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Pablo Ziegler embodies the art of tango

The tango is a dance — and a music — of romance, with all the range of emotions that implies, from tentative introductions and tender courtship to passages of pure joy, passionate embrace and flaring tempers, even violence.

No one embodies the art of the tango better than pianist Pablo Ziegler’s Quartet for New Tango, which performed a breathtaking two-hour concert Thursday night at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

Hector Del Curto is Ziegler’s longtime bandmate on the accordion-like bandoneon, the instrument that defines the sound of the Argentine tango. They were joined by South Korean cellist Jisoo Ok and bassist Pedro Giraudo. The quartet would alternate between flawless unison lines and solos of self-expression more common among jazz players.

The two-set program was comprised of Ziegler originals and a few nods to Piazzolla. Ziegler’s “La Fundicion” was dramatic, with a mournful piano-cello interplay giving way to the push-and-pull phrasing of the bandoneon. Piazzolla’s classic “Introduccion al Angel” was a tender, sad ballad with the cello adding a mournful voice to the conversation.

Ziegler and Ok opened the second set with “Milonga del Adios,” in which the cello seemed to weep in grief-stricken remorse. Ok sat out “La Cumparsola,” a tune by Mattos Rodriquez performed by the trio.

Ziegler is in a line of direct descent from the great Astor Piazzolla, the founder and maestro of Nuevo Tango. After a decade as Piazzolla’s pianist, he has continued and expanded on the tradition for some 24 years since the master’s death in 1992. Whether fronting a trio, a chamber orchestra, a quintet or his current quartet, Ziegler combines elements of classical music, jazz and the music of his native Argentina in a dazzling display of technical mastery and great emotive power.

Tango music may seem loosely structured at times but these masterful musicians are highly disciplined in execution. They completed the concert with another Piazzolla classic, “Chin Chin.”

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