Today's artist is the single most important figure in the history of tango, he died 25 years ago, a towering giant whose shadow looms large over everything that preceded and followed him. His place in Argentina's greatest cultural export is roughly equivalent to that of Duke Ellington in jazz -- the genius composer who took an earthy, sensual, even disreputable folk music and elevated it into a sophisticated form of high art. But even more than Ellington, he was also a virtuosic performer with a near-unparalleled mastery of his chosen instrument, the bandoneon, a large button accordion noted for its unwieldy size and difficult fingering system. In his hands, tango was no longer strictly a dance music; his compositions borrowed from jazz and classical forms, creating a whole new harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary made for the concert hall more than the ballroom (which was dubbed "nuevo tango"). Some of his devices could be downright experimental -- he wasn't afraid of dissonance or abrupt shifts in tempo and meter, and he often composed segmented pieces with hugely contrasting moods that interrupted the normal flow and demanded the audience's concentration. The complexity and ambition of Piazzolla's oeuvre brought him enormous international acclaim, particularly in Europe and Latin America, but it also earned him the lasting enmity of many tango purists, who attacked him mercilessly for his supposed abandonment of tradition (and even helped drive him out of the country for several years). But he always stuck to his guns, and remained tango's foremost emissary to the world at large up until his death in 1992. ...N'Joy
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Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla (March 11, 1921 – July 4, 1992) was an Argentine tango composer, bandoneon player, and arranger. His oeuvre revolutionized the traditional tango into a new style termed nuevo tango, incorporating elements from jazz and classical music. A virtuoso bandoneonist, he regularly performed his own compositions with a variety of ensembles. Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1921, the only child of Italian immigrant parents, Vicente "Nonino" Piazzolla and Asunta Manetti. His paternal grandfather, a sailor and fisherman named Pantaleo (later Pantaleón) Piazzolla, had immigrated to Mar del Plata from Trani, a seaport in the southeastern Italian region of Apulia, at the end of the 19th century.[ His mother was the daughter of two Italian immigrants from Lucca in Tuscany.
In 1925 Astor Piazzolla moved with his family to Greenwich Village in New York City, which in those days was a violent neighbourhood inhabited by a volatile mixture of gangsters and hard-working immigrants. His parents worked long hours and Piazzolla soon learned to take care of himself on the streets despite having a limp. At home he would listen to his father's records of the tango orchestras of Carlos Gardel and Julio de Caro, and was exposed to jazz and classical music, including Bach, from an early age. He began to play the bandoneon after his father spotted one in a New York pawn shop in 1929.
After their return to New York City from a brief visit to Mar del Plata in 1930, the family moved to Little Italy in lower Manhattan. In 1932 Piazzolla composed his first tango, "La Catinga". The following year he took music lessons with the Hungarian classical pianist Bela Wilda, a student of Rachmaninoff who taught him to play Bach on his bandoneon. In 1934 he met Carlos Gardel, one of the most important figures in the history of tango, and played a cameo role as a paper boy in his movie El día que me quieras. Gardel invited the young bandoneon player to join him on his tour. Much to Piazzolla's dismay, his father decided that he was not old enough to go along. The disappointment of being forbidden to join the tour proved to be fortunate, as it was on this tour in 1935 that Gardel and his entire orchestra perished in a plane crash. In later years, Piazzolla made light of this near miss, joking that if his father had not been so careful, Piazzolla would be playing the harp rather than the bandoneon. In 1936, he returned with his family to Mar del Plata, where he began to play in a variety of tango orchestras and around this time he discovered the music of Elvino Vardaro’s sextet on the radio. Vardaro’s novel interpretation of tango made a great impression on Piazzolla and years later he would become Piazzolla’s violinist in his Orquesta de Cuerdas (String Orchestra) and his First Quintet.
