RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

CD Feature/ Frevo Quartet: "Histoire du Tango"

img  Tobias
A couple of years ago, German label Field Muzick issued a compilation called “Music out of Open Windows”. It comprised of mostly quiet compositions intended as inverse images of the usual escapism propagated by genres like techno, inviting the listener to “open his windows wide and let his environment remix the songs!” The Frevo Quartet’s rendition of “Histoire du Tango” would have made for a perfect addition to that album. Eschewing the sterile ambiance of comparable recordings, the Quartet takes Astor Piazzolla’s classic to the streets – bringing a tasty urban flavour to your living room.

After all, Piazzolla’s music is well aware of where it came from: The dirty alleys it was born in, the smokey cafes where it spent its infancy, the dingy nightclubs filled with people loosing themselves in the seductive trance of the Tango’s rhythm. For the largest part of his life as a composer, Piazzolla was no longer part of this particular world, studying with Nadia Boulanger, writing for concert halls and creating a revolutionary stylistic hybrid. Possessed by the curse of those who began with nothing and worked their way up to the top, however, he kept revisiting his past, nightmares, visions and roots.

All of this is important, because this aspect of “Histoire du Tango” is essential to the Frevos interpretation. Their line-up of Flute, Violin, Guitar and Bass is compact enough to evoke mental images of a small street band, yet big enough to come across as voluble and timbrally versatile. The sound of the Quartet is pleasantly hard to pin down, refined rather than raw, real rather than rich. Even though it has more to do with energy than original practise, the instrumentation makes perfect sense on the conceptual side of the piece as well: This is the sound of a combo which could actually have played in all of the four phases of development Piazzolla is delineating in his music.

The story of the Frevo Quartet matters, too: Matthew McAllister (Guitar) and Feargus Hetherington (Violin) were touring with the “Tango” on their program, when Aisling Agnew (Flute) and Douglas Whates (Bass) initially joined for a one-off but stayed on as full band members in the end. If you listen closely, you can hear the personal backgrounds of the ensemble members in their performance: Hetherington and McAllister are still sketching the basic outlines of the music, while their companions are entwining their performances around them. This is why the naked purity of the composition shines through, while the new voices both smooth out the rougher edges and lead it into places formerly deemed too dark.

Douglas Whates contribution is especially remarkable. All but dissolving in the tight group sound most of the time, his well-dosed pulses of sonic sonorities transmitt a strong urgency, his bowed strokes pushing the pieces forward. On “Nightclub 1960”, he even ventures into melodic territory, while his elastic bass lends a truly contemporary edge to the closing “Concert d’Aujourd’hui”. His deep and sturdy lines provide for just the kind of grounded foundation Agnew needs for her airy and weightless solos.

Maybe the most important performer here, however, is the crowd. Recorded live in March of this year, “Histoire du Tango” benefits greatly from the sense of excitement, expectation and eroticism lingering in the air of the Crail Parish Church, sounding as crystaline as a studio production and as dynamic and colourful as a day out in Buenos Aires’ barrios. The window’s may have been shut the day of the concert, but I’m sure the doors were left ajar, allowing some fresh air and the pulse of urban life to trickle in.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Frevo Quartet
Homepage: Natural Studio Records

Related articles

The Cinematics: "Love and Terror"
Triceratopses to work: An album ...
15 Questions to John Lindberg/ String Trio of New York
It is celebration time for ...
Charnett Moffett: "Art of Improvisation"
Jaw-dropping runs: Channels Jaco Pastorius ...
CD Feature/ Bruno Råberg: "Lifelines"
All about melody and rhythm: ...
15 Questions to Christian Tetzlaff
Constructive criticism can occasionally be ...
Alina Ibragimovic: Remembers Roslavets on World Premiere Recording
Violinist Alina Ibragimova is paying ...
CD Feature/ Luis Orias Diz: "Acrílicos en la Sonrisa" & "Kammermusik"
A soloist, team player, accompanyist, ...
Patricia Kopatchinskaja: The Studio is her Friend now
Some, even her friend and ...
CD Feature/ Matthew McAllister: "Merula"
Composers are no robots: McAllister ...
15 Questions to Michael Zisman (Bandoneon)
Trying to track Michael Zisman's ...
15 Questions to Feargus Hetherington
On his homepage, violinist Feargus ...
Take me to the true Tango
A look at the question ...
CD Feature/ maelasta: "st"
Unusual but híghly creative: Imagine ...
15 Questions to Aisling Agnew
One of the most prominent ...
15 Questions to Matthew McAllister
"Global" and "modern" are the ...

Partner sites