Viola Tango Rock Concerto (2009/2011)

by | Dec 2, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Viola Tango Rock Concerto (2009/2011)
Composer: Benjamin Yusupov
Performers: Anibal Dos Santos, violas; Gina Medina, dancer; Orquesta Filarmonica de Bogota/ Ricardo Jaramillo
Studio: Navona Records NV5865 [11/15/11] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DD 5.1, DD 2.0
Length: 52 minutes
Rating: ****
This video from classical label Navona sort of fits in with many of their CDs breaking down some of the borders between classical music and other genres.  It’s certainly a most unusual concerto, to say the least. Russian violist/violinist Maxim Vengerov called it “the greatest concerto ever written for the viola.” Don’t know if I would go that far, but must admit it’s unique.
The work was originally commissioned by Vengerov in 2003 from Russian composer Yusupov. This is a video of its 2009 performance in Bogota, and has Dos Santos playing both a standard viola and a fancy electronic model in one movement, plus an accordionist, and both acoustic and electric guitarists. The six movements of the concerto flow into one another. The first two movements are like modern symphonic works, but then the drums, bongos, electric guitars and electric bass come in and stage lights begin to do their thing. Later there is some soloing on Spanish acoustic guitar and the accordion is in the spotlight.  Prior to the closing movement the viola is not featured again; probably because violist Dos Santos is getting ready for his part in the final movement (for which he studied the tango for a year). He comes out in front of the orchestra from one side in a red jacket while dancer/choreographer Gina Medina comes out from the other and they meet and do their sexy tango to the music of the final movement.
Rock fans may not find this enough of a rock experience for them, although it gets pretty noisy there in the middle of the work, and Piazzolla fans won’t find much of that genre either.  It’s definitely a striking work to see and hear, and if you appreciate genre-busting musical efforts, this is definitely one. The 12-page included booklet fills in more details about the event.
—John Sunier

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