Many classical musicians are interested in the Argentine tango repertoire. That is quite logical: it creates a nice contrast with the classical repertoire in a concert. Moreover, it is a musical style that seems to be easily accessible: not too difficult parts, a limited amount of keys and a clear harmonic language. One of the many reasons that especially the work of Piazzolla is programmed more often.
The state of the performance practice of Argentine Tango reminiscent of that of baroque music before the authentic performance practice. Regarding the baroque repertoire there was a clear reason for the non-authentic approach: there are no recordings from the time when the music was new and existing information on the manner of performing was difficult to access. How the style was originally performed will always be unknown. For tango this is not the matter at all. There are recordings and even video material of original versions. In some cases, the musicians from the brief heyday of ‘classic’ tango are still alive and can be consulted.
In the past decade I have taught professional performers and music students how to play tango. It is extraordinary to hear how exploring the typical fraseo (within the typical norms ‘free’ playing a rhythm compared to the metrum) inspires and develops the creativity of classical musicians. It is beautiful to see how they can start swinging as they go deeply into a musical style that derives its identity in such a specific way to time and rhythm and also how it is reflected in the approach of the classical repertoire. In addition, the percussive style of playing gives musicians a broader view on production of sound.
Argentine tango is a music traditionally played and created by classically trained musicians. The music and performance practice is therefore close to these performers and offers an exquisite repertoire for those who want to play something other than classical music.
As a basic course I give a masterclass of two sessions in which I work with groups of musicians (from 4 up to 20 people) and study arrangements in which the basic style elements are addressed.
Although there are many substyles in tango one can say that there can be a kind of basic approach that reflects the style in general. For the connoisseur something soon is tango or no tango. A masterclass or series of lessons can develop the understanding of this music at different levels.
Ultimately it would be nice if musicians express themselves with pleasure in the style-related standards or perhaps to consciously break with the tradition.
© Micha Molthoff 2016