Perché studiare musica classica con il bandoneon. Perché studiare musica classica con il bandoneon.

Why study classical music with bandoneón

A repertoire that is also good for tango

Although it is inextricably linked to tango, the bandoneón was born in Germany as an instrument for folklore and popular music and over the years it has been played in many contexts. One of these is that of "classical" music.

Let's define classical music

The more you study and deepen classical music, the more you realize that this term is wholly unsuitable to define a genre that should span at least six centuries and that should be applicable to completely different styles. However, in this article we accept the universally understood definition.

The precursors in Germany

When the bandoneón was quite common in Germany (until the 1950s) it was normal to play scores from the classical repertoire. An example is virtuoso Walther Pörschmann, to whom I dedicated an article on March 16th 2021 (his birthday). In the article you can listen to a Pörschmann recording of a famous classic score, the Hungarian Dance n. 5 by Brahms.

It's interesting to point out that in the bandoneon methods published in Germany it was very common to propose classical scores. Here are some examples taken from the method Bandonion Schule method by Heinz Schlegel, published by Harth - Musik - Verlag in the late 1950s.

Example of a classical repertoire with bandoneon taken from a German bandoneon method of the 1950s.
Example 1: Chanson Triste Op. 40 n.2 by P. Tschaikowsky, from Bandonion Schule by H. Schlegel.


Esempio di brani classici per bandoneon pubblicati in Germania dalla Verlag negli anni Cinquanta.
Example 2: Catalog of "classic" scores for bandoneón, ed. Verlag (Germany, late 1950s).

Phrasing, cadences, musical language

The study of "classical" music and the evolution of language music helps to understand modern music too. The fundamentals of musical language are common to all styles, therefore studying and understanding these foundations constitutes the training of the musician.

The bandoneonist who plays tango will therefore find phrases and cadences also in classical music, as well as all the other elements of the musical language. A sufficiently thorough study is required to conceptualize and contextualize those elements, but such a study is for the benefit of any style or genre you choose to perfect.

From the historical point of view, the evolution of Western music can be summarized in the path (or paths) of "classical" music. I think it is therefore fundamental to be trained also from a historical and musicological point of view. For a musician this means knowing the historical periods and the correct playing styles, the processes that led to a certain style, the evolution that followed, having studied various scores from several periods and knowing how to correctly perform and interpret them.

Technique

Studying "classical" music with the bandoneon involves some technical challenges which are also interesting for those who play other styles, including tango. The solution of certain technical problems gives solid foundations and ease on the instrument also for the benefit of tango or any other musical genre.

I sometimes think some musicians are afraid to learn a certain style because they think that this could negatively affect their training and could prevent them from learning different styles. If this happens, it is because the learned technique is limiting and reductive, or it has not been understood. A valid general technique must be applicable to any style the musician wishes to deepen and should give the possibility to find solutions to the problems that style entails, whenever such solutions are not already contained in the technique itself.


The correct technique is the one that leads towards musical freedom and independence.

Tradition of classical bandoneon in Argentina

In Argentina during the golden age of tango it was not common to perform classical pieces in public with bandoneón; many great bandoneon players had several in their repertoire but they were mostly for personal and "domestic" study.

In this sense, the masters Alejandro Barletta (video) and particularly Rodolfo Daluisio are an exception, because they gave importance to the so-called classical bandoneon, they have shown the great technical and expressive possibilities during countless concerts and have perfected the technique of the instrument in this direction (video).

M. Daluisio created a pedagogy of bandoneón and defined the specific technical and expressive aspects, thus allowing conceptualization and objective transmission. In this way the technique he teaches becomes easily applicable to any genre and musical style, be it classic, contemporary or tango.

Composition of images: on the left the bandoneon master Alejandro Barletta, on the right the bandoneon master Rodolfo Daluisio.
Left: Alejandro Barletta; right: Rodolfo Daluisio.

I find it interesting to note how also other great bandoneonists of the past gave importance to the classical repertoire as part of the musician's training.

I think for example of Pedro Maffia, founder and inspirer of the bandoneón course at the Buenos Aires Conservatory, who included many classical pieces in the program, taking partly as reference the study path of the piano (I have already talked about this in this article dedicated to bandoneón course at Manuel de Falla).

Conclusions: does the classical bandoneón exist?

Personally I think that speaking of a tanguero bandoneon rather than classical bandoneón is misleading and counterproductive. If it is true that tango and classical repertoire are two different styles and genres, it is dangerous to create a dichotomy that in reality does not exist but does so only in the head of those who create this division.

Therefore I don't find a valid reason to prevent a "tango" bandoneon player studying "classical" music or vice versa.

Does the classical bandoneón exist? No, in my opinion it does not exist, except as a repertoire and study path which improves the musician, which is also formative for other genres and which in any case also needs other languages to be understood and perfected.

In short, for a bandoneon player playing tango is good for the classical repertoire and playing classical repertoire is good for tango, or any other genre.

To sum up the meaning of the article, I think a phrase of the great Duke Ellington is perfect: there are only two kinds of music, good music and all the rest.

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