Tango between Yesterday and Today

Reading time: 3 min. Carlos Gardel Diego Marcelo Collatti

With this cycle of songs by Carlos Gardel I wanted to travel to those islands of his tangos, fly over the original terrain, sometimes land and visit an island, then take off again and continue; contemplating them from different perspectives, enjoying a state in which I am able to dedicate myself to these tangos with respect to the original ideas but at the same time challenging and discussing with an open and investigative mind (…).

The fact that these tangos were composed at the beginning of the 20th century, while the perspective and context in which this cycle appears are remote in comparison, constitutes for me a very relevant artistic aspect. I firmly believe in the dialectic capacity in art.

This cycle is like a conversation between Gardel’s tangos and my nostalgia, between the present and the past.

As a composer I place particular importance on the communicative aspect. I imagine a hypothetical audience. I think that one Gardel after another is too much sweetness, too much honey on one and the same piece of toast, as it were. I intend to set to music the psychological context in which these tangos were written. I know perfectly well that this is an imaginative, subjective, risky undertaking … and yet I contend that the best form of presenting these tangos is a cycle. It may be a pragmatic approach to alternate Gardel’s tangos with music that is somewhat more distant from this intensity of emotion and the tango, providing a sort of contrast. I examine the Italian term pianoforte and believe it to be a metaphor for my formal considerations underlying this cycle. Gardel’s tangos would be the fortes (or the pianos … ) and I felt compelled to interweave them with pieces that stray away from Gardel’s world, albeit not far, but still stray off in order to come back . in the same way that a swing can never only move back or forth. Gardel’s tangos are moving in a particular direction and I wanted to counter this.

Rather than merely orchestrating Gardel’s tangos, I intended to enter into a conversation with them as well as with their formal gestures, their harmonies, melodies, rhythms, timbres etc.

Gardel is part of Argentina’s ‘collective unconscious’. His phrasing or way of interpreting certain musical phrases has shaped forms of expression not only in the language of music but also in everyday language. The saying ‘Twenty years is nothing’ (‘Veinte años no es nada’), which appears in a tango and became famous across Latin America, is an example. During my work I listened to the recordings, trying to decode Gardel’s way of phrasing and comparing it with the notation which, of course, cannot be more than a simplification of Gardel’s masterly and virtuoso practice.

My intention is to set out on a kind of journey into Gardel’s world. In that respect I am the guide who has prepared an itinerary and devised a surprise or two, or a variation on the most relevant destinations, which are the tangos of Gardel.

Diego Collatti (2017)


The entire cycle bears the name Vidas de Gardel and is inspired by Carlos Gardel's life. The cycle is created from arrangements of Gardel's songs and songs written by Collatti. The first performance of selected arrangements of Gardel's songs will take place in Torino at Auditorium Rai Arturo Toscanini on September 8. The second performance takes place in Milano on September 9.


View the full score:

Vidas de Gardel

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