Orchestra transforms tango in summer series
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 15:07
Draped in the glamour and multiplexed versatility and improvisation uncommon to the regular spectator, the tango musical group known as Kalinka performed Monday evening at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.
Sponsored by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra as part of its third Sounds of Summer series, “Tanglisimo” featured Kalinka, who brought with it a variety of voices both timeless and modern in their performance. Olga Ferroni, a Moldovan violinist, created the group in 2010 and was joined by Polish pianist Krystof Srebrakowski, Italian accordionist Pasquale Valerio and Florida-native bass player Doug Mathews.
Their repertoire consists mostly of Argentinean tangos, but with a name such as Kalinka, the group could easily be imagined as a collection that thrives on its musical multiplicity and renaissance of melting pots and cultures.
In Russian folklore, Kalinka is a word that translates to “Snowberry” and has come to symbolize the undying trace of family roots and blood. As for Kalinka the musical group, it’s more than that. It’s the undying roots of love, passion, longing and melancholy for the past as an integral part of a multicultural future always open to new possibilities. It’s an abstraction and a connection at the same time, and this in turn permits Kalinka to vest the authorial garments of songs like “La Cumparsita” by Gerardo Matos Rodríguez and “Por Una Cabeza” by Carlos Gardel — or stretching themselves as far as “Utomliennoye Solntse” (Weary Sun) by Jerzy Petersburski and “Serdtse” (Heart) by Isaak Dunayevsky.
“Tango is very international dance music,” Srebrakowski said.
Kalinka makes the genre both particular and universal, luring in ancestral melodies of the polka and the Viennese waltz, and yet armoring themselves against the traditional clutches to allow the tango Nuevo to step in, finally victorious.
“Russian and Polish tango have a lot in common: gypsy notes, influences from Romance and a lot of sentimental expression,” Ferroni said.
Who knew tango wasn’t just tango? But this is precisely the message they wanted to convey. This pilgrimage has transformed tango again and again into a worldwide phenomenon, sometimes dressed up in rags, reminiscent of the slums of Buenos Aires, and other times clad in its Parisian tuxedo.
“I believe that music flourishes where human beings meet, for the fantasia and the passion to make music. The great traditional tango is Argentinean, but music links everybody; when you meet the Russian tango, the Polish tango, Italian or Argentinean tango, you will find the connection between all these four different types of languages originating in different places, but becoming one,” Valerio said.
In addition to this complex and magnificent mix, whether we are talking about the musicians themselves as multinationals, or the music as a representation of tango from its infancy to its present maturity, Kalinka succeeds in fostering a new variety. This was primarily evident in their interpretation of Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango,” quite varied from Yo-Yo Ma’s version, or even Piazzolla’s.
“We can transform ourselves quickly from one style to another: tango, classical, jazz, disco, rock, pop. Whatever you name it, we play it," Srebrakowski said. “Even playing tango alone, you have to be very versatile.”
This versatility, vital not only to Kalinka as a group but essential to tango as an improvisational art form, might just be a result of tango and its ongoing journey. Migration from one place to the next has been the history of tango since its beginnings at the Rio de la Plata on the border between Argentina and Uruguay in the late 1800s. It is no surprise then that Kalinka’s repertoire consisted of tangos suggestive of this deep and mournful longing, like Carlos Gardel’s “Volver” (Return) and even some of its European and tango Nuevo songs like “Vuelvo al Sur” (I Return to the South) by Piazzolla.
“I would never think I would play this kind of music, because growing up in classical, traditional education I never assumed I would end up playing tango,” Ferroni said.
Tango is a time machine of musical genres finely exemplified in Kalinka. Whether it be jazz and electric double bass influences from Mathews, the accordion and the violin, or the classical and the baroque, Kalinka has it all.