When he was 12, Julien Labro realized music could evoke a deep emotional response.
The Frenchman was three years deep into playing the accordion, after seeing it on TV and falling in love with its movements, shape and buttons.
Browsing in a record shop one day, he found a cassette tape of the music of Astor Piazzolla, the famous Argentine tango composer who also played the bandoneón, a cousin to the accordion, smaller in shape and lower in timber. Labro didn’t know who Piazzolla was, but it changed everything he knew about music.
“I remember being so moved as a teen,” Labro said from his home in New York City. “It helped me realize music was much more than notes and harmony and the nuts and bolts of what makes music. It brought a human quality to it. It had to do with feelings as opposed to just playing notes.”
Conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech and an ensemble from the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, along with Labro, a featured guest artist and internationally known bandoneón player, will perform “Tango Piazzolla!,” an evening of works by Piazzolla. The concert also will feature the orchestra’s concertmaster and violinist Michael Hanson. Performances are Saturday and Sunday at Ent Center for the Arts.
Piazzolla is most famous for revolutionizing the tango — taking the popular, primarily danceable genre and elevating it to concert music.
“There is a foot-stomping-ness to Piazzolla’s music,” Philharmonic President and CEO Nathan Newbrough said.
“There’s a heartbeat to it that’s unmistakably Argentinian. That’s why he’s Argentina’s most famous composer. We’ve never dedicated an entire evening to Piazzolla.”
A few years after Labro first heard Piazzolla, he sought out his own bandoneón, as he believed it was the only way to fully emulate the composer’s music. It’s an instrument that’s at home in the classical and jazz genres.
“It has a more soulful sound,” Labro said. “The accordion is brighter, one could say happier. The bandoneón is the opposite. It brings out nostalgia and sadness but a depth in sound the accordion doesn’t necessarily have.”
One of Piazzolla’s famous works, “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” is a tango response to Vivaldi’s popular “The Four Seasons,” which features four violin concertos, each of which brings one season musically to life.
“It’s not taking Vivaldi’s melodies,” Newbrough said. “His original ‘Four Seasons’ walks through fall, winter, spring, summer. In the same way, this walks through the four seasons of Buenos Aires.”
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