Meet Romulo Larrea : A Beginner’s Guide to Tango

Ensemble Romulo Larrea. Ensemble Romulo Larrea.

Bandoneon prodigy and band leader of the Romulo Larrea Ensemble, Larrea brings together the classic tango trio (a piano, bandoneon, and a double bass) with a string quartet (two violins, a viola, and a cello) inviting acclaimed singers and dancers to showcase the many facets of this all-encompassing sensory musical style. A leader on the international tango scene, his show “Tango: the passion of a lifetime” will be performed at Theatre Outremont next Wednesday March 16th.

Shifting between English, French, and Spanish we discussed his upcoming show, how Tango has evolved over the years, and whether or not young people can actually “get” tango.

This is Romulo Larrea holding a bandoneon.

Ensemble Romulo Larrea.

Ensemble Romulo Larrea.

Marisa Samek (MS): Tell me about the concept behind your show “Tango: the passion of a lifetime.”

Romulo Larrea (RL): I try in each dialogue to make something very new and very different. I don’t want to bore people. It’s the 25th anniversary of the ensemble and I don’t want it to just be a nostalgic trip. What we are performing is the real music. It is the real musical and physical approach.

Ensemble Romulo Larrea.

Ensemble Romulo Larrea.

When I approached Astor Piazzola many years ago he loved what I was doing but thought it was a little crazy. So did my agent. They asked me, “You will try to play and tour with a seven piece ensemble? In Canada?” But for me it’s the perfect fusion.

MS: Tango is a vast musical style that encompasses music, dance, and voice. What, according to you, is the driving force behind tango?

RL: In my approach, each artist has a very specific action and a very specific responsibility. I consider it a privilege to work with skilled musicians from faculties of music, from conservatories but they can find this music quite challenging. They are all wonderful players. But, I insist on the interpretation. I say, “Please, listen to this approach.” It’s a very interesting exchange between us. For me the interpretation is 60 or 70 percent of Tango.

MS: Who are your greatest musical influences?

RL: First of all, the wonderful musician and extraordinary conductor Anibal Troilo and the other is Astor Piazzola. Piazzola had a very particular approach for the bandoneon player especially. His work, his compositions, had a big influence on Tango—even if many people don’t agree with his changes.

MS: Is Tango a style of music which is constantly innovating?

RL: Yes. Within tango you have many possibilities to innovate. In my ensemble, the presence of a string quartet is a big innovation.

MS: Do you listen to any contemporary artists? If yes, which ones?

RL: Yes. It’s not very new but Yo Yo Ma the cellist is not only a wonderful soloist but I appreciate his sense of responsibility. When he decided to play tango, he went to Buenos Aires to find the real people for his project Soul of Tango. Adele is also a wonderful artist. I also love Flamenco–the more I tour and visit people all over the world, the more I discover.

Finally, for people who are interested in getting to know tango music, what incredible Tango music recordings would you recommend?

RL: An important presence during the ’20s and the ’30s is Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla was important during the middle of the century. But each person has their own taste. I don’t want to impose. It’s important for me to find new things but to also respect the greats of the past.–_G0nC5k

Romulo Larrea Ensemble performs “Tango: the passion of a lifetime” at Theatre Outremont on March 16 at 8 p.m. Buy tickets here. $49/44/34