Bobenrieth's Mellow Bellows

by Alan Greenblatt (reprinted from the Washington Post)

Thursday, May 17, 2001

Plenty of people still associate the accordion mainly with bad polka bands and Italian weddings. But the accordion is a premium instrument when it comes to interpreting the tango, as Manny Bobenrieth demonstrated Tuesday at the Inter-American Development Bank.

It's just about impossible these days to attend a chamber music concert in the classical realm without hearing a piece or two by the Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla.

Bobenrieth's ensemble provided a more natural setting for his music, offering interpretations of a half-dozen works. It was clear from the opening notes of "Invierno Porteno" that they would capture Piazzolla's sensual, sometimes slightly gloomy sound.

Bobenrieth, who hails from Chile, likes interpolating snatches of melodies from other composers into Piazzolla's work and tends to favor lilting, almost waltz-like interpretations of the tangos.

The members of his group -- pianist Kathleen Burchedean, violinist Bruno Nasta, guitarist Chuck Underwood and bassist Thomas Fowler -- formed a cohesive whole as they performed difficult simultaneous melodies. Although they played with restraint, the ensemble kept up the rhythmic drive necessary with Piazzolla's sinuous, stop-and-go music. Underwood lent a jazzy feeling to the proceedings with lightly swinging, darting solos on "Fugata" and the occasional non-Piazzolla piece, among them Burton Lane's "How About You?"