Ivan Talanin

«The orchesrtra must give a charge»

Text in English and Russian:  gb-300x150 flag

Ivan Talanin, bandoneonist, leader of Tango En Vivo Orchestra, laureate of international competitions.

Tell for all the dancers — what is the peculiarity of the perception of tango, if you are a musician. А dancer, listening to music, usually has in his mind a picture of how he would dance this melody… And do you imagine how to play a particular tango when you hear it?

Sure. There is such a thing — «inner hearing». I can now sing to myself some melody in my head, I don’t even need to listen to the recording. Of course, I can hear how tango was played, but even more interesting for me is to imagine how I would play it. And no doubt there are some improvisational moments in my head. Sometimes the training of technique on the instrument is not so important (although it is always important), as how to cultivate this musical feeling, the ability to transfer what is in my head, as I want to play, to the instrument.

The matter concerns not only tango, but all the music. I will now listen to the radio in the car, there will be played some modern composition of pop music, and I will imagine how it sounds on the instrument. By the way, this is another question — my wife often says to me: «Why don’t you take some famous composition and play it on bandoneon?»

Although recently we began to play not only tango. We are raised by the Russian school and play Russian music also. We have a violin and a piano, their duo can play chamber Russian music, romance, for example. This we also carry to the masses.

Do only you make tango arrangements, as a leader, or is someone else involved in the process?

Well, you know, usually it happens as follows… There is a general idea of ​​composition. I tell this general idea of ​​composition to the guys. I can not write to the pianist what he has to play. I can only explain to him what is required from him in this music, in this part. He realizes this, lets it go through him and afterwards knows what he will play. And I do not know.

«…every concert is unique. Today the pianist has played this place in one way, tomorrow he will play it differently»

And so it is with each of us. I do not write to the guys the parts to play. I completely rely on them. And this is more valuable, because today we wake up — we have one mood, tomorrow we wake up — we have a different mood. And every concert is also unique. Today the pianist has played this place in one way, tomorrow he will play it differently.

Among your announcements there are participations in shows — for example, in the show Tango De Oro. What is the difference between a tango show and a tango concert for you?

Everything is almost like at a concert, but the difference is in the preparation. Because every tango that we perform must be based on something. This is a symbiosis with dancers. We rehearse and adjust ourselves to each other. Everything consists of small things. Some pauses, accents … I can not say that concert and show are fundamentally different things, but the plot has to be taken into account!

Have you had moments, when you had to improvise?

In this show — no. In others — yes. Since we play only live, without any backing tracks, of course we can sometimes save the situation. Recently we returned from Kazakhstan tour. In one city, unfortunately, something went wrong — it seems, that one of the projectors burned out. And imagine, the curtain opens, the action should begin … We are all waiting for some sign to start playing. And nothing happens on the stage! We sit for five seconds, ten seconds. And then we understand that we need to play something to save the situation and do it urgently, without discussing! As you understand, we usually do not talk on the stage, everything is done with gestures, half-looks. Although such cases are rarity.


«…Since we play only live, of course we can sometimes save the situation»


Have you played in the theaters of Buenos Aires? Is there a difference?

Yes, we have. Of course, there is a difference. In general, the public itself is different. People react very much to music, they recognize it, they love it. Although we did not play in those famous Argentine shows for tourists (cena-show, dinner at the tango-theater — prim.red.), we had a more concert version.

Video: Tango En Vivo orchestra in La Viruta Tango Club (Buenos Aires)


And if you fantasize and imagine that you were given the role of a famous bandoneonist, whose story would you like to tell in a play or a film?

Troilo! It is close to me from the very beginning of my creative life.

Is it somehow related to his biography or just how he sounds?

I feel it inwardly. There is such a word «love» — ​​it has no explanation, it just exists. The love for Troilo is connected solely with what I hear in his music. Because we havn’t been aquainted, you know. And I can judge him only by the way he plays and how his orchestra sounds. These are all nuances in terms of feelings. And why — I will not say. I have a wife — I love her. Why do I love her? Just because i do. So it’s with Troilo. I feel that this person is spiritualy close to me, and his views are close to mine.

«…I feel that Troilo is spiritualy close to me»

Although there are other musicians that I like. It still depends on the period in which I am at the moment. Today, for example, I’m more interested in Piazzolla, tomorrow — in Goyeneche. But if the offer to play someone comes, then I would agree to any creative experiment and any character.

And why did you choose tango yourself?

I like it. I started playing bandoneon ten years ago. I loved tango and wanted to play it on an authentic instrument. And I know that if I was given an accordion, then … on an accordion it’s impossible to play that way. The specificity of an instrument is important.

Was it difficult to get people in the orchestra of Argentine tango? Did somebody answer you that the direction is too specific and unpromising?

When I just started, my friends told me so. And now many friends, I know, in a good sense envy me. Therefore, there is no truth here. Some people like Argentine tango, some don’t like it. Someone wants it, someone does not want. With some people we had performances, to somebody we had to say goodbye for one reason or another. Everyone chooses for himself.

Do you plan to expand the crew to two bandoneons or two violins?

Let’s just say, for their constant presence on the stage, I think no. This is a one-time action, because having a large team is quite costly. To travel mainly. For example, in Moscow we can gather a large enough team. But take everyone out … It’s very difficult.

And would there be a difference in the sound between these options — the quartet that you have, and the «typical» sextet (orquesta tipica) with one more violin and bandoneon?

The will not be significant difference between four and six musicians. Piazzolla, as you know, had a quintet. There was a guitar. I’ll tell you that we learned how to replace the guitar.

I, when I write a part for myself, know the specifics of my instrument, I know my specifics, and I try to write to myself a part not for one bandoneon. If I now give my notes to an Argentinian bandoneonist, he will not be able to play it alone. It will take two people — one plays one part and another one — the rest. This, of course, is more difficult for me — I play for a group of instruments. Also our violinist periodically plays for two violins. It is more difficult for him to play two parts the same time, but … it is necessary.

«I play for a group of instruments. Also our violinist periodically plays for two violins. It is more difficult for him to play two parts the same time, but … it is necessary»

You have your own bandoneon school. In the future it should increase the number of bandoneonists. Maybe someone would play with you.

Of course. My students play with me.

Do we have a lot of bandoneonists in the country?

There are those who can play — these people are very few. And people who bought bandoneon and consider themselves bandoneonists — there are many more. Nothing strange. Our modern time is like that.

Tell us about the situation with the vocalists.

This is problem. More precisely — two problems. The first is the knowledge of the Spanish language. The second is … well, the soul, or how to put it? We have a lot of good vocalists. They can sing, but it will still not be the same, because the lack of understanding of the text and lack of the soul, the Argentine soul. In music we make it easy.
We tried vocalists more than once, but so far this has not been successful. Sometimes even a person knows the language and sings well, but it turns out all wrong and not what is needed!

We worked with Argentine vocalists in Buenos Aires. But if you work with him in Russia, he must be «transported» here to live.

Maybe you could try Spanish vocalists?

— Yes, Spanish — maybe yes. Now a few people write to me with proposals for cooperation… but it often happens that you open a link to see how a person sings… well… and close it. But I certainly would be happy to work with a good vocalist. This is an excellent boost for the orchestra. Then we can do everything!

How do you decide which melodies to add to your repertoire?

This is a matter of chance. I hear the song somewhere, maybe radio or milonga, anywhere, and I understand: «Aha, I’ll take this song because it’s good for this concert. And this song will go well here and will be good to combine with this composition». This is all the will of the chance. It is not that I sit, open Youtube or another site and start: «Today we will take this song, and tomorrow this one». This is the will of the chance. Just now at a sound check I heard one song and understood that this song should be taken to the note because it will be good for one event.

