MusicUnitesUS brings modern tango to campus

Pablo Ziegler quartet, dancers perform during residency Oct. 15 to 20

Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo

The Pablo Ziegler Classical Tango Quartet

When the world-renowned Pablo Ziegler Classical Tango Quartet comes to campus this week, they’ll bring an elegant incarnation of a genre that began as street music and dance.

Tango became popular worldwide in the early 1900s after wealthy South Americans – who learned it from African immigrants – brought it with them on their travels to metropolitan cities like Paris, New York and London. It first sprouted among the lower classes.

The music’s rhythms came from Africa but picked up various inflections throughout Europe and South America until it began to sound like what is recognized today.

“In a hundred-something years of evolution, tango has really acquired different characters because it was open to cross-semination with different music like jazz and classical and avant-garde,” says Fernando Rosenberg, associate professor of Hispanic studies and comparative literature, who recommended the group for this semester’s MusicUnitesUS residency. “It always preserved a central core but it was already global in that it was a culture of immigrants.”

MusicUnitesUS works to promote understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures through music. The Pablo Ziegler Classical Tango Quartet will participate in a variety of classes, workshops and concerts – all open to the public – on campus from Oct. 15 to 20. For a full schedule, visit the MusicUnitesUS website.

The quartet’s visit will culminate on Oct. 20 with a concert in Slosberg Recital Hall on Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. Guest dancers Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo will also perform. Robert Ferris Thompson, a Yale professor and the author of “Tango: The Art History of Love,” will give a preconcert talk at 7 p.m. in which he’ll discuss the origins of tango in Central Africa.

Ziegler is the preeminent living member of a groundbreaking tango ensemble that was led by Astor Piazzolla, a composer and bandoneon-player credited with revolutionizing the genre and bringing it to concert halls. A Latin Grammy-winning pianist, Ziegler now leads his own quartet in haunting, rhythmic new compositions as well as dynamic works by tango legends like Piazzolla and J.C. Cobian. Along with Ziegler, the quartet features Hector Del Curto on bandoneon, Jisoo OK on cello and Pedro Giraudo on double bass.

“Since this is about tango, we felt really strongly we wanted to have some element of dance,” says Judith Eissenberg, music professor and MusicUnitesUs founder, adding that although every event will include music and dance, they will not always be performed together as classical tango for stage doesn’t necessarily invite actual dance. "In some ways what Pablo is bringing is an idealized, more musically complex version of the dance. For example, as a member of the Lydian String Quartet, I wouldn’t invite someone to dance the minuet in the style of the period while I was playing a late Beethoven quartet,” Eissenberg says.

On Friday, Oct. 19, from 7 to 10 p.m., Ghi and Merlo will lead the Tango Salon in Slosberg Recital Hall. Couples can sign up in advance for the free workshop by emailing Eissenberg.

While audiences and workshop participants will have opportunities to encounter the music and dance as separate art forms, there may be surprise encounters in the residency. Eissenberg adds, “Tango is a sort of inflammatory, exciting culture – relationship and improvisation is at its core.  Who knows what will happen?”

Saturday's concert has sold out, but all other events are free and open to the public.

Categories: Arts, International Affairs

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage