Frank Almond & Stas Venglevski Together Again

Performing Argentine tango music with cellist Roza Borisova on March 27.

By - Mar 23rd, 2023 08:10 am
Stas Venglevski and Frank Almond. Photo courtesy of Frankly Music.

Stas Venglevski and Frank Almond. Photo courtesy of Frankly Music.

Frankly Music presents a special collaboration between violinist Frank Almond and accordionist Stas Venglevski, with cellist Roza Borisova completing a trio, at the Wisconsin Lutheran College next Monday. This is the latest installment in a series of concerts exploring the tango, which has become a popular format for Frankly Music.

Since immigrating from the Republic of Moldova in 1992, Venglevski has become a staple of Milwaukee’s music scene. His virtuosic playing style, captivating original compositions and improvisations and unique transcriptions of classical music have mesmerized audiences. Tangos are only a small part of his repertoire.

Borisova, Vengkevski’s wife and an instructor at Lawrence Academy of Music, is also an esteemed classical musician. As a founding member of the Veronika String Quartet, she has an impressive background in Russian classical music and a strong affinity for tango music.

The infectious, sensual and emotional character of Argentine tango music has captivated the world for centuries. It gained popularity in Europe over a century ago, then rose to greater heights when featured in mid-twentieth-century Hollywood films. Astor Piazzolla further revolutionized the style when he introduced ‘Nuevo Tango,’ which incorporated many of the nuanced features of Western classical music.

The Frankly Music program will explore Argentine tango music’s rhythms, melodies, and energy while eschewing the sensuous dancers, oft-sad lyrics and rough edges of extemporaneous music found in tango bars. The concert will offer a unique fusion of Western classical music and Argentine tango, representing Piazzolla’s compositions as well as tangos in a more original style.

Venglevski performs on the bayan – a Russian form of accordion that evokes the timbre of the featured instrument in Argentine tango bands, the Bandoneon. But the Bayan is a more refined instrument, able to perform a wide classical repertoire as well.

Some tango music includes classical styling. Many other variations focus on the tango’s energy, emotion, and signature beat with simple, hard-to-forget melodic lines. The music is often improvised, owing some of that to jazz elements in the origins of the tango. Venglevski prepares scores for the trio. But within the score, the music may take unpredictable turns.

Western classical musicians typically understand how to create dynamics in performance, but are often less flexible with timing. The freedom inherent in tango music is embedded in its rhythmic timing, which requires classical musicians to adjust their usual style. “You have to be able to play off one another,” Almond states. “The notes on the page are often just a sketch — chord patterns. You have to know the melody and how to manipulate the time. So that you don’t sound like you are playing one and three the whole time.”

To commemorate Bach’s 338th birthday on March 31, just four days after this concert, it will include a Bach transcription arranged by Venglevski. His custom-crafted bayan, a reed instrument similar to an organ, can produce a dynamic range of sound unmatched by organs limited to a regulated airflow.

And of course the chemistry between Almond and Venglevski is a part of the fun. (Check this Tom Strini review of one of their preceding concerts in 2011.)

The concert will begin at 7:00 p.m., Monday, March 27, at the Schwan Concert Hall (8815 W. Wisconsin Ave.) at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Tickets may be purchased online or at the door. Free parking is available in a parking structure west of the hall.

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