Interview with Quinteto de Tango Invisibile by Andrea Aguzzi (January 2010)

When and how was born your Quinteto? How did you meet?

Barbara Varaassi Pega (piano): Our quinteto was born at the end of 2001. I was just arrived in Milan and studied piano at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi. What I wanted was to recreate the ensemble that I had in Argentina before leaving for Europe, a littel bit for nostalgia, a littel bit to continue playing beautiful music. I had prepared many arrangements that I had brought with me and a great desire, but I missed the musicians. The first to be contacted was the bass player, but soon he left the group due to time’s problems but he called his friend, Virgilio, which remained stable thereafter. A friend introduced me to Emanuele and there was the guitar, he was the first to add up with enthusiasm to the project. Then I put an ad in the baccheca the library of the conservatory searching for an accordionist, because there were no bandoneonists in the area, and the first to call was a talented musician with experience in latin – american music, and here’s Gino. It was very funny because he confessed later that day he had seen the ad he was so happy and he wanted to play the tango so much that he tore it from baccheca! The last to enter was Enzo, Gino knew him, who replaced another violinist to remain then stable. And that’s all.

Emanuele Forni (guitar): … to finish the genesis of the group I shall add that the process to find available musicians occurred over a period of one year and six months or so: during this period Barbara and I have met several times discussing on topics like “but will we never put together all five components for a quinteto? … and where we find an accordionist / bandoneon which could not only play classical music or liscio? “. After a few months we really begins to doubt to find people suitable both from a musical and human point of view and then we fantasized about a hypothetical Quintet composed by invisible and very nice musicians, like the invisible motorcycle in the animation of Hair Bear Bunch. After these digressions we finally decided the name.

What is your musical background and how did you arrive to play tango?

Enzo Albini (violin): we all come from a classical instrument tradition, but certainly at that time we met not by chance. We were looking for a reason to be able to best express our musicality. The tango was the opportunity that start our journey.

Barbara: It shall seem strange but not everyone likes the tango in Argentina. Indeed, many young people despise it considering it “old stuff”, which I never understood. As for me, certainly being Argentine you feel tango anywhere, and so it is fairly simple to approach it. When I came in contact, still very young, I liked it immediately. Then sometimes in my piano lessons I played some tango, especially Piazzolla, but this does not make you learn the style. That came much later, when I was already at the University of Music, where the famous maestro Federico Domingo conducted his orchestra. I spent time listening to and dreamed of playing like that, and with them. Meanwhile, I started taking piano lessons with the best tango pianist in my home town Rosario, and slowly I began to discover the mysteries and the ways which the notes were becoming something else and I fell in love forever. Until today I played a lot of tango, with many people, and I am very happy. The best thing is that I realized that dream, because in the end I went into the Federico’s orchestra for a full year. Now I continue to refine with Master Gustavo Beytelmann in Holland, that is the most complete and gifted teacher who I never met, so I hope to take something!

In your record “Quintetto de Tango Invisibile” you play an almost “classical” tango, Piazzolla is the more played composer but there are compositions by more traditional composers like Troilo and De Caro. Why this choice of repertoire? Your almost seems to draw from the roots of tango …

Gino Zambelli (accordion / bandoneon): The substance of the repertoire chosen for this record work is undoubtedly attributed to Barbara. Together, over the years, we played the most beautiful pages of the tango to her proposals: Troilo, De Caro, Pugliese, but also the Piazzolla’s ‘Tango Nuevo’ all the way to contemporary Mederos, so we could find in the musics that she choose, a balance where all of us could express ourselves at our best with a common awareness of being able to give the public an image of tango from its origins until today.

Barbara: For the tango, like any other music is made by many artists that set out the genre all over history. So I think it is not right and it’s very poor, to play only Piazzolla and not others who have contributed to this story with pieces of infinite beauty and novelty. Unfortunately Piazzolla, though brilliant, was the only one to be recognized in Europe, I think because his music is also closer to the culture of this continent more than the others. So I think that making a cd that included pieces of great composers such as Troilo and De Caro is essential to have a wider and interesting point of view about what this music really is.
Emanuele: It seems important for me, however, to report that after the first few years, each of us had made significant and important contributions to the artistic direction of the group. Gino for example, has composed many songs for us which we have chosen two specially for inclusion in the CD: Giada and Milonga por Stefy. Music and lyrics are very poignant, but also imbued with a “Tango” color by themselves. Once we were at dinner with a friend from Argentina and she was listening to just these two tracks, she looked at me agitated and said it was the first time she listened to an ‘Italian’ and yet so viscerally Argentina tango. Our origins create an indelible mark on our behavior and our way of seeing things but we can be influenced and this creates often very interesting crossovers.

