You may know Antoine Plante as the curly haired brunette who waves his arms in front of Mercury - The Orchestra Redefined. You may know him for his charming Québécois brogue that tickles his Texanisms. You may even know him as a party guy who isn't shy to impersonate movie characters to entertain his guests.
But most likely you don't know the maestro as a tango bailarin.
Tango was all the rage when classically trained Plante lived in Canada. In the late 1990s, he and his brother, Denis, would frequent an Argentinean bar in which the sassy dance was part of the daily charm. Musicians jammed, couples put on the moves and wine flowed. The Plante compadres were so infected by the lively rhythms that they both took up tango dancing, they traveled to Buenos Aires to purchase bandoneóns (accordions essential in tango music) and became part of the scene in Argentina and at home.
In tango speak, you can call the siblings milongueros.
"I'll come clean," Antoine Plante tells CultureMap. "We really started doing the tango because we wanted to meet girls."
Dancing tango, Plante says, is how he wooed his wife, Lori Muratta.
"I'll come clean. We really started doing the tango because we wanted to meet girls."
Denis Plante went on to master the bandoneón, a switch from his earlier focus on jazz guitar. Today, the composer-cum-performer is recognized as an international virtuoso. He performs regularly with symphony orchestras and chamber groups, and has recorded albums with the Astorias, Quartango and Bataclan ensembles. Denis Plante's debut solo CD, Cantos de Bandoneón, is a collection of original compositions, some of which are narrative in nature. Take his three-movement work "Noche de Tango." It tells the story of a man who upon returning to his hometown encounters a much different world — and struggles to fit in.
Antoine Plante, who studied at Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal and at Rice University, was content on the viola de gamba and as a conductor, later establishing one of the most successful period instrument chamber orchestras in Houston and in the country. Mercury - The Orchestra Redefined hits all the right notes with Houston audiences. But his bandoneón, sadly, lives silently somewhere in a dark closet.
The brothers will reunite for a performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre, set for Saturday at 8 p.m. The program, titled "8 Seasons," includes Astor Piazzolla's Estaciones Porteñas (Four Seasons) and Antonio Vivaldi's Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons). Do the math.
"It's unclear if Piazzolla meant for a musical connection to exist between his composition and Vivaldi's," Antoine Plante explains. "Piazzolla is more abstract than Vivaldi. Piazzolla describes a mood but doesn't paint a picture."
Still, there's an undeniable link in the overarching theme, especially bearing in mind that Vivaldi's seasonal sketches rank high in popularity, perhaps even in the top five classical music compositions of all time. Vivaldi's Four Seasons has been used for commercial purposes extensively. It's over recorded. It's heard in elevators, hospitals, hotels, weddings, restaurants . . . brunch and mimosas, anyone?
But, as Antoine Plante points out, the concerti aren't often performed live in their entirety.
"When listeners experience the piece as a whole, they are surprised," he says. "They are even amazed to learn that the music is accompanied by poetry, which we plan to project above the orchestra so everyone can follow along."
Although audiences may be familiar with the lovely birds, flowing streams and bucolic dances evoked by the colorful oeuvre, there are other allusions that are, shall we say, less well-mannered. Like a barking dog and a bunch of drunks that pass out because of their indulgence.
As for the concert, Antoine Plante confides that he's thinking about dusting off his concertina to perform alongside his brother in an impromptu encore selection, taking a nostalgic trip down memory lane to when the single dudes were on prowl for the ladies. He'll be forgiven if he isn't up to the task, but here's something else to ponder.
What if he were to delight us with a dance demonstration? Wouldn't that be lovely.
Mercury - The Orchestra Redefined presents "8 Seasons" Saturday, 8 p.m., at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Admission is free; tickets are available for covered seating.