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June 2016
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VIDEO: Carlos Kalmar Conducts Elbio Barilari’s “Canyengue” at the Teatro Monumental

1/28/15 Elbio Barilari, adjunct lecturer of music, composer, clarinetist, saxophonist and host of the "Fiesta!" radio show

Elbio Barilari, musician, composer, educator, and host of the “Fiesta”

You may know Elbio Barilari as the host of WFMT’s Fiesta, but did you know he is also a composer whose works are performed around the world? His symphonic work Canyengue was recorded by the Orchestra of the Radio & TV of Spain (ORTV) at the Teatro Monumental in Madrid on April 9, 2016.

Barilari said, “When I was ten years old I heard Astor Piazzolla playing live on TV. Right the way I knew I was going to compose that kind of music. Since that time I have written and performed many other kinds of music. However, chamber and symphonic tango pieces have been a permanent trait in my production.”
“Tango belongs to the two sister cities of the Rio de la Plata: Buenos Aires and Montevideo. We Uruguayans, like the Argentines, are sons of the bandoneon. Becasue of our stronger African heritage, though, we Uruguayans are also sons of the drum. In Canyengue I recall the flavor of tango together with milonga, milongón and candombe – the Afro-Uruguayan rhythms which form the sonorous landscape of my home town.”

Canyengue is a word of African origin. “In Lunfardo – a kind of slang used in tango – it means ‘something with a lot of rhythm,’” Barilari explained. “It comes from kaniengue, a verb from the Ki-Kongo language spoken by many of the slaves that means ‘to melt into the music.’”

“I first composed the piece as a sextet (violin, flute, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion),” he said. “It was commissioned by the Chicago Composers Forum and the Chicago Park District for their Fresh Ink Series. After the premiere, James Palermo, the artistic director of the Grant Park Festival, asked me to expand the piece for full orchestra.”

The symphonic version of Canyengue was premiered on June 2006 at Chicago’s Millennium Park with Carlos Kalmar conducting. Canyengue has been in the repertoire of the Orchestra of the Radio and TV of Spain since 2012. Below, watch a video of their live performance last April in Madrid.


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