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Sinfonia Buenos Aires

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Astor Piazzolla

Astor Piazzolla (trans. Eric Laprade)

The original work bears the designation Opus 15.

General Info

Year: 1949 / 2022
Duration: c. 25:30
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Manuscript
Cost: Score and Parts - Contact Eric Laprade


1. Moderato-Allegretto - 8:40
2. Lento, con Anima - 8:05
3. Presto Marcato - 8:00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II (I doubling Piccolo)
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III (I doubling Piccolo Trumpet)
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Timpani (2 sets)
Percussion I-VI, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Guiro (optional)
  • Marimba
  • Sandpaper Blocks
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tom-Toms
  • Triangle
  • Whip
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

In 1949, Piazzolla composed the orchestral triptych he titled Buenos Aires (Tres movimientos sinfónicos) and later re-named Sinfonía Buenos Aires. Alberto Ginastera found it remarkable and passed it along to the composer Juan José Castro, who urged Piazzolla to enter it in the competition for the Fabien Sevitzky Prize, which carried an award of 5,000 Argentine pesos. Piazzolla won the competition, and in 1954 Sevitzky traveled to Buenos Aires to lead the work’s premiere.

It scored a succès de scandale. Piazzolla biographers María Susana Azzi and Simon Collier relate: “Much of the audience applauded frantically. A minority was scandalized. A chance remark led to a melee of fistfights and shouting. As Piazzolla took his bow, Sevitzky consoled him, reminding him of the rowdy premieres of [Igor] Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘That’s publicity!’

Surely much of the fracas had to do with the inclusion of bandoneon in the orchestra -- a stick in the eye to those with a fixed idea of what a symphony orchestra ought to be (the original score called for two bandoneons within the orchestra, for this version the parts are transferred to the saxophones). The score also included what Piazzolla called the “lija.” The word means sandpaper, yielding a scratchy sound.

It’s not as if tango is absent from this piece; even the work’s title proclaims its regional attachment. After the first movement gets past its attention-getting introduction and enters its faster main section (a relaxed Allegretto), the lower instruments, along with the percussion and piano, set up what is undoubtedly a tango rhythm; and yet the ear is directed more to the melody parts, which seem born of a symphonic vocabulary, beginning with a beautiful melody for horns. Woodwinds also invest the second main subject with a dancelike swing, but again the music seems to have more to do with early Stravinsky ballets than with the vernacular of the dance hall.

The saxophones replicating the bandoneon really comes into their own in the second movement. We glimpse Stravinsky’s modernism, too, or echoes of Darius Milhaud in some of the denser episodes where woodwinds curl into a mysterious haze. The propulsive rhythms of the recently departed Mexican master Silvestre Revueltas (an important force in Latin American music until his early death in 1940) seem to be reflected in the powerful, percussion-laden resolutions of the slow movement, as well as in the emphatic outbursts of the finale. This concluding movement calms down for its central section, however, affording time for leisurely, poignant solos before returning to full energy for a momentous conclusion.

Strictly speaking, Sinfonía Buenos Aires was not Piazzolla’s farewell to orchestral music. Years later, for example, he would produce two concerti with string orchestra -- one for bandoneon in 1979, another for bandoneon and guitar in 1985. But the Sinfonía Buenos Aires would remain his most imposing composition for full symphony orchestra. This is the Piazzolla of the path not taken.

This version for band was recently transcribed by University of Michigan wind conducting graduate (MM) Eric Laprade, now director of bands at The College of New Jersey.

- Program Note by James M. Keller for University of Michigan Symphony Band concert program, 30 September 2022


None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by this Composer

Adaptable Music

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

All Wind Works


  • Eric Laprade, personal correspondence, October 2022