Tango Variations

University of Michigan premiere performance

Dedicated to Director of Bands at the University of Michigan, Michael Haithcock. Performed by the University of Michigan Symphony Band conducted by same on October 23, 2010 in Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Once inspiration struck (in summer 2009 after watching a children’s movie) to write a work for large band inspired by tango, I began listening to the oldest recorded tangos so that my mind would not be muddied by the ubiquitous “new tango” of the Astor Piazolla renaissance of the 1990’s. No slight against the great Piazolla, but I wanted to explore the roots of his form to determine which stereotypes I had come to know were merited and which ones were not. What I learned is that tango has never followed any rules of form, and the only universal seems to be (after the importance of inspiring and accompanying a sexual dance, of course) a 4/4 time signature and an abiding favoritism for the minor mode. Yet, the opening falling chromatic opening salvo of myTango Variations (of which there are six variations on an original theme), and the intense upper-lower-chromatic neighbor figure that permeates my original theme are nods to things I heard in multiple listenings to such greats of the 1930’s as Pugliese (who emerged my favorite), Troilo, and Donato among others. Otherwise, I have composed a free-for-all. I will reveal that an early idea to meld it with the music of Robert Schumann’s “Vogel als Prophet” for solo piano into a Tango Prophetico has left the musical landscape dotted with progressions and figures from this Romantic chestnut, but otherwise this is an abstract work, as titled.
Piccolos (2)
Flutes (4)
Oboes (2)
English Horn (1)
Eb Clarinet (1)
Bb Clarinets (6+)
Bb Bass Clarinets (1)
Bb Contrabass Clarinet (1) [Bass Saxophone may be substituted]
Bassoons (2+)
Contrabassoon (1)
Eb Alto Saxophones (2+) [1. doubles Soprano Sax]
Bb Tenor Saxophone (1)
Eb Baritone Saxophone (1)
Bandoneon or Accordion solo (optional)
Horns (4)
Bb Trumpets (6)
Trombones (4)
Bass Trombone (1)
Euphoniums (2)
Tubas (2)
Percussion (note: most duplicate instruments may be shared in the section)
Percussion 1: glockenspiel, triangle, xylophone, shaker, chimes
Percussion 2: vibraphone, china cymbal, xylophone, chimes
Percussion 3: marimba, splash cymbal, chimes, guiro
Percussion 4: 4 tom-toms (2 may be timbales), snare drum, medium suspended cymbal, chimes, vibra-slap, crash cymbals, triangle
Percussion 5: guiro, low suspended cymbal, vibra-slap, tambourine, woodblock, tuned gong (middle C), 5 temple blocks, triangle, chimes, tam-tam
Percussion 6: bass drum, slapstick, tam-tam, crash symbals, high suspended cymbal, woodblock

Concert Band


Printed Full Score available at Subito Music