Bandoneon – King of Tango: CT Tango Ensemble’s Stanislav Anguelov talks about using the Bandoneon on their new CD “Tango Club”
March 13, 2010
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“Were Bach to be born again, he would be a Bandoneon player.” (Rodolfo Mederos)
The CT Tango Ensemble’s new CD Tango Club, (released in 2010 on the Good Music record label – www.goodmusic.com) features Bandoneonist Stanislav Anguelov who also plays the Accordion on the recording. Stanislav studied the classical Accordeon in Bulgaria, but his involvement with Tango music created the desire to learn the instrument most associated with the Tango – the Bandoneon. After our first Cape Town Tango Ensemble CD El Tango en Africa, Stanislav wanted to explore this instrument – as authentically Argentine and Tango as one can get, despite the German heritage of the instrument. We have a drive to be as authentic to the spirit of Tango as we can, while having something new to say. We are an African group including Bulgarian and Polish Musicians playing Argentine music after all!
At the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2001 our Ensemble had the great fortune to meet Argentine Tango Master, Composer and Bandoneon Mastro Prof. Riccardo Fiorio. He was extremely complimentary of the ensemble’s idiomatic playing, learnt through recordings, rehearsals and many milongas where we could get feedback from dancers. In particular, Fiorio priased Stanislav for using the Accordeon to imitate the playing style of the Bandoneon. This chance meeting led to a long friendship, and he even gave us permission to use his composition A Borges on our first CD. Stanislav bought himself a secondhand Bandoneon, and with charcteristic determination, started practising. Feeling competent enough to benefit from world-class musicians, Stanislav packed his Bandoneon and in 2005 took the journey to the Land of Tango.
It was an eye (and ear-) opening experience. He heard the finest tango orchestras: Sexteto Mayor, Hernandez Fierro Orqustra Tipica, Color Tango, El Aranque and many more. He had an intensive period of study with Riccardo Fiorio. He met the famous touring group Quatro Tango and also had lessons with the Bandoneonista Hugo Satore. When this group brought their show Tango Fire to Cape Town in 2006, another period of study followed. By then Stanislav was performing regularly on the Bandoneon in addition to the Accordion. The time had come to upgrade to a professional quality instrument.
The bandoneon is a rectangular and square bellows instrument, using air pumped through a set of metal reeds, which creates the sound. It is a relative of the accordion and is popular in the Rio de la Plata, an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean in South America formed by the confluence of the rivers Parana and Uruguay, which serves as a border around the Argentine Republic and the Eastern Republic of Uruguay (300 km in length). The bandoneon is strongly linked to the tango. The name of the instrument derives from the German Bandoneon and is an acronym for the name Heinrich Band (1821-1860), who was awarded the patent for the invention.
Between the two World Wars, the German Alfred Arnold created a large body of instruments of such quality that he is called the Stradivarious of the Bandoneon. Popular opninion in Argentina holds that nobody does (or will ever) match Arnold’s instruments and owning a Doble A (Double A) is still considered the first requirement to being a Tango musician. The only problem is that some of Arnold’s instruments are by now a century old, and no amount of reconditioning and refurbishing can make them sound young again. The original parts just do not exist any more. These instruments are portable reed instruments – which means ironically they have more in common with the Oboe or Clarinet than the piano. They are delicate and the art of working on them is highly specialised. This means that a lot of the Arnold instruments played in Argentina are old and in bad shape. Stanislav decided to have his instrument hand-made at the workshop in Castelfidardo in Italy which they call Victoria – established already in 1919.
Rodolfo Mederos, one of the world’s most renowned Tango musicians had the following to say about his instrument, the Bandoneon:
“It seems to me that upon arrival from Germany, the bandoneon was told, “You shall be king of tango for centuries to come. “We might think that the instrument was born and made history in an immigrant settlement afflicted with melancholy, the element in tango. No other instrument has ever been able to express that language, that feeling. I would say that the bandoneon has the ability to affect human existence with melancholy. One thing is to put sorrow into words; another is to feel the sorrow…
Like the cutting edge of a knife, the bandoneon hurts first. However paradoxical it may seem, the bandoneon also constitutes the very heart of tango music. It is subtly bonded to the other instruments, forming a sort of nervous system which interconnects them and gives them life.
The bandoneon breathes… systolic and diastolic forces make it almost human. Fortunately, it is unplugged by nature; therefore, one can feel it as an extension of one’s body. It requires opening and closing, that is, the vital mechanism… People open and close their mouths to eat. Sphincters open and close… People make love by opening and closing… People die: they close. People are born: they open. Opening and closing… the most perfect and inherently human mechanism.
The two keyboards, interconnected by means of a bellow, a lung, can produce a virtually imperceptible, an almost inaudible pianissimo as well as a shrieking sound which can smash crystal into smithereens.
The bandoneon has shown me the way to channel moods and direct tears. The bandoneon leverages one’s talent, it gives us a sense of completeness. And it becomes our secret confidant.
It is a shelter, like a home, like a woman… It has particular odours, temperatures, corners. It has public areas and private parts; sober spaces and desired places–the ever-present woman; warm and cold zones; reliable sites… and phantoms. The home, the woman, the bandoneon… The ability to communicate with human beings… to convey one’s view of the world… to be listened to from the inside. If all this is embodied in this artefact, then the bandoneon becomes a sort of religion. Were Bach to be born again, he would be a Bandoneon player.”
Hear the Bandoneon sing in the hands of virtuoso Stanislav Anguelov on the new CD Tango Club (released March 2010) by the CT TANGO ENSEMBLE:
Stanislav Anguelov – Bandoneon and Accordion
Albert Combrink – Piano and Keyboard
Jacek Domagala – Violin
Charles Lazar – Double Bass
with guest artsists:
Adriana Edwards – Vocals
Willie van Zyl – Saxophone
Kevin Gibson – Drums
James Grace – Guitar