The last time Frankly Music assembled a tango-centric concert was five years ago — more than long enough to justify a return of the classic musical form. This time, the chamber music company will end its season with tango pieces from South America and Europe in Return of the Tango on May 16, a concert that also features the return of guest musician Stas Venglevski and his bayan.
The tango is best identified as a dance form, but Frankly Music artistic director Frank Almond says this concert will focus exclusively on the tango as a musical form. “The music of the tango has evolved out of a form of lower class entertainment,” he says. “The tango dance is something slightly different as it involves intricate dance steps and can be very difficult to grasp.”
Evolving in Argentina around the turn of the last century, tango music was born out of a melting pot culture of more than two million immigrants who would descend on Buenos Aires alone. It originated in the club scene in the late 1880s, with the first written pieces surfacing in the following decade. Early tango pieces would have likely been scored for flute, violin, and guitar, or played on a solo piano in brothels and cabarets.
The name that brought tango to the international stage was that of Astor Piazzolla. Born in Argentina in 1921, Piazzolla was the son of Italian immigrants. As a young child, Piazzolla listened to his father’s tango records, which slowly developed his fascination with the style.
Eventually, Piazzolla would train in Europe as a classical musician but would bring that training back to merge the two styles, creating the style of “nuevo tango.” “Piazzolla was a revolutionary during his time,” says Almond. “Even though he was slightly ashamed initially because of his early upbringing, he really brought the two styles together to create something unique and new.”
This concert will feature a wide variety of as-of-yet undetermined pieces from not only South America but also Europe. “People don’t always realize that, while a number of pieces come from Brazil and South America, there are also a significant portion of tango music compositions that came from European composers,” says Almond.
“This is a really special concert,” explained Almond. “It really exemplifies what I want to do with this concert series. We want to give a place where people can go and enjoy chamber music without feeling alienated. We want to educate without making people feel like they are being talked at. This concert represents the core of what Frankly Music is about.”
The concert will also feature Venglevski in a prominent role. The musician, now living in Milwaukee, is a native of the Republic of Moldova, in the former Soviet Union, and rose to prominence in the 1980s for his mastery of his signature instrument: the bayan, a Russian style of accordion. Venglevski is a frequent performer with Frankly Music and other local ensembles, and is well-suited for the evening of tango music.
Frankly Music will perform its Return of the Tango concert at 7 p.m. May 16, at Wisconsin Lutheran College, 8815 W. Wisconsin Ave., Wauwatosa. Tickets are $35, $10 for students, and can be ordered at franklymusic.org. For more information on Frank Almond or to purchase his new record, A Violin’s Life, Vol. 2: Music for the Lipinski Stradivari, visit frankalmond.com.