A question for Emanuele Forni, what guitar do you play on this record? In the picture within the disk you hug a classical guitar but on the record the sound is different … is it another guitar or did you use effects?

Emanuele: In this record I play three guitars, two classic (a Cuenca and a Khono) and an elettric one (Fender Stratocaster with a few basic effects such as chorus, flanger and reverbs). Generally I preferred to use for traditional repertories like Pugliese and De Caro a more acoustic sound and play on the electric contrast on more recent songs such as Piazzolla and Gino. In some cases the choice is almost obligatory becaurse you can recognize from the score (or the thought of the arrangement) if a music is born for a type of guitar or another, in other cases the choice comes from being able to recreate a a kind of atmosphere, a practice based on listening to the great masters of this style.

In recent years the tango has experienced a new evolution of style with new musicians such as the Gotan Project that brought sounds and styles of production and recording closer to the DJ culture, listening to your record, I noticed a recording that I seemed more … live … less “refined” perhaps, but more truthful, we can hear the breathing, the sound of fingers on the keyboard of the accordion .. was it an aesthetic decision?

Enzo: We have deliberately tried ‘real’ sound, without much editing work, just to enhance the authenticity of our music. It happens to me to listen to this album and find myself in that place, reliving the emotions of those days. I think that it has been done, maybe not just a fine work, but surely a totally original and ‘timeless’ job.

Barbara: The sounds of the instrument, the rhythmic effects, breaths, even marking the time on the floor, are absolutely part of the song, and therefore they must be made to feel. For example, there are effects like the fiddle that hit the wood or passes the strings over the bridge that would make shiver an orchestral violinist, but were used often and are very beautiful

What do you think of the role played by Piazzolla in rebirth and renewal in the style of the tango? How you deal in front of this model?

Barbara: Definitely we have a big debt in front of the beloved Astor, especially as regards the approach of the mass audience for this kind of music that was not so much followed outside Argentina before. Also because by using elements of jazz and classic in a more concrete way (even the others composers did) he has done that his music was immediately appreciated by people of many other places and could be played and in large concert halls and theaters, making for it easier to spread around the world. But it is also strange to keep talking about him as if he was the last of the history, the most modern, after which everything stopped. This is not the truth, it would be like being stuck to Stravinsky, without looking further. Currently, there are so many important people who write, compose and play and has continued with the development of this music, which is totally open to new ideas and above all has a long way to run since it is a musical genre that exists barely from a century and something.

Do you considered your tango music for dancing or even just to listen to like Piazzolla said? A music concert halls, perhaps contemporary music?

Barbara: We have a very large repertoire, so that we play both listening then dance music, although this distinction is a little bit ridiculous because everything can be danced, just to be agreed with the style, and even more: all can be definitely heard. However it is not certainly contemporary, because died 17 years ago, and his music is now part of the traditional style, then we’ll see.

Enzo: In recent years, are springing up everywhere schools that teach how to dance Tango.The public not only wnat to hear but also see what happens in the milongas, but even physically attending the show.

For our part, we try to mature the musical aspect, finding a sound that looks forward, without forgetting to mention the fact that the combination of different forms of expression can only enrich the content of our show. Dancers in a concert hall for contemporary music? … Why not!

What are your upcoming projects?

Emanuele: Currently we have a lot of material in our repertoire that we would like to set on a record but we must also deal with the current market situation and this is not very encouraging. We have an unpublished version of the concerto for bandoneon, guitar and orchestra by Piazzolla “in miniature” for the Quintet, several contemporary tango like Potenza, Torres and new compositions by Gino.And then concerts, tours and a great desire to be surprised.

Barbara: continue to play together and improve, it is a long and difficult road but very interesting and beautiful, just start to walk with lots of dedication and always ready looking for new ideas.

Thank you very much!