Claudio Constantini is one of the most interesting bandoneon players in the international music scene. He is a renowned concert piano and bandoneon player. As a composer and interpreter, he dedicated to the exploration of numerous repertoires, from tango to classical music, jazz and popular music. I am honored to interview Claudio and I thank him deeply for sharing his experience here.
1. Hello Claudio, tell us: how did you get to the bandoneon and what fascinates you about this instrument?
Hello Omar. Nice to meet you and everyone! I came to the bandoneon as many people like me,
are not from Argentina: through the music of Astor Piazzolla. I discovered a Piazzolla album at home
(it belonged to my parents) and out of curiosity I listened to it.
What I heard, blew my head off! Not just the incredible music - never heard anything similar in my life - but the very special sound of that instrument I didn't know, the bandoneon. It captivated me from the first moment. I was studying piano and my dream from that moment was also to play the bandoneon.
Years later, I bought my first bandoneon (at 21) and I made my dream come true. I am fascinated by many things about this instrument but above all the way I connect so deeply with it, it literally becomes an extension of my body when I touch it; unlike the piano that is always separated from me physically and I must connect (physically) with it.
2. How do piano practice and knowledge affect you in bandoneon practice?
The piano and bandoneon are two totally different instruments to play, but for me they complement perfectly. The piano does not have the ability to hold a note or to breathe as the bandoneon does. The "legato" in the piano is actually fictional, one has to create it with variations in dynamics and the "touch" of the instrument, while in the bandoneon the only limitation in the duration of a note is the bellows extension.
On a technical level the only thing it helps to play one or the other is simply the digital dexterity; in my case I was already almost professional pianist when I started with the bandoneon (I had two years of higher study to graduate as a pianist). But learning the bandoneon from scratch (and without a teacher) took me a long time, and only once you already had familiarity with the keyboards could you really apply that dexterity and flexibility of the fingers/hands to the bandoneon.
3. What do you think a bandoneonist can learn from a pianist (and vice versa)?
Both instruments are polyphonic, so in both we can think fundamentally in melody and chords at once, or in turn in independent voices (counterpoint). However, the bandoneon is much more limited in both things than the piano, so if we see an ensemble where there are both instruments, normally the piano will deal with the harmonic and rhythmic structure, while the bandoneon will interpret the melodies.
Paradoxically, there are pianists who "sing" in a more expressive way than some bandoneon players, and bandoneon players who delineate harmonic structures in a more defined way than some pianists. What I mean, maybe, is that all musicians can learn anything from anything instrument; even a singer can learn something about singing from a guitar or even from a percussion instrument. Curiosity and open mind will make us learn everything from everything.
4. What are your reference bandoneon players?
The first would undoubtedly be Astor Piazzolla for the reason stated in my answer to your first question. But there are others who have influenced me enormously and that I always carry within me when I play the bandoneon. Without order of preference are Leopoldo Federico, Juan José Mosalini, Dino Saluzzi, Daniel Binelli, Aníbal Troilo, Néstor Marconi.
Victor Villena deserves special mention who was my only teacher of bandoneon and truly a complete musician whom I admire and owe much. And also Rodolfo Daluisio who together with Alejandro Barletta opened my ambition to play the great classics on the bandoneon.
5. And what are your reference pianists?
There are four. In the very first place, and also my musician nr.1 reference in any instrument: Artur Rubinstein. Followed by three I love equally: Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, and Claudio Arrau who was also the teacher of my teacher, Achilles Delle Vigne.
6. Your musical experience ranges from classical to tango and jazz: how do you reconcile these three genres?
No special way. I play all the music I like so much to encourage myself to play it, and I intend to do my best. I don’t have pre-concepts about whether it’s difficult or if I’m getting into a "terrain" I don’t know. To know a new terrain you have to risk getting into it.
7. What’s your study routine?
With a daughter and multiple things to do (plus multiple instruments and music to study), my study routine is: study when you can! There are days or even whole weeks in which I can't study, or have a study session as I would, which for me is a certain amount of hours of focus, concentration and inspiration.
It’s absolutely impossible for me to make music without being emotionally involved, even if it’s an 8-hour study session. Believe me I’ve tried, but it’s impossible for me. Even the most monotonous repetition exercises always sound like music and feeling.