We found that the orchestra has very few waltzes …

Yes it’s true. This is problem. This is more a question personally to me, because at one time I did not pay attention to it. I’m solving this problem in early January! There are waltzes that I would like to include in the repertoire, but, unfortunately, due to the fact that the last few months were filled with a lot of concerts, there was simply no time to write parts or an arrangement. But I know this problem for a long time already, that they are not enough. And there will be waltzes, five or seven pieces at once! We’ll make а sheaf.

By the way about waltzes — waltzes that we play are our compositions. It seems to me, that if I did not say that, then no one would have noticed, because they are written in the style of old Argentine tango. I’m not proud of this — it’s just a trial. If people dono’t hear the difference, then we did well. Everything will be step by step.


«… there will be waltzes, five or seven pieces at once!»


Tell us about performances at milongas. Usually the orchestra’s performance is the emotional peak of any milonga. And orchestras play something rhythmic and energetic, for example, D’Arienzo, or something pathetic, emotionally filled, like Pugliese. In any case, it’s something emotionally strong and it’s difficult to dance. But in the 1920s and 1930s, when orchestras were gaining popularity, they were playing a lot of «danceable», «simple» music. Is there any chance that an orchestra’s repertoire  at the milonga will have at least both pathetic music and something simpler?

We try to diversify the repertoire. There is a bright emotional music, which we just can not help but play. And there is a calm one, for example, Di Sarli — here you are! Or, perhaps, Calo. I always try to play and energetic music, and something calmer. But it’s impossible not to play very energetic music. The orchestra must give a charge.

Maybe there is some secret of a wave. So that the dancers, for example, would not be exhausted during the first three melodies.

There are several types of program constructioning. You can start bright and go down. You can start on the contrary quietly and go up. The possibilities of drawing such graphs are very large. Everything depends on the specific milonga. If we played the same program at all the milongas, it wouldn’t be interesting.

Video: Tango En Vivo Orchestra in Planetango Club (Moscow)


When we go somewhere, we know that here it is better to play exactly this. And the program is built literally five to ten minutes before the start of the show. We have an approximate list of melodies that we want to perform, but we always spend 30 minutes at the milonga to see and evaluate the audience, listen to what the DJ is playing. It happens that a DJ plays a tanda just before our orchestra’s performance and we understand that because of this tanda the whole program needs to be changed quickly.

Do you cooperate with the DJ?

Quite often we give program to him so that he knows it. But again, the DJ is free to put what he wants, as he sees. We, since we have a great repertoire, can choose different paths. For example, if a DJ heats up the dancefloor and plays Puglieze, and we will go out and play Pugliese too, it will be strange. Therefore, we will go on the contrast and begin calmly. It always is as if it is the first time.

«… We always spend thirty minutes at the milonga to see and evaluate the audience, listen to what the DJ is playing»

Once the musicians were the main engine of tango. Every their step was followed and watched by publics. In Buenos Aires streets are named after musicians and singers, but not dancers. Later everything changed! We would like to know your opinion — how will the tango music develop in Russia and the world, will people listen it?

Just wait — everything will come! The music of tango will become more popular. Though in academic circles of course Piazzolla is more known, and at the concert of the symphony orchestra you will most likely hear his music, rather than old tango. But there are many other directions — old tango or, for example, something modern, Gotan Project, it can be easily heard in a cafe. Here we have two different poles for popularization — among the music world and the popularization of music in general. It is unlikely that the old tango will be popular among the masses. We already had something similar. I will draw, perhaps, not very correct parallels — Russian romance. As for music — their form is very similar. The old Argentine tango in Russia will not be so popular, since this niche, unfortunately, is occupied by Russian romance. And as for the new tango directions — yes, it will be interesting to people. We are now trying to start doing something in tango style. I mean modern music. There are a lot of directions, and it is not clear which one can turn the most popular. There is, by the way, a composer who writes music for us. He is also looking for his place in music world and his style. I think a lot about how to popularize the instrument (bandoneon — ed.) and tango. And I have a lot of ideas!

Video: Tango En Vivo Orchestra on TELEFE (Argentina)