You may be acquainted with the fact that Astor Piazzolla’s tango nuevo was not initially received with great gusto. In traditional tango circles his music was dismissed as ‘experimental’, because it could not be danced on. The load of criticism did not stop him to continue his experiments, although it did not entirely leave him indifferent. At a given moment, he decided to leave behind the musical traditions he had grown up with to pursue a classical composition training in Paris. His teacher, Nadia Boulanger was quick to realise that Piazolla’s talent was exactly rooted in what he had decided to abandon. His very own style, which contained traces of tango, jazz and classical music, was gradually taking shape in the course of his Paris years. It was later called Tango Nuevo, new tango, and that term accurately captures its essence: a totally idiosyncratic style of music, influenced by elements from a multitude of musical spheres.
With the present album Continuado, we are building on the Piazzolla tradition in many ways. We play some of his staple works – think Oblivion – as well as hidden gems like Vayamos al Diablo and Concierto para Quinteto. Our very own Inti de Maet provided an arrangement of Piazzolla’s Libertango. We have also included work from local composers, who have added their own, personal, contributions to the tango nuevo genre. Jeroen D’hoe sought inspiration from the two most widely known Argentinian dances, the milonga and the tango, while Ben Faes decided to foreground the electric guitar, which tends to be somewhat left to oblivion. Both Two Argentinian Dances and La Noche Confusa were written especially for Triunfal Quintet. Speaking of ‘new tango’!
Frédéric Devreese was, of course, hard to avoid. His love of tango is legendary and, as it turns out, a great source of inspiration for the young Jeroen D’hoe. Devreese wrote quite a number of works for quintet. We have opted for his Passage à 5.
Jeroen D’hoe on the project
When I was younger, I used to listen a lot to tango music by Piazzolla and other composers. But now I was invited for the first time to take a dip in the genre as a composer. In a way, it felt like a return to one of my earliest fields of interest.
I wrote Two Argentinian Dances as a sort of double-entity: two parts, each with their own features and very different from one another, but nevertheless inextricably linked together. The Milonga allowed me to accentuate the introvert and sensual, while the tango highlights virtuosity and energy.
Incidentally, the tango spontaneously occurred to me while I was on a holiday. The melody nestled into my head and was impossible to get rid of. On my return home, I immediately put it all in writing.
The opportunity to co-operate with the Triunfal Quintet has been a tremendous joy and a privilege for me as a composer: they are an extraordinarily dedicated, passionate and talented young ensemble! With an open mind and a strong artistic mission, they are striving to perpetuate the very soul of the tango and to allow it to evolve in a classical yet up-to-date context. The rehearsals were filled with energy, joy of playing and focus, which enabled us to fine-tune the score and parts in perfect partnership. As a result, we can now present a splendid studio recording! I am really looking forward to the prospect of a sequel to this adventure.
Jeroen D'hoe (1968) is a prolific composer, pianist and musicologist, who engages in various dialogues with other musical styles and other art disciplines, usually commissioned by orchestras, ensembles, festivals and museums. He received a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) and Master of Music in composition with John Corigliano from The Juilliard School (New York), in addition to Masters in composition (Piet Swerts) and piano (Johan Lybeert and Alan Weiss) at LUCA School of Arts, Campus Lemmens (Leuven) and a Master in Musicology (KU Leuven). Jeroen D'hoe won the National Composition Competition of Queen Elisabeth (2003), the SABAM Prize for Composition (2003) with Toccata-Scherzo, and the Composition Competition of the Province of Flemish Brabant (2002) with Festival Anthem. He received the “Golden Poppy” Award (SABAM) for his oeuvre in the classical composition category (2008).
He teaches composition at Campus Lemmens (LUCA School of Arts) and at the Utrecht Conservatory and is a professor at Musicology (KU Leuven), where he teaches about pop music. He is a member of the artistic-educational committee of the Flagey Academy and is visiting professor at The Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel. Jeroen D'hoe received the BAEF (Belgian American Educational Foundation) fellowship (1998).
Ben Faes on the project
Triunfal Quintet’s kind request for a composition was a challenge in many respects. There was a deadline; a moment the score was to be ‘finished’. When I write pieces for myself to play, I find it easier to try out and adjust things. This time, there was less room for experimentation, so I had to supply a reasonably worked-out idea. Fortunately, the co-operation with the Triunfal people went very smoothly. Right from the first rehearsal I felt that we were on the same wavelength.
The title, La Noche Confusa, gave me a foothold during the writing process. I started off from an idea that will sound familiar to a lot of people: you fall asleep, wake to a half slumber after a few hours, doze off again, have the weirdest of dreams, wake again, dream a next dream and when you finally wake up again, for a few moments you have no idea who or where you are.
It seemed an interesting thought for this piece to give the electric guitar a somewhat more prominent role, while traditionally the instrument has a rather supportive position in the tango repertoire. It is often the glue that holds all instruments together, but I wanted to reverse the roles for a change. Therefore, in this composition the electric guitar is given centre stage. It was a tremendous gift that the guitar part was to be played by musical jack-of-all-trades Inti de Maet. Since he is perfectly at home in classical music as well as in jazz, I could write in a very detailed fashion while leaving room for improvisation at the same time, and that is exactly what I relish in music.
Ben Faes (°1978)
Bram Van Weverberg on the project
As an accordion player, I have a lot of experience in working closely together with composers. The repertoire for the accordion is continually being expanded. This is always exciting, not only because you have to put complete trust in the composers you engage, but also because you have to keep pushing your own boundaries. With existing compositions, you can build on a certain tradition; with new work you start on square one.
For the present album, I was very eager to take on this challenge with the five of us. A very different process, since you have to come up with a common story, that preferably also fits within the composer's expectations. The co-operation with Jeroen and Ben was extremely smooth. Both were open to our feedback, which resulted in a form of synergy. Jeroen regularly showed us ideas while writing to see if it was technically playable. In this way, we were actively involved in his writing process. Ben immediately came up with an almost finished product. Yet there was also room for dialogue with him during rehearsals.
Finally, there was the challenge of recording. The ink was still wet, so to speak, when we went into the studio: a most exciting and interesting experience at the same time.
As a group, this creative process taught us to work together in a completely different way and we gained many new insights and experiences. Mission accomplished!
Inti de Maet on his arrangement: Libertango, the liberation of tango. Or rather a new, unchained tango. Astor Piazzolla could not have given us a clearer hint to get creative with his repertoire.
Just as Piazzolla himself repeatedly reworked his pieces, I tried to make a contemporary arrangement of them. I started from two ideas. A surprising prologue and a finale that feels grand and that preferably derails a bit. Once the theme of the Libertango was well set off, I could allow myself a little more freedom and let the instruments dialogue with each other. I couldn't resist challenging my fellow musicians with some virtuoso lines.
Jeroen and Ben, for their phantastic new music;
Felicia, for helping to shape our musical journey;
Robin, for his ‘magic touch’ in the studio;
MotorMusic and Antarctica Records, for their amazing support in the course of this project;
Els, for her splendid cover design;
Wim, for taking the initiative;
Zoë, Thomas, Eric and Phaedra, Phung and Han, Wies, for lending their ears and their patience.