8. You are very active on social media. What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of this form of promotion?
Social media is like a knife, which can cut food for you to eat a rich family meal, where you will spend a moment of joy and fullness. It can also serve to stab you. In my case, I decide to concentrate only on the positive aspects that things give me, because what I want to offer the world is something positive.
And that’s what I try to do every day from my little corner in my house in Madrid. Every day I get messages from people grateful to receive the gift of music daily, thanks to what I share. This is much bigger and more important than how well I play, or how much prestige I have, or other musicians or people thinking about me, or thinking about social media. If your life purpose is to positively affect people’s lives, like me, so social media is a blessing. Nothing less than a free tool for this purpose.
This is just one of the many positive uses you can give to social networks. Positive or negative aspects of social networks are proportionally related to positive or negative behaviour of people.
9. Speaking of bandoneon: what are the greatest virtues and defects of this instrument from your point of view?
I am a little reluctant to point out virtues or defects, as I see my instrument (and any instrument)
as a consequence of the need for human expression. Like all instruments, it has gone
developing from his first "grandfather", that first prototype that first emerged as an idea
in the head of a person or a collective.
It has been developed with interpretive needs of the people and the music they play. In that sense we could say that any instrument is in essence perfect, and imperfect at the same time, as the humans themselves who create and perfect it. Perhaps my answers are a little "holistic" and unclear. In any case, I prefer to define myself as imperfect rather than blaming my poor bandoneon whom I accept and love for how it is, with all its characteristics.
10. Do you have experience with new production bandoneons? Do you find differences with vintage instruments?
I have a beautiful Doble A from about 1939, as a luthier once told me. I got it 16 years ago, it’s the second bandoneon I bought, the first was a Premier I used for two years. That’s my only thorough experience with a bandoneon.
That said, I have heard and tried new bandoneons, with incredible results. Two instruments that I thought were exceptionally good were a Doble A of new production, and one of Baltazar Estol. In the future I plan to have one of each, since for now I walk through life with only one bandoneon...
11. What future do you see for the bandoneon?
I can’t predict what future the bandoneon has. On the one hand I see more bandoneonists than before.
I don’t know if it’s because the networks give them more exposure, or if the instrument is slowly
becoming more popular. I’m encouraged to guess that this is the second option.
I don’t see it becoming a "mainstream" instrument anytime soon, since in that sense it cannot compete against the popularity of the piano, violin or guitar. It is a very complex instrument to learn and outside of Argentina and a couple of specific places in the world, it is very difficult to get a teaching or see other bandoneonists play.
I dream of taking the bandoneon around the world. I have been playing it in concerts in more than 30 countries,
I’m missing a few. And I want the world to fall in love with the bandoneon, to see how incredible this instrument is
and how well you can play music of all styles. So I concentrate on playing everything
music other than tango, because although I love tango, most of the music that is played on the bandoneon is tango.
The more the bandoneon remains localized in this tradition and explores little in others, the less scope it will have, unless tango reconquers the world as it did in some way at the beginning of the 20th century, which is also not an option to rule out.
12. What would you recommend to those who want to start studying bandoneon?
Today they have a huge advantage over past generations: the internet. Listen to all the music possible for bandoneon. Spend quality time with your instrument. Study with love, think of the beautiful music you will be able to play once you overcome that enormous obstacle that is to learn the keyboard by opening and closing. Moments made of incalculable happiness and fullness are waiting for you if you dive into it.
13. What are your upcoming musical projects?
On the one hand I maintain my concert work as a classical pianist and bandoneonist. This involves everything from recitals where I play the great composers to concerts as a soloist of orchestras, in addition to my already established projects as my last album Incandescence, that explores the world of jazz and improvisation.
But my biggest life project is to reach as many people as possible and provide
an unrepeatable moment that brings something positive to their lives. I believe in the infinite power
music as a conciliatory element of people and an unlimited source of love and beauty.
It’s something spiritual, almost like a deity. If I can pass that on to some people, I will be achieving my goal of making the world a beautiful place to live through music. All my musical projects start from this desire as a base, which makes this really important, beyond any project itself which is just a tool for expressing this desire.
personal web page;
- Claudio Constantini on Spotify;
- Claudio Constantini on Instagram;
- Claudio Constantini on TikTok;