a world where the art of music soars high into a rarefied realm.

Performance of "Dos Pianos Quinteto" - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Performance of “Dos Pianos Quinteto” – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

Pablo Ziegler is made entirely of music: tango – and jazz – seemingly in equal parts. Whether he is playing a simple melody or indulging in a complex, beckoning improvisation, you get a sense that he is inhabiting a completely new world, where the earth spins to the ink-dark rhythm of the tango. This is music at its finest, played in an atmosphere that is singularly free. This is Pablo Ziegler’s world and it is mesmerising, and irresistible.

Pablo Ziegler - Pianist, Composer and Arranger - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Pablo Ziegler – Pianist, Composer and Arranger – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK
Masae Shiwa, Pianist - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Masae Shiwa, Pianist – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

When it came to the performance of “Dos Pianos Quinteto,” Masae Shiwa invited us to imagine a perfect world where everything is in tune with nature; with swirling, sensuous movements of her body in absolute tune – and rhythm – with her hands she beckoned us to go deep inside the heart of the music. Her interpretation of the repertoire was powerful yet pliant; in complete concord with the sinewy masculinity of Pablo Ziegler’s pianism. Shiwa was the epitome of poise, accuracy and pristine delicacy.

Walther Castro, bandoneón - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Walther Castro, bandoneón – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

It seemed as if we were witness to the perfect – and proverbial – musical ikigai* [*the Japanese symbol for balance in nature] if ever there could be anything like it in a programme that was perfectly focused on Jazz Tango.

Masae was so thrilled by the end of it all that she said, breathlessly: “For me it was a surreal experience to play the music of Piazzolla and Ziegler in Buenos Aires where the public knows very well what it is about. It was an honor to have been able to make my debut in Argentina sharing the stage with Pablo, his musicians and Pipi Piazzolla.”

Pipi Piazzola, Drummer - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Pipi Piazzola, Drummer – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

Ziegler met Piazzolla in 1978 and a deep and enduring friendship ensued. They share an abiding love for music – especially Piazzola’s music – and this left a lasting impression on the Young Ziegler. His training was more in the realm of jazz and classical music, but playing with Piazzolla left its indelible mark on the impresionable young genius.

When Astor passed away, Ziegler slipped into the role of shepherding the master Piazzolla’s music into a new era, without Piazolla. Thus Ziegler laid infused the repertoire with his own imprint.

Horacio "Mono" Hurtado - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Horacio “Mono” Hurtado – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

Ziegler now lives in New York City, but his acclaim and recognition is spread throughout the world. He has won a Grammy Award in 2005 for his CD “Bajo Cero”, and in 2018 he won another Grammy for “Jazz Tango”. With the latter recording Ziegler firmly established himself in the vanguard of Argentinean music, which is played with a smoky flavour and dances to a rhythm that combines classical, tango, jazz and a myriad of traditional dance forms.

Armando de la Vega, Guitarist - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Armando de la Vega, Guitarist – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

A few years ago, it felt as if audiences failed to understand Ziegler and questioned his music, just like the audiences in another time had once questioned the nuevo tango of Astor Piazzolla. But in recent times audiences have come to appreciate – nay, even love – music played in the inimitable rhythm and idiom of Ziegler. For this concert Ziegler received the well-deserved honor of being sponsored by Steinway & Sons.

Walther Castro, bandoneón; Horacio "Mono" Hurtado, double bass; Pipi Piazzolla, drums - Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Walther Castro, bandoneón; Horacio “Mono” Hurtado, double bass; Pipi Piazzolla, drums – Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK
Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK
Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela
Photo credit: Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultral CKK

2022 María Cabeza | All photos by Manuel Pose Varela, Centro Cultural CKK

María Verónica Cabeza writes poetry, prose and is also a photographer. She lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She writes in Spanish and English and is a regular contributor to magazines in Argentina and elsewhere.

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Concert Reviews

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

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On Thursday, October 13, 2022, representing two generations of Cuban Piano Masters, Hilario Durán and David Virelles got together at Koerner Hall, one of the most magnificent concert venues in Toronto. They were celebrating the release (in Canada) of their new recording Front Street Duets (Alma Records), a project they started working on at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto
Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Both artists were extremely happy of releasing their duet album after these past two years of the unimaginable worldwide health crisis. They were also excited to be in Toronto, and for being able to accommodate their busy schedules to perform their music in front of a very enthusiastic audience. Durán and Virelles expressed their utmost respect and admiration for each other. David from an early age considered Hilario as one of his musical heroes, a musical giant and influential figure in Cuba, in Canada and abroad. Hilario considers David as one of the most important Cuban pianist of his generation, a big star shining globally, from the highly competitive musical scene in New York.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

The concert got started started with Epistrophy, the first tune copyrighted by Thelonious Monk, followed by Sophisticated Lady / In A Sentimental Mood, two compositions by Duke Ellington. Next, Durán and Virelles performed four tunes from their new album: 1. Danza Lucumí, (beautifully arranged by Virelles), a song written by Alejandro García Caturla, a Cuban composer who together with Amadeo Roldán, are considered the leaders of Afro-cubanismo, a nationalist musical trend that incorporates Afro-Cuban songs, rhythms, and dances. 2. Challenge, a new composition by Durán. 3. La Malanga (also arranged by Virelles), a composition by Calixto Varona, one of the most important composers from Santiago de Cuba from the XIX century. 4. Guajira For Two Pianos, the first track on the album Front Street Duet, a fiery composition written by Durán.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

The first set came to an end with Airegin (an anadrome of Nigeria), a jazz standard composed by American saxophonist Sonny Rollins in 1954.

The second part of the concert started with a solo performance by David Virelles, Canción Estudio, composed by José Antonio “Ñico” Rojas, a prominent Cuban composer and guitarist, considered as one of the founders of the style of Cuban song called filin. Then it was Durán’s turn for an inspired solo performance of Autumn Nocturne (a notable composition written by Russian-born Josef Myrow with Kim Gannon). Durán had previously recorded this tune on his 1999 Justin Time Records release Habana Nocturna, a superb album that feature acclaimed saxophonist, flautist and bandleader Jane Bunnett, and drummer extraordinaire Horacio “El Negro” Hernández.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Next, both pianists performed a set of four pieces written by Hilario Durán for the recording Front Street Duets. 1. David’s Tumbao, a composition dedicated to David Virelles. Durán is well known for his fiery tumbao style when he’s playing. 2. Punto Cubano #1, inspired on the genre of Cuban music known as punto guajiro or punto cubano, a poetic art with music that became popular in the western and central regions of Cuba in the 17th century and consolidated as a genre in the 18th century. 3. Santos Suárez’s Memories pays tribute to the Havana neighbourhood where Durán grew up, where he fell in love with the piano and became a musician. It brings back cherished memories involving his upbringing, his family and close friends. 4. Milonga For Cuba, a very special tribute dedicated to the people who protested in Havana last summer 2021.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

For the encore, Durán and Virelles interpreted a wonderful rendition of Body And Soul, a popular song and jazz standard written in 1930 with music by Johnny Green and lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton. Body and Soul is the track that closes the album Front Street Duets, and also brought to an end a tremendous musical night at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Photographs by Danilo Navas

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