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Tango Suite was commissioned by Radio France in July 2002 and completed in October of the same year. Written immediately after Serenade for Strings, Tango Suite also employs a string ensemble but with a contralto voice added. The commission for Alla Breve determined that the group would be relatively small, however the double bass gives a very deep and solid character to the music. From about 1995 Nigel Keay had been writing a very "deep-toned" music, and this is reflected in the Viola Concerto of 2000 in which he uses a contrabassoon in a chamber orchestra, often taking the instrument down to the bottom of its range. This idea is extended and the instrumentation of string quintet (standard string quartet + double-bass) is used in Tango Suite. The five pieces, are strongly influenced by the traditional roots of Argentinean tango. As there were four forms to be considered (tango, milonga, candombe, valse), Tango Suite is a work composed close to the true spirit of tango, but in the context of a personal musical language. The pieces of the Suite differ not only through the forms that they use, or are inspired by, but also by their tempi.
"TANGO", a tango, is the slowest of the suite. The initial resolve of chord/key at the beginning, takes the seemingly dark and foreboding start into a light and warmth. With statement and answer interplay between the voice and strings parts.
"POEMAS DE AMOR", a kind of neo-romantic tango which has the fastest tempo. This song contains lovingly blended string writing and an open airy breathable style, both intense and placid at once. A gentle song buoyed by its accompaniment.
"CAPRICHO" is a milonga with a moderate pace. It's perhaps the most undemanding of the cycle for the listener with a simple happy feel and lilting tempo.
"VIDA" tends toward a slightly brisker tempo with a more percussive style texture. An open easy-going song.
"TU, QUE NUNCA SERAS..." is in 3/4 (Tempo di valse) but often employs rhythmic devices such as hemiola, cross-rhythm and syncopation. Varied within itself, the song opens out in the middle, to give an open charm with a solid rhythmic character.
Commissioned by Radio France for broadcasts on France Musiques & France Culture
In 5 movements: 1. Tango 2. Poemas De Amor 3. Capricho 4. Vida 5. Tu, Que Nunca Seras...
Texts are in Spanish: 1. movement extract of a poem by Ricardo Guiraldes; movements 2,3 & 5 are an extract of a poem by Alfonsina Storni and movement 4 is a poem by Baldomero Fernandez Morenco
Available on 'Keay: Nigel Keay; CD', performers unknown