Part 25 Argentine Tango and Astor Piazzolla

This is a continuation of Part 24, published in last month’s issue.

Argentina born Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) was a bandoneón (see part 8 of this series) and piano virtuoso, an orchestra director and a composer. He is the best known Argentine Tango composer in the international world of music. Unlike other famous Tango composers who chose to remain in Argentina, Piazzolla went into voluntary exile more than once. He traveled extensively in the Americas and in Europe, driving Argentine Tango so far beyond its bounds to where many Argentine Tango professionals lacked the capacity to understand him. In his Buenos Aires Symphony, Piazzolla is notable for brilliant, original orchestration. His Bandoneón Concerto, Aconcagua, provides the soloist with ample challenges. Las The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires is a series of Tango sequences in which the seasons are expressed with emotional depth.

Famous Nadia Boulanger said that when writing tangos, Piazzolla was really himself; She told him, “This music is the true Piazzolla, do not ever leave him.” Piazzolla wrote the Buenos Aires Symphony following five years of study with Ginastera and after that he won a scholarship to study in France.

He joined the Buenos Aires Argentine Tango scene in 1938, when Argentine Tango was awakening into its Golden Age. Piazzolla´s relationship with the Tango community was difficult; a mixture of admiration and resentment, playing in orchestras in dark suburban clubs. At that time other musicians would say, “Piazzolla is not Tango.”

He was born in a city 200 miles south of Buenos Aires, the son of Italian immigrants. His father was a barber. Disillusioned with Argentina, in 1924 he and his parents moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1929 he was given a gift—a bandoneón. In 1932 he composed his first Argentine Tango, La catinga, and as a child actor was included in El día que me quieras, a film with Carlos Gardel (see part 8 of this series).

In 1936, frustrated with the New York City mafia, the family returned to Mar del Plata, the city of his birth. In 1938 he arrived in Buenos Aires, where he played for the bandoneonist Aníbal Troilo’s orchestra. He played a major role in the Argentine Tango scene for two decades. Troilo tutored Piazzolla, but also trimmed his wings to keep him within his own style. Astor´s innovation spirit soared in 1944 when he left Troilo to launch his own group in 1946. He moved to France in 1954, having won a scholarship granted by the Paris Conservatory.

Back in Argentina, Piazzolla created the Buenos Aires Octet, assembling players of the highest level. This was the artistic zenith of his career.

In 1958 Piazzolla settled in New York where he lived a very hard life and returned to Buenos Aires in 1960 where he put together the Nuevo Quintet.

In 1965 his Quintet performed at the Philharmonic Hall of New York, introducing the series del Diablo and del Ángel.

Later he created the opera María de Buenos Aires. In 1969 he launched Balada para un loco and Chiquilín de Bachín, and this all of a sudden brought to Piazzolla a massive success. The rest is history.

2015 is Lidia and Hector’s twelfth year as SaddleBrooke Argentine Tango instructors. They have been teaching Argentine Tango dancing for seventeen years.

If you are interested in learning more about Argentine Tango and Tango events in SaddleBrooke, please visit our website where you can also read Parts 1 through 24 of these series.

Lidia and Hector are Argentina-born U.S. Citizens and SaddleBrooke residents. They travel to Buenos Aires once or twice a year to dance Argentine Tango, to attend the International Argentine Tango Festival and to further refine their Argentine Tango teaching skills.