Astor Piazzolla

Astor Piazzolla (March 11, 1921July 4, 1992) is widely considered the most important tango composer of the latter Twentieth Century. In addition to his work as a bandoneon player, his compositions revolutionized the traditional tango with a modern style — incorporating elements from jazz and classical music in a style termed nuevo tango. He is known in his native land of Argentina as "El Gran Astor" ("The Great Astor").



Born in Argentina in 1921, Piazzolla spent most of his childhood with his family in New York City. While there, he acquired fluency in four languages: Spanish, English, French, and Italian. In addition, he picked up the bandoneon, quickly rising to the status of child prodigy. While still quite young, he met Carlos Gardel, another great figure of Argentine tango. He later studied under the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera and the French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger, before returning to Argentina in 1937, where strictly traditional tango still reigned.

Upon introducing his new approach to the tango (nuevo tango), he became a controversial figure among Argentines both musically and politically. The Argentine saying "in Argentina everything may change — except the tango" suggests some of the resistance he found in native land. However, his music gained acceptance in Europe and North America, and his reworking of the tango was embraced by some liberal segments of Argentine society, who were pushing for political changes in parallel to his musical revolution.

During the period of Argentine military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, Piazzolla lived in Italy, but returned many times to Argentina, recorded there, and on at least one occasion had lunch with the dictator Jorge Rafael Videla. However, his relationship with the dictator might have been less than friendly, as recounted in Astor Piazzolla, A manera de Memorias (a comprehensive collection of interviews, constituting a memoir):

Q: One year before the Los Largartos issue you went to Videla's house and had lunch with him, why did you accepted that invitation?
A: What an invitation! They sent a couple of guys in black suits and a letter with my name on it that said that Videla expected me a particular day in a particular place. I have a book around in some place, with pictures of all the guests: Eladia Bláquez, Daniel Tinayre, Olga Ferri, the composer Juan Carlos Tauriello, there were painters, actors [...]
- Astor Piazzolla, A manera de Memorias, Libros Perfil 1998, ISBN 9500809206, p. 85

Also, from the same source:

"Q: What do you think of Pinochet?"
"A: I think that we Argentinians needed a character like Pinochet. Maybe Argentina needed a bit of fascism at some moment of its history."
- ibid., p. 86


Piazzolla's nuevo tango was distinct from the traditional tango in its incorporation of elements of jazz, its more dissonant sound, and its use of counterpoint. Piazzolla also introduced new instruments that were not used in the traditional tango, including the flute, saxophone, electric and electronic instruments, and a full jazz/rock drum kit.

Piazzolla played with numerous ensembles beginning with the 1946 Orchestra, the 1955 "Octeto Buenos Aires", the 1960 "First Quintet", the 1971 "Noneto", the 1978 "Second Quintet" and the 1989 "Sextet". As well as providing original compositions and arrangements, he was the director and Bandoneon player in all of them. His numerous compositions include orchestral work such as the "Concierto para Bandoneón, Orquesta, Cuerdas y Percusión", "Doble-Concierto para Bandoneón y Guitarra", "Tres Tangos Sinfónicos" and "Concierto de Nácar para 9 Tanguistas y Orquesta". Biographers estimate that Piazzolla wrote around 3,000 pieces and recorded around 500.

See also

External link

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