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Author: Jill Kimball

Pablo Ziegler Quartet recreates iconic Central Park show at CU

Legendary tango ensemble teams up with violinist Lara St. John April 15

In the summer of 1987, a record number of concertgoers flocked to the Naumburg Bandshell in New York’s Central Park. The mood was headier than it had ever been in the outdoor venue’s 78-year history, and the applause was louder than ever.

Many New Yorkers still remember the night when Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla pushed classical boundaries with his quartet of tango musicians, playing a kind of sultry, exotic music Americans had never heard before.

For the first time ever, Boulderites have the rare opportunity to experience the same magic many felt in Central Park that night. Pablo Ziegler, a musician who performed in Piazzolla’s bandshell quartet and has since become a master of tango in his own right, carries on the storied composer’s legacy with a special Central Park tribute concert at Macky Auditorium on April 15.

Featuring violinist Lara St. John and a lineup of musicians playing the same instruments as Piazzolla’s iconic New Tango Quartet, the program inventively combines some of Piazzolla’s beloved classics with Ziegler’s own original music.

“There’s no question that Ziegler takes the tango to levels of sophistication and refinement probably undreamed of by Piazzolla,” says the Chicago Tribune of Piazzolla’s mentee and longtime pianist. “Ziegler’s bracingly dissonant chords, constantly changing meters, ever shifting tempos and fragmented, elliptical melodies bring his music close to the realm of the avant-garde.”

Though tango was born in the working-class taverns and dance halls of 19th-century Buenos Aires, it soon found an audience of wealthy patrons in Paris and New York concert halls. But it wasn’t until the teenaged Astor Piazzolla began mixing his classical training with his Argentine roots that the genre of nuevo tango was born. For the first time in history, an accordion-like folk instrument called the bandoneón made its way onto the classical stage.

Piazzolla wrote later in life, “I was very much ashamed to tell [my teacher] that I played tango and above all I wouldn’t dare say to [her], ‘I play the bandoneón’ … [but] she wanted to know about my tangos, and she took my two hands together and she said, ‘This is Astor Piazzolla. Don’t ever leave it.’”

The rest was history. Over the course of decades, Piazzolla simultaneously put tango on the world map and invented his own tango-inspired genre. And if Piazzolla was the king of nuevo tango, Ziegler is the “unequalled heir” (Lexington Herald-Leader) to the throne.

“Pablo Ziegler played with Astor Piazzolla for 11 years, so you don’t mess with him,” The Guardian proclaims. “The pianist plays straight from the beating, bleeding heart of nuevo tango, with its Argentinian mix of swagger and sweetness.”