We Love The Tango

A concert of tango music by great composers like PIazzolla and Albeniz features some of the city's top instrumentalists.

By - Apr 17th, 2015 12:59 pm
Pianist Elena Abend

Pianist Elena Abend

Classical musicians who play brass or wind instruments have few opportunities to perform chamber music. The first of two UW-Milwaukee’s Chamber Music Milwaukee concerts, scheduled for this Sunday, provides this outlet for players and audience alike. The second concert, called “The Tango Project” and scheduled for Wednesday, offers a wide range of instrumentalists in works based on the tango.

Sunday afternoon April 19th:
The Sunday afternoon concert will open with three duos each featuring Jennie Yu in an accompaniment role on piano:

Stefan Kartman will join Yu for a Joseph Haydn Divertimento in D major. This arrangement by Gregor Piatigorsky for cello allows access to a work written initially for a now obsolete string instrument – the baryton (basically a viola da gamba of six or seven strings, but provided with a large number of thin, metal strings running behind the fingerboard that resonate magically when the upper strings are bowed).

Greg Flint on French horn and Jennifer Clippert on flute will join Yu for a recent work by Katherine Hoover, Summer Night (1985), in the composer’s reduction of an original orchestra version. Flute and horn are an unusual combination. Hoover explains that she “wrote a short soliloquy for each … followed by a slow dance which grows out of the soliloquies, and then a lively one, as the instruments (or characters, or thoughts) meet and interact.”

Todd Levy

Todd Levy

Todd Levy will join Yu for Leonard Bernstein‘s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1942). Although we tend to think of Bernstein as prolific, this first published work was only one of two chamber works he wrote. The work is generally pensive, but opens up in the second movement to melodies and rhythms which “anticipate the harmonic idioms of West Side Story.”

The highlight of the evening will likely be a substantial work by Antonin Dvorak, his Serenade in D minor, Op 44. The ensemble includes two oboes (Katherine Young Steele and Margaret Butler), two clarinets (Levy and Katherine Kohler), two bassoons (Ted Soluri and Rudi Heinrich), three French horns  (Flint, Karen Suarez and Joshua Phillips) and two lower strings (Stefan Kartman on cello and Andrew Raciti on double bass). Many of these artists perform for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as well as teach at UWM.

Opening with a brief march that could suffice as band music, the work rapidly steps through a pastiche of melodies and temperaments. This might fail except for Dvorak’s gift for inventive melodies and creative orchestration. The atmosphere reflects that of 18th and 19th century European village wind orchestras. The lower strings provide a foundation while wind pairs exchange lines at a subdued pace.  Czech folk dances provide the energy and maintain momentum.

Wednesday evening April 22nd – Faculty Artist Series – The Tango Project:
Pianist Elena Abend has organized a more focused series of concerts featuring 20th century Latin American classical music. Begun on a smaller scale last year, this program follows a well received program in January featuring vocal program faculty in an evening of Latin song.

Wednesday evening’s program honors the tango through classic instrumental works. Inevitably, there will be a number of Astor Piazzolla‘s works. Piazzolla bridged the gap between dance hall and concert hall music without losing the spirit of the dance.

Two notable things about Piazzolla’s enticing compositions: most instrumentalists want to perform them and arrangements of the music work well. As with many works by Bach, the original instrumentation may be irrelevant. Adaptations are so much the norm that musicians may break away and add things not notated on the score. Abend comments that “you can’t do this with traditional classical music. This is the closest thing to being a jazz musician.”

Peter Thomas - Electric cello

Peter Thomas – Electric cello

Some of Piazzolla’s best known works will be represented in this program on flute and guitar, cello and piano, clarinet and piano, a piano trio with clarinet and cello and on cello alone. The players are pianist Elena Abend, flutist Jennifer Clippert, clarinetist Orlando Pimentel, cellist Peter Thomas and Rene Izquierdo on classical guitar. Thomas, equally at home with the Milwaukee Symphony as with his rock band, I am not a pilot, will play his electric cello for this concert.

A majority of the program introduces less well known composers.

Accordion virtuoso Stas Venglevski will join double bass player John Babbitt for a pair of compositions each has composed.

Violinist Bernard Zinck will join Abend for works by Isaac Albéniz and by André Previn. Actually neither composers are Latin American, but in the spirit of the evening both works are dramatic tangos.

The less known works include Suite Buenos Aires by Máximo Diego Pujol for flute and guitar, El Choclo (The corn cob) by Ángel Villoldo, a lively work arranged by Pimentel for clarinet and guitar and Millonga de Mis Amores by Pedro Láurenz, arranged by Exequiel Mantega for clarinet and piano.

Reflecting upon the evening, Abend observed that she had considered adding dancers. There was no need. This evening promises to offer a unifying theme, variety and a first rate set of players.

The 3:00 PM Sunday, April 19th Chamber Music Milwaukee concert takes place in the Helen Bader Concert Hall in the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, 2419 East Kenwood Blvd. Metered parking is available in the Zelazo Center lot (to the south of the building) and in the UWM Union Parking Garage, 2200 East Kenwood Blvd. Tickets: General – $12; Seniors, UWM Faculty and Staff – $8; Students & Majors – Free
Reach the box office at phone: (414) 229-4308 or

The 7:30 PM Wednesday, April 22nd Chamber Music Milwaukee Faculty Artist Series – Tango Project concert takes place in the Peck School of the Arts Recital Hall – 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd.
This concert is free.

0 thoughts on “Classical: We Love The Tango”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to hear this concert! Elena Abend has shone brilliantly as an expressive and interpretive pianist in many concerts in the past, and this sounds like a very emotional (tango!) show!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Christina,

    thank you so much for your compliments I really appreciate it coming from someone with your high level of accomplishments!

    I hope you enjoyed the concert on Wednesday night, it was truly a wonderful time for us on stage!

    Thank you for your support.


    Elena Abend

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