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An interview with Daniel Binelli and Polly Ferman

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 15, 2002
New York, NY

About the Author:

Daniel Binelli and Polly Ferman

Contact: Daniel Binelli at www.danielbinelli.com or
Binelli@ciudad.com.ar
Polly Ferman at
pollyferman@aol.com

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 15, 2002

Daniel Binelli, Bandoneonist, and Polly Ferman, pianist and translator for this interview, recently performed at the Argentine Consulate (See Review). They recently joined me at MoonRock Diner, 313 West 57th Street, NY, 212.397.3131, over coffee, to discuss their extraordinary, international musical partnership, which is celebrated in sold-out performances for concert audiences and Argentine Tango aficionados.

Note: Saturday, December 7, 2002, 8 PM, at Aaron Davis Hall, 212.650.7100, Irmani Winds, a Quintet, with Daniel Binelli as Guest Artist, joined by Paquito D'Rivera on clarinet.


REZ - How did you both meet?

PF - I was living in Japan. It was the 100th anniversary of the relations between Japan and Argentina. In 1998, I was invited to a concert by the National Symphony of Argentina, which took place in Tokyo. Martha Argerich played piano. I went to a rehearsal and heard Daniel rehearse. His sound was overpowered by the orchestra, so I told him to raise his sound. At the time, I was married to the Ambassador to Japan from Argentina. At the reception at the Embassy, everyone came, and Daniel and I exchanged CD's. In 1999, I came back to Buenos Aires, and I invited Daniel Binelli and two other artists to share the program. Then I did not see him for six or seven months, until we met socially. I had two concerts in Argentina and one in NY. I asked him to join me, and we recorded and played in NY. He invited me to join a Quintet, and I am the Guest Artist of the Daniel Binelli Quintet and of Tango Metropolis, which has ten musicians and dancers.

REZ - Where are these groups performing?

PF - We did ten concerts in Japan last year, as well as the International Arts Festival of Shanghai and Beijing. Next year we have twenty-four concerts in France in March and April.

REZ - When will you be in NY with Tango Metropolis, so people can see the Company?

PF - Maybe in October, definitely in Chicago.

REZ - Daniel, how do you rehearse with Polly so that you are both so coordinated and communicate so well?

DB - It doesn't come from a watch. It's not a mechanical adjustment. It's a spiritual adjustment to the piece we are going to perform. It could be through Argentine music or not. It is something very important to me, the spiritual and intellectual language of the piece. We have to be very well connected. You play and the sound comes. The interpretation has to be spiritual. With the violin, the interpretation makes the sound. With the bandoneón and the piano, you press a button or a key, and all the music has sensuality. Music has to have sensuality.

REZ - How often do you practice, separately and together?

DB - We practice every day. I don't have a frame of hours. It depends on what's ahead. It's important to prepare a new repertoire.

REZ - Are you always composing, as you practice your repertoire?

DB - When you practice, you always think of new ideas. We always think of how to grow in different ways. To be able to recreate music, you need a profound knowledge of where the composer is from, so the elements flow. When they create and recreate, they have a profound knowledge of the language and the society. For the Tango concept, it's the same. To re-create, it's necessary to have a deep knowledge of people.

REZ - What is the most important element of Piazzolla's music that you extrapolate to make Binelli's music?

DB - In terms of forms and harmony, I'm taking phrasing, when I play Tango. I am from the South. My musical language is similar to how I talk. I have a clean way of expressing myself. The connection with Piazzolla is through the phrasing and through the expression and feeling of the City. I have played Astor Piazzolla's music since I was fifteen years old. My connection with Astor Piazzolla is with his intensity and creativity. I have recorded most of Piazzolla's music.

REZ - Tell me about your history with Piazzolla.

DB - In 1964 I won a competition in television called A Star is Born. I played a piece from Piazzolla's Tango music. Piazzolla called the Director of the Channel and asked, "Where did you get that Monster?" (Monster is a good word.) Then Piazzolla called me, we met, and we became friends. In 1989, I joined his New Tango Sextet, and I have three CD's and one video with them. This was Piazzolla's last group. We did 80 concerts in one year in Europe and in Latin America.

REZ - When did you play with Pugliese?

DB - From 1968 to 1982 I was an arranger and performer with Osvaldo Pugliese.

REZ - The NY Tangueros love to dance to Pugliese. Which songs did you play that were orchestrated by Pugliese?

DB - Some of these songs were: Desde el Alma, Tinto Rojo, Que Noche, Zum, and Balada paraUn Loco, and Bandó.

REZ — Where are you performing next?

PF - In Uruguay on December 10 (probably both of us) and at City College for Daniel on December 7 (See above). On December 26, we return to NY until January 18, and will be part of the Chamber Music America conference at the Hilton. We do Master Classes about city dances of Argentina and Uruguay, Tango, Milonga, and Candombe. In February, we have a tour of 24 concerts in France with Tango Metropolis, www.tangometropolis.com. In May, Daniel and I will be recording original music for bandoneón and piano with orchestra, and in June we go to Switzerland, together with dancers Pilar Alvarez and Claudio Hoffman (www.tangoexpress.com). Also, in June, I will perform with a whole ladies orchestra, conducted by Zenaida Romeu, in Cuba. In July we perform in Europe again, and in August we will have presentations in Argentina. In September, Daniel has concerts in Australia with Charles Dutoit, and we are now working on doing presentations there. In October, we bring Tango Metropolis to the United States, and, as a duo, we have a concert at the Cultural Center of Chicago and other venues.

REZ - Tell me about your Non-Profit Foundation, Polly.

PF - PAMAR (Pan American Musical Art Research, Inc) is a Not for Profit
organization seeking to promote the music, musicians, and dance of the
Americas. We were created in 1984 in NY. How was that? Well, in 1982, I came from
Uruguay, my native country, to NY to try, as many others, to succeed in what
I believed, my piano profession. It is very challenging to come to the Big Apple, mainly when you are not in the age of competing any more, when you need to feed, as a sole parent, 3 children, already teenagers, and to give them an education. To give you the punch line now, they all succeeded by themselves. They all studied by their own merits and self-financing. But at that time, I did not know. Although I was by myself, they were in my mind and heart.

Well, I knew I had to do something different from the rest of the pianists,
or I was lost. When people asked me where I was from, I had to go through long
explanations. Then I thought I should include in my repertoire, music from my
country, Uruguay. I also added some slides from a famous photographer.
I got engagements and started to present my program which was very well
received. Then I decided to include music from Argentina, and then from Brazil.

Twenty years ago, my colleagues and people from the music world would tell me I
was crazy and that I was jeopardizing my career, playing music, which was not
known and was considered as "salon music". I did not care. I felt I had to
do it. And little by little I realized how much the audience would smile and
receive this very energetic and romantic music. At that moment I realized
how lucky I was to be in NY and how many musician in Latin America did not
have a single chance to be known, heard or seen.

One day, I was introduced to a young Brazilian man who was studying
Administration of the Arts at NYU. We decided to find out about creating an
organization to help composers, musicians, and performers from
Latin America. We were also told we had to have a Board (let me add that we did
not have any funds to start this project).

By then, I had met socially some interesting people. I approached them and told
them, "I am not asking you for money, but would you lend me your name for the
Board of Directors. Most of them agreed.

We learned by then that we needed to show the US that we could survive two years
without financial aid, while we were presenting artists. I gave concerts to fundraise for
other artists. One Board Member interested Placido Domingo, who agreed to be
our Honorary President, and, after two years, we were granted the Not for Profit
status. Since then, we have been working for our ideals.

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