Inspired by Vardaro’s style of tango, and still only 17 years old, Piazzolla moved to Buenos Aires in 1938 where, the following year, he realized a dream when he joined the orchestra of the bandoneonist Anibal Troilo, which would become one of the greatest tango orchestras of that time. Piazzolla was employed as a temporary replacement for Toto Rodríguez who was ill, but when Rodríguez returned to work Troilo decided to retain Piazzolla as a fourth bandoneonist. Apart from playing the bandoneon, Piazzolla also became Troilo’s arranger and would occasionally play the piano for him. By 1941 he was earning a good wage, enough to pay for music lessons with Alberto Ginastera, an eminent Argentine composer of classical music. It was the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, then living in Buenos Aires, who had advised him to study with Ginastera and delving into scores of Stravinsky, Bartók, Ravel, and others, Piazzolla rose early each morning to hear the Teatro Colón orchestra rehearse while continuing a gruelling performing schedule in the tango clubs at night. During his five years of study with Ginastera he mastered orchestration, which he later considered to be one of his strong points. In 1943 he started piano lessons with the Argentine classical pianist Raúl Spivak, which would continue for the next five years, and wrote his first classical works Preludio No. 1 for Violin and Piano and Suite for Strings and Harps. That same year he married his first wife, Dedé Wolff, an artist, with whom he had two children, Diana and Daniel.
As time went by Troilo began to fear that the advanced musical ideas of the young bandoneonist might undermine the style of his orchestra and make it less appealing to dancers of tango. Tensions mounted between the two bandoneonists until, in 1944, Piazzolla announced his intention to leave Troilo and join the orchestra of the tango singer and bandoneonist Francisco Fiorentino. Piazzolla would lead Fiorentino's orchestra until 1946 and make many recordings with him, including his first two instrumental tangos, La chiflada and Color de rosa. In 1946 Piazzolla formed his Orquesta Típica, which, although having a similar formation to other tango orchestras of the day, gave him his first opportunity to experiment with his own approach to the orchestration and musical content of tango. That same year he composed, El Desbande, which he considered to be his first formal tango, and then began to compose musical scores for films, starting with Con los mismos colores in 1949 and Bólidos de acero in 1950, both films directed by Carlos Torres Ríos.
Having disbanded his first orchestra in 1950 he almost abandoned tango altogether as he continued to study Bartok and Stravinsky and orchestra direction with Hermann Scherchen. He spent a lot of time listening to jazz and searching for a musical style of his own beyond the realms of tango. He decided to drop the bandoneon and to dedicate himself to writing and to studying music. Between 1950 and 1954 he composed a series of works that began to develop his unique style: Para lucirse, Tanguango, Prepárense, Contrabajeando, Triunfal and Lo que vendrá. At Ginastera's urging, on August 16, 1953, Piazzolla entered his classical composition "Buenos Aires Symphony in Three Movements" for the Fabian Sevitzky Award. The performance took place at the law school in Buenos Aires with the symphony orchestra of Radio del Estado under the direction of Sevitzky himself. At the end of the concert, a fight broke out among members of the audience who were offended by the inclusion of two bandoneons in a traditional symphony orchestra. In spite of this Piazzolla's composition won a grant from the French government to study in Paris with the legendary French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger at the Fontainebleau conservatory.
In 1954 he and his wife left their two children (Diana aged 11 and Daniel aged 10) with Piazzolla's parents and travelled to Paris. Piazzolla was tired of tango and tried to hide his tanguero past and his bandoneon compositions from Boulanger, thinking that his destiny lay in classical music. Introducing his work, Piazzolla played her a number of his classically inspired compositions, but it was not until he played his tango Triunfal that she congratulated him and encouraged him to pursue his career in tango, recognising that this was where his talent lay. This was to prove a historic encounter and a cross-road in Piazzolla's career. With Boulanger he studied classical composition, including counterpoint, which was to play an important role in his later tango compositions. Before leaving, Paris he heard the octet of the American jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, which was to give him the idea of forming his own octet on his return to Buenos Aires. He composed and recorded a series of tangos with the String Orchestra of the Paris Opera and began to play the bandoneon while standing up, putting his right foot on a chair and the bellows of the instrument across his right thigh. Until that time bandoneonists played sitting down.
Back in Argentina, Piazzolla formed his Orquesta de Cuerdas (String Orchestra), which performed with the singer Jorge Sobral, and his Octeto Buenos Aires in 1955. With two bandoneons (Piazzolla and Leopoldo Federico), two violins (Enrique Mario Francini and Hugo Baralis), double bass (Juan Vasallo), cello (José Bragato), piano (Atilio Stampone), and an electric guitar (Horacio Malvicino), his Octeto effectively broke the mould of the traditional orquesta típica and created a new sound akin to chamber music, without a singer and with jazz-like improvisations. This was to be a turning point in his career and a watershed in the history of tango. Piazzolla's new approach to the tango, nuevo tango, made him a controversial figure in his native land both musically and politically. 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.
