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  • A Different Way: Tango with Rodolfo Mederos directed by Gabriel Szollosy
  • Michael Ashenfelder
A Different Way: Tango with Rodolfo Mederos. DVD. Directed by Gabriel Szollosy. [Berlin]: EuroArts, 2011. 2058378. $24.99.

In the film, A Different Way, director Gabriel Szollosy has created an affectionate and respectful portrait of contemporary tango composer, arranger and master bandoneónist, Rodolfo Mederos, a gifted musician who leads a new generation of tango music. His tango is not the stereotype of “Fernando’s Hideaway” and Carlos Gardel, of an intense rake dipping a supple damsel (with a rose in her teeth). It is not even in the same vein as his predecessor and mentor, Astor Piazzolla.

Mederos honors the roots of tango though, and the traditional tango feel is always present, softly woven into the background of his music, though it is subtle and barely noticeable among the other threads of music. His music is always melodic and lovely…joyfully lovely at times and bittersweet lovely at others. His compositions are fresh and modern without sacrificing consonance and beauty.

He uses a broad timbral palette for his compositions, ranging from a chamber orchestra to solo works. During the course of the film, he showcases his stylistic performing with a trio, quartet, small orchestra (stringed instruments, violins, cello, and nylon string guitar), a bandoneón ensemble, flamenco singers, and a tango singer.

His solo bandoneón performances are pensive, harmonically rich and expressive as he composes harmonies, bass runs or counterpoint with his left hand and melodies with his right. He said of his bandoneón, “For me, the bandoneón is the source of life. It breathes (as he stretches the bellows). It is very much alive.”

Mederos narrates the film as the camera follows him around Buenos Aires, from location to location, performance to performance. All the while, he talks about his philosophy of music, life, love, loss, tango, and bandoneón playing. He is very lucid man and has a lot of inspiring thoughts to share.

Buenos Aires itself is his artists’ muse. Mederos romanticizes the city and how it stimulates his art. “Music is taken from the streets, from the impressions we receive there,” he said. “and tango encourages people to be close.”

Indeed, the pulse of the city throbs throughout many of his arrangements, like Gershwin with “Rhapsody in Blue.” For example, in “El Ortro Camino,” Mederos captures the urban kinetic energy, grandeur and elegance. Delicate passages waft chromatically through shifting harmonies and passages that hint at the constant forward motion and the frenetic complexity of his beloved Buenos Aires.

The director allows each song to play out in its entirety, which is generous for a documentary film. He clearly admires the music as well as the composer.

Mederos composed – or co-wrote – four of the twelve songs on the DVD; the rest he interprets through his own unique sensibilities. Rodolfo Mederos’s music is a fresh, contemporary musical breeze – romantic and melancholy — caressing our souls.

The DVD is well done, pretty how a musical profile should be made, and all of the performances are terrific. The director, Szollosy, also includes a bonus film, titled Domingueando, which is about a tango dancer. [End Page 170]

Michael Ashenfelder
Library of Congress


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