Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

The youth

Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina, Mar del Plata, in March 11, 1921. He lived in New York with his parents from 1924 to 1937. He began to study the bandoneon in 1930, later he studied the piano helped by Bela Wilda, a student of Rachmaninov, in order to refurbish and arrange piano compositions for bandoneon.

In New York, the Great Carlos Gardel (the most famous tango interpreter in history), invited him to record various themes for his film "El dia que me quieras". He returned to Argentina in 1937 where he began to perform in the Anibal Troilo's Orchestra as a bandoneon player. He continued his studies with Alberto Ginastera in 1940 and in 1946 he created his first orchestra. In the same period he dedicated time to classical music performing orchestral and chamber music.

Rewards and assaulting critics

In 1950 Piazzolla received the "Empire Tractor Co. U.S.A.", a reward for his composition "Rapsodia Porteña". In 1953 the "Fabian Sevitsky", a prize for his symphony "Buenos Aires", in 1954 the "Mention by the music critics of Buenos Aires" for "Sinfonietta". Meanwhile he perfected orchestral performing with Hermann Sherchen, and a year later the French Government offered him a scholarship. In Paris he studied with Nadia Boulanger who advised him to continue following the music of his origins. After the French period he created two groups: El octeto de Buenos Aires and La orquesta de Cuerdas.

The music was completely changed: although critics were negative, he ignored them and continued to perform the music he was very fond of. In 1958 he moved to New York because he was assaulted by record companies, radio and television. Two years later he was again in Buenos Aires and formed a quintet, always convinced that tango was a kind of music that should be listened to rather than danced to. He made several concerts, recorded and went on tour in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and U.S.A.. In 1963 he won the Hirsch Prize and composed "Tres movimientos sinfonicos" performed the same year by Paul Klecky.

Variety of works

In 1967 Piazzolla, together with the poet Horacio Ferrer, wrote a brief opera: "Maria de Buenos Aires" (in 1991 it was performed in Houston, Texas). After that, he wrote "Tangazo", for Ignacio Calderon, performed by the Ensemble Musical de Buenos Aires, "Tango Seis" for the Melos Ensemble and "Milonga en Re" for the violinist Salvatore Accardo. Meanwhile he continued his work with Ferrer, and tried a new thing that is the Tango-song. In 1969 the theme "Balada para un loco", sung by Amelita Baltar, became the success of the year in several southern countries. This kind of music, apparently very commercial, in reality gave him the chance to approach all kinds of persons. His concerts attracted larger audiences and recognized in Piazzolla the most authentic expression of the music of Buenos Aires.

He returned to Paris in 1970, and in the Cite de Arts (Mozarteum) for five months. In the same time, together with Ferrer, he composed an oratorio "El Pueblo Joven", performed for the first time in Saarbruchken. In September 1971, he created Conjunto Nueve and the Municipalidad de la ciudad de Buenos Aires performing many concerts in Argentina and abroad. Successfull concerts held in Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, San Paolo and Santiago del Chile. In April 1972 Piazzolla was invited by the Italo-Latin-American Institute in Rome and presented the Conjunto Nueve in Italy for the first time also making some TV appearances at the Rai Televisione Italiana.

In August 1972 he performed at the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires. Because of this engagement he refused the Bertolucci offer to write the soundtrack for Ultimo Tango a Parigi. However, he dedicated two pieces entitled "Jeanne y Paul" and "El Penultimo". In August, he presented the first performance of the "Concierto de Nacar" for nine solists and Ensemble Musical de Buenos Aires performed by Calderon. Piazzolla has been performed all around the world by the most important artists of his country Amelita Baltar, Suzana Rinaldi, José Angel Trelles, etc. The most important Italian artists include Mina, Milva, Modugno, Fred Bongusto, Edmonda Aldini, Marina Pagano.

Piazzolla performed and recorded all his compositions

Among the international artists: Guy Marchand, George Mustaki, Jairo, Massiel, Le Clerk, Grace Jones with "I've seen that face before". Millions of records have been sold. After that, he preferred the exhibition with symphonic orchestras performing these compositions only. He also enjoyed playing with his quintet. In 1988 he recorded with Lalo Schifrind and the St. Luke Orchestra "Concierto para Bandoneon", "Three tangos for bandoneon and orchestra" and "Suite punta del este". In 1989 with Kronos Quartet he performed a suite entitled "Five tango sensations". It remained in the U.S. charts for 55 weeks.

Recently the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London performed by Ettore Stratta, recorded an album with Astor Piazzolla music arranged by Jorge Calandrelli. Several important orchestras and musicians now interpret Astor Piazzolla. He is one of the few composers that have represented and fully recorded all his compositions, recording approximatly 100 LPs. During the last ten years he wrote over 300 tangos, about 50 sound tracks (among them: "Enrico IV" of Marco Bellocchio, "El exilio de Gardel" and "Sur" of Fernando Solanas), collaborated on films of Jean Moreau, Alain Delon, Trintignan and other French directors and composed music for theatre and ballet.

Absolute Prize for the best record of instrumental music with the following motivation: For the validity of the compositions and for the surprising inventiveness of the arrangements that confer to the tango a completely new dimension. February 1992: Astor Piazzolla was nominated with the track "Oblivion" at the Grammy Awards 1992 in Los Angeles for the category 'Best Instrumental Composition'. According to world wide critics Oblivion is one of the most beautiful works ever written by Piazzolla. He died in Buenos Aires on July 4th, 1992.

Original text by Aldo Pagani, Producer