In 1958 he disbanded both the Octeto and the String Orchestra and returned to New York City with his family where he struggled to make a living as a musician and arranger. Briefly forming his own group, the Jazz Tango Quintet with whom he made just two recordings, his attempts to blend jazz and tango were not successful. He received the news of the death of his father in October 1959 while performing with Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves in Puerto Rico and on his return to New York City a few days later, he asked to be left alone in his apartment and in less than an hour wrote his famous tango Adiós Nonino, in homage to his father. Copes and Nieves packed out Club Flamboyan in San Juan, Puerto Rico with "Compañia Argentina Tangolandia". Piazzolla was serving as the musical director. The tour continued in New York, Chicago and then Washington. The last show that the three of them did together was an appearance on CBS the only colour TV channel in the USA on the Arthur Murray Show in April 1960.
Back in Buenos Aires later that year he put together the first, and perhaps most famous, of his quintets, the first Quinteto, initially comprising bandoneon (Piazzolla), piano (Jaime Gosis), violin (Simón Bajour), electric guitar (Horacio Malvicino ) and double bass (Kicho Díaz). Of the many ensembles that Piazzolla set up during his career it was the quintet formation which best expressed his approach to tango. In 1963 he set up his Nuevo Octeto and the same year premiered his Tres Tangos Sinfónicos, under the direction of Paul Klecky, for which he was awarded the Hirsch Prize. In 1965 he released El Tango, an album for which he collaborated with the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The recording featured his Quinteto together with an orchestra, the singer Edmundo Rivero and Luis Medina Castro reciting texts.
In 1966 he left Dedé Wolff and the following year signed a five-year contract with the poet Horacio Ferrer with whom he composed the operetta María de Buenos Aires, with lyrics by Ferrer. The work was premiered in May 1968 with the singer Amelita Baltar in the title role and introduced a new style of tango, Tango Canción (in English: Tango Song). Soon after this he began a relationship with Amelita Baltar. The following year he wrote Balada para un loco with lyrics by Ferrer which was premiered at the First Iberoamerican Music Festival with Amelita Baltar and Piazzolla himself conducting the orchestra. Piazzolla was awarded second prize and the composition would prove to be his first popular success.
In 1970 Piazzolla returned to Paris where with Ferrer he wrote the oratorio El pueblo joven later premiered in Saarbrücken, Germany in 1971. On May 19, 1970 he gave a concert with his Quinteto at the Teatro Regina in Buenos Aires in which he premiered his composition Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas. Back in Buenos Aires he founded his Conjunto 9 (a.k.a. Nonet), a chamber music formation, which was a realisation of a dream for Piazzolla and for which he composed some of his most sophisticated music. He now put aside his first Quinteto and made several recordings with his new ensemble in Italy. Within a year the Conjunto 9 had run into financial problems and was dissolved and in 1972 he participated in his first concert at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, sharing the bill with other Tango orchestras.
After a period of great productivity as a composer, he suffered a heart attack in 1973 and that same year he moved to Italy where he began a series of recordings which would span a period of five years. The music publisher Aldo Pagani, a partner in Curci-Pagani Music, had offered Piazzolla a 15-year contract in Rome to record anything he could write. His famous album Libertango was recorded in Milan in May 1974 and later that year he separated from Amelita Baltar and in September recorded the album Summit (Reunión Cumbre) with the saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and an Italian orchestra, including jazz musicians such as bassist Pino Presti and drummer Tullio De Piscopo, in Milan. The album includes the composition Aire de Buenos Aires by Mulligan.
In 1975 he set up his Electronic Octet an octet made up of bandoneon, electric piano and/or acoustic piano, organ, guitar, electric bass, drums, synthesizer and violin, which was later replaced by a flute or saxophone. Later that year Aníbal Troilo died and Piazzolla composed the Suite Troileana in his memory, a work in four parts, which he recorded with the Conjunto Electronico. At this time Piazzolla started a collaboration with the singer Jose A. Trelles with whom he made a number of recordings.
