The Boston Globe

May 9, 2005

A hot time for tango, new and old

By Kevin Lowenthal, Globe Correspondent

CAMBRIDGE -- The Auros Group for New Music specializes in adding extra-musical elements to their concerts. Saturday night, with dancers from the Boston Tango Society, Auros showcased the Argentine tango, tracking its journey, akin to that of jazz, from the social underbelly to the concert hall.

The concert began with three piano pieces from the early 20th century, when tango had only just left behind its disreputable beginnings. These multi-strain numbers, alternately melancholy and jaunty, were reminiscent of ragtime without the syncopation. Pianist Nina Ferrigno played with delicate firmness. Hsueh-Tze Lee and Simonida Cekovic-Vuletic danced tenderly to the second piece, ''Velada Criolla."

By the 1940s, tango had become the passionate, histrionic music of renown, with its insistent, four-beat rhythm. Representing this time, Francisco Canaro's ''Nobleza de Arrabal" and Eduardo Arolas's ''Derecho Viejo" were arranged by Bernardo Monk in the style of period recordings.

Ferrigno was joined by violinist Jason Horowitz, clarinetist William Kirkley, and cellist Jennifer Lucht. They performed the two pieces with fire, finesse, and a touch of camp. Dancers Virginia Kelly and Oliver Kolker, for the first number, and Fernanada Cajide and Dario Da Silva, for the second, displayed their classic moves.

To Cab Calloway's classic ''Minnie the Moocher," Michael Silverman and Steve Slavsky performed a slyly comic turn, dancing with each other to represent the early period when no ''good" woman would dance the scandalous tango, so men practiced together.

The first half closed with ''Otra Luna," by composer Carlos Libedinsky, known for merging tango with contemporary dance music. Ferrigno switched to maracas to provide the driving beat, while the cello played a walking line over which the violin and clarinet surged, soared, and swooned. Tova and Carlos Moreno danced the most sizzling tango of the evening.

The second half, devoted to tango as concert music, opened with two more piano pieces. John Cage's indeterminate adaptation of Eric Satie, ''Perpetual Tango," was paradoxically over almost as soon as it began. David Jaggard's semi-comic ''Elastic Tango" irregularly halted a pounding tango beat to embark on progressively lengthier virtuosic passages. Ferrigno more than did justice to them.

The quartet returned for John Mackey's glossy, pulsating ''Breakdown Tango," which surrounded an angst-ridden middle section with agitated outer sections that evoked movie chase music.

The evening's most electric piece was Astor Piazzolla's ''Primavera Porteno," showcasing his definitive melding of tango, classical, and jazz influences. The quartet tore into it with relish. No dancers were required, as the interplay of Horowitz's violin and Lucht's cello performed an idealized tango on their own.

Finally, a world premiere, Stefanie Lubkowski's ''El Hombre de Plata," an electronic piece in which sampled cello and accordion underwent various digital alterations as they bobbed over a tango-ish rhythm. Sharna Fabiano and Thuy Lam danced along with relaxed charm, and the concert reached a gentle anti-climax.