Tango in the Movies

Tango music is as infectious as the dance itself. The corpus of tango music is wide, with the golden period going back to Argentina in the 1930s. In today’s post, I share three highly listenable tango pieces that featured as movie soundtracks, one of which dates to 1935.

Waltz No. 2 (Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich)

Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (1906 -1975) was a Russian composer and pianist who is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. He was heavily influenced by the neoclassical style pioneered by Igor Stravinsky (especially his symphonies), and by the late Romanticism of Gustav Mahler. Shostakovich’s orchestral works include fifteen symphonies and six concerti, 14 string quartets, two solo piano works and a set of 24 preludes and fugues. Other works include three operas, several song cycles, ballets, and a substantial quantity of film music; especially well known is the “Waltz No. 2” from the Suite for Variety Orchestra. Waltz No. 2 was the soundtrack of the 2008 British period drama, Easy Virtue starring Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas.

“Por Una Cabea” (Composer: Carlos Gardel)

“Por Una Cabeza” is the soundtrack of the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman directed by Martin Brest. The song was composed in 1935 by Carlos Gardel with lyrics by Alfredo Le Pera. Gardel (1890 -1935) was a French-born Argentine singer, songwriter, composer and actor, and the most prominent figure in the history of tango. Nicknamed the “King of Tango”, he was also one of the most influential interpreters of world popular music in the first half of the 20th century. As a singer, he was notable for his baritone voice and the dramatic phrasing of his lyrics. Together with lyricist and long-time collaborator Alfredo Le Pera, he wrote several classic tangos, including “Por Una Cabeza”.

Tango to Evora (Composer: Loreena McKennitt)

Loreena McKennitt (b. 1957) is a Canadian singer known for her crystal-clear voice. She is also multi-instrumentalist and composer who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern influences. Many of her compositions are inspired by poetry, including “The Lady of Shalott” by Lord Tennyson, “Prospero’s Speech” (the final soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest), “Snow” by Archibald Lampman, “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross, Dante’s Inferno, William Blake’s Lullaby, and Yeats’ The Stolen Child.

Tango to Evora is the 6th song in McKennitt’s 1991 Album, The Visit. The album has been certified four times platinum in Canada and gold in the U.S. In 1992, it won the Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album of the Year. Here is the voice of McKennitt herself in “Tango to Evora” set to a scene from the 2005 film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

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