In December 1976 he played at a concert at the Teatro Gran Rex in Buenos Aires, where he presented his work, “500 motivaciones”, written especially for the Conjunto Electronico, and in 1977 he played another memorable concert at the Olympia in Paris, with a new formation of the Conjunto Electronico. In 1978 he formed his second Quintet, with which he would tour the world for 11 years, and would make him world-renowned. He also returned to writing chamber music and symphonic works. 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)
In 1982 he recorded the album Oblivion with an orchestra in Italy for the film Enrico IV, directed by Marco Bellocchio, and in May 1982, in the middle of the Falklands War, he played in a concert at the Teatro Regina, Buenos Aires with the second Quinteto and the singer Roberto Goyeneche. That same year he wrote Le Grand Tango for cello and piano, dedicated to Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich which would be premiered by him in 1990 in New Orleans. On 11 June 1983 he put on one of the best concerts of his life when he played a program of his music at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. For the occasion he regrouped the Conjunto 9 and played solo with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, directed by Pedro Ignacio Calderón. The programme included his three-movement Concierto para bandoneón y orquesta and his 3 movement Concierto de Nacar.
On 4 July 1984 Piazzolla appeared with his Quinteto at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the world's largest jazz festival, and on 29 September that same year they appeared with the Italian singer Milva at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris. His concert on 15 October 1984 at the Teatro Nazionale in Milan was recorded and released as the album Suite Punte del Este. At the end of that same year he performed in West-Berlin, and in theater Vredenburg in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, where VPRO-TV-director Theo Uittenbogaard recorded his Quinteto Tango Nuevo, playing, among other pieces, a very moving Adios Nonino, with as a backdrop – to Piazzolla's great pleasure – the extremely zoomed-in "live"' projection of his bandoneon playing.
With the film score for El exilio de Gardel he won the French critics Cesar Award in Paris for best film music in 1986. He appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland, with vibraphonist Gary Burton in July 1986 and on 6 September 1987 gave a concert in New York’s Central Park, in the city where he spent his childhood. In September 1987 he recorded his Concierto para bandoneón y orquesta and Tres tangos para bandoneón y orquesta with Lalo Schifrin conducting the St. Luke’s Orchestra, in the Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University.
In 1988 he wrote music for the film Sur and married the singer and television personality Laura Escalada on April 11. In May that year he recorded his album La Camorra in New York, a suite of three pieces, the last time he would record with the second Quinteto. During a tour of Japan with Milva he played at a concert at the Nakano Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo on June 26, 1988 and that same year underwent a quadruple by-pass operation.
Early in 1989 he formed his Sexteto Nuevo Tango, his last ensemble, with two bandoneons, piano, electric guitar, bass and cello. Together they gave a concert at the Club Italiano in Buenos Aires in April, a recording of which was issued under the title of Tres minutos con la realidad. Later he appeared with them at the Teatro Opera in Buenos Aires in the presence of the newly elected Argentine President Carlos Menem on Friday, June 9. This would be Piazzolla's last concert in Argentina.
There followed a concert at the Royal Carre Theatre in Amsterdam with his Sexteto and Osvaldo Pugliese’s Orquesta on June 26, 1989, a live recording at the BBC Bristol Studios in June 1989, between concerts in Berlin and Rome, and a concert at the Wembley Conference Centre on June 30, 1989. On November 4, 1989, he gave a concert in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the Moulin à Danses and later that month he recorded his composition Five Tango Sensations, with the Kronos Quartet in the US on an album of the same name.
This would be his last studio recording and was his second composition for the Kronos Quartet. His first Four, For Tango had been included in their 1988 album Winter Was Hard. Towards the end of the year he dissolved his sexteto and continued playing solo with classical string quartets and symphonic orchestras. He joined Anahi Carfi's Mantova String Quartet and toured Italy and Finland with them.
His 1982 composition, Le grand tango, for cello and piano was premiered in New Orleans by the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the pianist Igor Uriash in 1990 and on July 3 he gave his last concert in Athens, Greece, with the Athens Orchestra of Colours, conducted by Manos Hatzidakis. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in Paris on August 4, 1990, which left him in a coma, and died in Buenos Aires, just under two years later on July 4, 1992, without regaining consciousness.
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A superb 1974 session recorded in Milan teams baritone-saxist Gerry Mulligan with the great guru of art-music tango. This is mostly dark and moody music, with a lot of tonal variety and a resolute refusal to fit into any of the handy pigeonholes: a one-off event, wholly successful.
