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Astor Piazzolla

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Astor Piazzolla

Biography

Ástor Pantaleón Piazzolla (11 March 1921, Mar del Plata, Argentina – 4 July 1992, Buenos Aires, Argentina) was an Argentine tango composer, bandoneon player and arranger.

Piazzolla grew up in New York City, where his family moved in 1925. There he learned to play the bandoneon, a button concertina whose timbre instantly evokes the Argentine tango. Returning to Argentina at the age of sixteen, he played with popular ensembles before forming his own tango orchestra in 1946. In 1954 he traveled to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, who urged him to develop his musical language on a foundation of distinctly Argentine sound.

“I had composed symphonies, chamber music, string quartets,” he recalled, “but when Nadia Boulanger analyzed my music, she said she could find nowhere any Piazzolla. She could find Ravel and Stravinsky, also Béla Bartók and Hindemith—but never Piazzolla. . . . Nadia made me play a tango to her and then she said, ‘You idiot! That is the real Piazzolla!’ So I threw away all the other music and, in 1954, started working on my New Tango.”

By 1956 he began presenting his avant-garde tangos in concert, introducing them via a series of chamber-scaled ensembles he formed through the years. That is the basic biographical arc of the Piazzolla we know because it deposits him at the creation of the New Tango, which staked his fame in posterity.

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. In 1992, American music critic Stephen Holden described Piazzolla as "the world's foremost composer of tango music".


Works for Winds

Adaptable Music

  • Yo Soy Maria (Flex instrumentation) (arr. DeJonge) (1968/2020)


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