Julien Labro will play with the Takács and perform solo, Sunday and Monday in Grusin Hall
By Peter Alexander April 13 at 9:30 p.m.
Their next concert program takes the Takács Quartet outside the standard string quartet repertoire.
The performances Sunday and Monday (4 p.m. April 16, and 7:30 p.m. April 17; details below) will feature bandoneon virtuoso Julien Labro, who will play three works with the quartet and perform a solo set. The quartet will also play Ravel’s String Quartet in F major without Labro.
The bandoneon is a type of concertina, somewhat similar to the accordion. Like those more familiar instruments, sound is creating by opening and closing a bellows to force air across reeds. Pitch is controlled by buttons, similar to those of the button accordion. While it was invented in Germany in the 19th century, bandoneon is primarily associated today with the tango music of Argentina and Uruguay, and particularly the works of Astor Piazzolla.
Labro and the Takács were brought together by the musical consortium Music Accord, an American organization devoted to the commissioning and promotion of new chamber music. They have been playing together on tour for about a year. This is their first joint performance in Boulder.
The current program opens with Circles, a piece written for them by Bryce Dresner. A versatile and prolific composer of film music and a guitarist with the Rock Band the National, Dresner has collaborated with a wide variety of artists, from Kronos Quartet to Philip Glass to Taylor Swift.
Circles will be followed by Labro’s own Meditation #1, and then a set of pieces for bandoneon alone: a chorale tune by J.S. Bach, to illustrate the instrument’s background as a substitute for organ in small parishes in Germany; Minguito by Argentinian bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi; and Labro’s Astoración, a tribute to Piazzolla.
Astoración “involves myself playing with a tape that I made, with Piazzolla speaking about the tango and the bandoneon,” Labro explains. ”There is little bit of him playing, so we have this virtual duet between the tape and myself.”
After Labro’s solo set, the Takács returns for Ravel’s quartet, and the program ends with Clash by Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad. A native of Brazil, Assad has been performing professionally since the age of seven. As a composer, she has been influenced by popular Brazilian culture and jazz, and studied composition with Michael Daugherty at the University of Michigan.
In her program notes, Assad describes Clash as an argument between two antagonists. “On one side we have a person who argues, throws violent insults, interrupts, and yells—and on the other side; another who either retaliates or retreats, appeals to guilt, pleads and indulges in oversentimentalism. These are constant themes in this work.”
The pieces for bandoneon and quartet—by Dresner, Labro and Assad—will be on a CD recording to be released by the Takács in the future. The recording is planned to include other works and piano improvisations by Assad as well as the collaborations with Labro.
“Being paired up with the Takács is a dream,” Labro says. “I pinch myself every time, because of the legacy that they carry. I’m grateful and I’m enjoying every concert. And now the fact that I get to play on their home turf is also cool. I’m really pleased that I get to see them where they hang out and play and teach.”
In fact, he enjoys not only the pieces they play together. Labro has been listening with attention to the Takács’s performances of the Ravel Quartet as well. “The work is incredible, but hearing them play is fantastic,” he says. “Ravel’s writing is outstanding—the colors, the timing—and players of that caliber and the musicianship they bring to it—always when I hear that piece, I wish Ravel had written more than one string quartet!
“Just be ready,” he advises.
Labro grew up in Paris. He first learned to play the accordion when he was nine, after hearing it on the television. When he was around 13, he says, “I discovered the music of Astor Piazzolla, and that experience led me to learn the bandoneon. Today I do play a fair amount of both instruments.”
He will use his solo set to introduce the bandoneon to the audience. “It’s not every day that you get to see an instrument like mine presented in a chamber music setting,” he explains.
Labro ends his conversation where he started, talking about how much he enjoys working with the Takács Quartet. “We’ve been having a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s been a joy, really, being able to make music with them. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know them outside of the music making, just spending time together. They obviously are amazing players, but they’re equally amazing people.
“Every time we step onstage I just cherish the event, because I know we’re going to have fun no matter what happens.”
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Takács Quartet with Julien Labro
- Bryce Dessner: Circles
- Julien Labro: Meditation #1
(Julien Labro, bandoneon, with Takács Quartet)
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, S64
- Dino Saluzzi: Minguito
- Julien Labro: Astoración (with pre-recorded tape)
(Julien Labro, bandoneon & accordina)
- Maurice Ravel: String Quartet in F Major
- Clarice Assad: Clash
(Julien Labro, bandoneon & accordina with Takács Quartet)
4 p.m. Sunday, April 16
7:30 p.m. Monday, April 17
Grusin Music Hall
TICKETS (in-person and digital)