Astor Piazzolla n Gerry Mulligan - Summit (Tango Nuevo) (flac 228mb)
01 20 Years Ago 6:26
02 Close Your Eyes And Listen 4:32
03 Years Of Solitude 4:07
04 Deus Xangô 3:45
05 20 Years After 4:10
06 Aire De Buenos Aires 4:37
07 Reminiscence 6:30
08 Summit 3:35
Astor Piazzolla n Gerry Mulligan - Summit (Tango Nuevo) (ogg 96mb)
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This powerful concert was recorded live in New York City on September 6, 1987. Piazzolla was playing with his best ensemble: a quintet consisting of himself on bandoneon, Pablo Ziegler on piano, Fernando Suarez Paz on violin, Horacio Malvicino on electric guitar, and Hector Console on bass. Piazzolla plays some of his finest material -- about half of Tango: Zero Hour surfaces, for example. Two of the most paradigmatic Piazzolla pieces show up too: "La Camorra," with its alternating moments of tense dance rhythms and creepy atmosphere, and "Verano Porteño," with its dancing-bear rhythms. The concert closes with "Concierto Para Quinteto," one of those long pieces that Piazzolla favored that visits many styles and moods -- almost many eras. It would be very easy to lose the thread on such an epic composition in live performance, but the quintet keeps it together admirably. The live recording is of surprisingly high quality; there is an appropriate echo and the balance is nearly perfect. The audience is completely unobtrusive -- inaudible except when they applaud. And the instruments are very clear, especially when the musicians coax those "zings" and "pops" out of them that Piazzolla loved. For someone new to his work, the "special effects" on this recording can be a revelation. There is also a wonderful spoken track, with Piazzolla talking about himself, the tango, and the mysterious bandoneon. This album is a wonderful place to start -- or finish -- with this charismatic composer of nuevo tango music.
Astor Piazzolla - The Central Park Concert (flac 353mb)
01 Verano Porteño 6:54
02 Lunfardo 5:56
03 Milonga Del Angel 6:32
04 Muerte Del Angel 3:20
05 Astor's Speech 2:20
06 La Camorra 4:27
07 Mumuki 9:09
08 Adios Nonino 8:12
09 Contra Bajissmo 10:10
10 Michelangelo 3:24
11 Concierto Para Quinteto 9:45
Astor Piazzolla - The Central Park Concert (ogg 156mb)
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The undisputed lord of nuevo tango, Astor Piazzolla conceived of five tangos, written for himself on bandoneon, and the Kronos Quartet on strings. The neo-classical style of Kronos fits surprisingly well on Piazzolla's new style of tango and provides a wonderful backing for the maestro at work. Though there are only five songs on the album, the title fits well, Five Tango Sensations. Each of the tangos presented is a sensation and conveys the full emotion or scene given in the titles: "Asleep," "Loving," "Anxiety," "Despertar" (waking up), and "Fear." Piazzolla plays his heart out on his trusty bandoneon, and the Kronos players accompany to perfection. If it's the tango that the listener wants, Piazzolla is the man to listen to. Concierto para Bandoneon Tres Tangos, this recording with a classical orchestra is Piazzolla's apotheosis. For years he has been turning a dance form into an art music. Here he essentially crosses into the regional conservatory style called national music.
Astor Piazzolla n Kronos Quartet - Five Tango Sensation + Concerto Para Bandoneon (flac 352mb)
Five Tango Sensation
01 Asleep 5:28
02 Loving 6:14
03 Anxiety 4:57
04 Despertar 6:06
05 Fear 4:00
Concierto Para Bandoneón, Orquesta De Cuerdas Y Percusión
06 Allegro Marcato 6:49
07 Moderato 7:38
08 Presto 7:00
Tres Movimientos Tanguisticos Porteños
09 Allegreto 6:48
10 Moderatto 8:30
11 Vivace 3:56
Astor Piazzolla n Kronos Quartet - Five Tango Sensation + Concerto Para Bandoneon (ogg 134mb)
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Bandoneon Sinfonico documents a concert Astor Piazzolla gave in July of 1990, where the the godfather of tango gave a standard performance of his repertoire and was supported by the Athens Colours Orchestra and conductor Manos Hidjidakis. What makes the concert notable is that it happened to be the last concert Piazzolla ever gave, so it is a special release for diehard fans and even casual listeners will be surprised by how vital Piazzolla sounds toward the end of his career.
Astor Piazzolla - Bandoneon Sinfonico (flac 283mb)
01 Allegro Marcato 6:38
02 Moderato Mistico 5:16
03 Allegretto Molto Marcato 5:02
04 Adiós Nonino 8:01
05 Allegro Marcato 7:06
06 Moderato 6:46
07 Presto 7:07
08 (bis) 8:15
Astor Piazzolla - Bandoneon Sinfonico (ogg 122mb)
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