Concert Review

Yvar Mikhashoff's Tango Project
Catherine Edwards, Robert Keeley, Martin Butler, Stephen Gutman (pianists); Hoxton Hall, London. 15/16 July 2000

Yvar Mikhashoff Yvar Mikhashoff Yvar Mikhashoff
Photos: (left to right) With John Cage. With Conlon Nancarrow.
Courtesy Yvar Mikhashoff Trust.

The last evenings of the Hoxton New Music Days celebrated the Tango in the form of a memorial to Yvar Mikhashoff (1945-1993), who was largely responsible for the adventurous programming of the earlier Almeida Festival in the '80s. Besides being a virtuoso pianist with exceptional sight reading ability, he had earlier been a professional ballroom dancer and had persuaded more than a hundrerd composers to write a Tango each for his collection. Yvar, who is fondly remembered by London's new music fraternity, was described in a short impromptu talk at Hoxton Hall, with vignettes about his memorable, eccentric behaviour and narcissistic, hedonistic character. His Tangos were described as a 'self-homage' to this larger than life personality, a man who lived fully in the present and never looked to the future.

The two programmes of Tangos played at Hoxton Hall comprised but a small selection of these, together with a few earlier ones which Yvar also used to play, by composers of many musical affiliations, including (in alphabetical order) Carla Bley, Milton Babbitt, Aaron Copland, John Cage, Mauricio Kagel, Michael Finnissy, Oliver Knussen, Conlon Nancarrow, Per Norgard, & Luis de Pablo (sadly, the only work of his scheduled for performance in UK this, his 70th birthday year!). Those which I heard were interesting and made for an absorbing hour. They were shared between the pianists listed above; Stephen Gutman's playing on the Saturday was particularly notable, but was no substitute for Yvar's own well remembered marathon recital of them, which he gave at the Almeida Theatre in those already far-off great days.

We are used to collections of waltzes and mazurkas from the great composers; Mikhashoff's Tango Project seems on this showing extremely viable for concert life, and I hope to review a CD of them in the near future (Incitation To Desire New Albion NA128)

Peter Grahame Woolf


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