Classical Music Meets Tango in Oita City: Beppu’s Argerich’s Music Festival

(Eri Haruguchi Avecilla - T.I. Member)

Did you know there is a special cultural relationship between Kyushu and Argentina? Beppu’s Argerich’s Music Festival, held annually in May since 1996, has been under the direction of internationally renowned Argentine concert pianist Marta Argerich and this year marked its 13th anniversary.  More than a dozen concerts and events took place in Beppu, Oita, and Kita-Kyushu to mark this year’s theme of “Asia Meets Argentina”.

Beppu resident and pianist Kyoko Ito teamed up with her long-time friend Argerich to bring this unique musical event to Kyushu and legions of fans have enjoyed their concerts ever since.  Among this year’s concerts, I had the opportunity to enjoy the Marathon Concert at Oita’s Iichiko Grand Theater on May 14th.  As a one-time resident of Buenos Aires and self proclaimed tango music admirer, my decision to attend was easily made when one of Argentina’s best bandoneónist Maestro Nestor Marconi was scheduled to perform to the concert’s theme of “Classical Music Meets Tango.”  Marconi rarely makes musical appearances even in Argentina, so this was a once in a lifetime chance to see him in our own backyard.  Unfortunately, Marconi’s trip to Japan was canceled due to the earthquake but the concert was a success nevertheless.

The following report is solely my account of the Concert and does not reflect the views or opinion of Tiempo Iberoamericano. 

The moment when my friends and I entered the spacious atrium entrance theatre hall, my eye caught a few couples dancing at temporarily set up ‘milonga’ to the Tango music played by a local tango band ‘Orquest de Tango Oita’.  Along with a large crowd of eager audiences browsing or buying CDs and souvenirs, there was an Argentine television crew filming the event for their audiences back home. 

Argerich and four other classical musicians, along with 21-year-old Japanese Tango bandoneónist Kazuma Miura and Marconi protégé, performed several pieces of music including both classics and Tango during the 4-hour concert.  I was stunned and impressed by Argerich’s “unpredictable and magnetic” style and unsurpassable excellence of technique.  Though Argerich is a classical pianist, she can undoubtedly play anything regardless of the genre.  What surprised me even more, however, was Miura’s bandoneón performance.

One of my favorites in the program was the Piazzolla medley including ‘Verano Porteno’ (‘Summer of Buenos Aires’) and ‘Adios Nonino (‘Farewell, Nonino’).  Although the Piazzolla pieces are usually played by a sextet, Miura’s clean and powerful solo exceeded my expectations.  Miura’s interpretation of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, normally played by a solo pianist and orchestra, was exquisite and brought new life to the original music, which I loved.  It was only made possible by the ‘bandoneón’ whose structure is designed to play chords and melodies simultaneously and Miura who is indeed well-versed in playing it.  I hope one day we can invite him to perform at the Tiempo’s stage.    

Beppu’s Argerich’s Music Festival attracts many classical and tango music fans every year and many in the audience were “repeaters” to the Festival.  I overheard a group of teenage girls talking about their love of bandoneón which they described as “an unusual instrument” similar to an accordion.  I certainly hope that more people will get to know this alluring instrument with its melancholic and seductive tones.  Without a doubt, the Festival has strengthened the cultural relationship between Kyushu and Argentina and it certainly brought me back to the streets of Buenos Aires.


Eri Haruguchi Avecilla is a native of Tokyo, but follows her American diplomat husband around the world.  Prior to being assigned in Fukuoka, they lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Hanoi, Vietnam.