Argentinian tango composer, arranger and bandoneon player Ástor Pantaleón Piazzolla was born in Mar Del Plata on 11 March 1921 to Italian immigrant parents. The family moved to the USA and Piazzolla's father bought a bandoneon from a New York pawn shop in 1929, after which Ástor began to play it. He wrote his first tango, La Catinga, in 1932, and took music lessons from Bela Wilda, who taught him to play Bach on his Bandoneon, in 1933.
Back in Argentina, by 1939, Piazzolla was living in Buenos Aires and playing in bandoneon Anibal Troilo's tango orchestra. He also made arrangements and played piano for Troilo, but Troilo had to edit Piazzolla's arrangements, so as not to scare off the dancers, considering them too advanced for their time.
He studied orchestration with Alberto Ginastera, attended rehearsals of the Teatro Colón orchestra and studied scores by Bartók, Ravel, Stravinsky and other twentieth century composers.
He founded Orquesta Tipica in 1946, and began experimenting with the musical content and orchestration of tango, writing El Desbande, his first formal tango, and beginning to compose music for films.
By 1950 he considered abandoning tango completely and searching for a musical style of his own, concentrated on writing and studying music.
His three symphonic pieces Buenos Aires won him a grant from the French government, and he was able to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, who encouraged him to return to writing tango music.
Back in Argentina, he created his Orquesta de Cuerdas and began to create a new tango sound, reminiscent of chamber music, which became his nuevo tango, combining the structure of sophisticated music with the passion of tango, leading to a series of important compositions including the operetta María de Buenos Aires and Estaciones Porteñas - Piazzolla's Four Seasons - and to tours in many countries performing his music.
Ástor Piazzolla died in Buenos Aires on 4 July 1992, aged seventy-one, leaving more than a thousand compositions.
A selection of M&V articles about Ástor Piazzolla
CD Spotlight. A Surreal Plot - Piazzolla and Ferrer's 'María de Buenos Aires', strongly recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... the tunes Piazzolla conjured up, a mix of classical forms and Argentine traditions, are consistently vibrant, emotional and at moments compellingly dramatic.'
Ensemble. Intimately Done - Paul Sarcich was at the Echoes Festival's PanAmericana concert, which illustrated the cross-influence between North and South American music
CD Spotlight. No Reservations Here - The Meridian Arts Ensemble, heard by the late Howard Smith. '... an unusually broad span of inspired composition.'
Ensemble. Impressive Unanimity - London Concertante's first visit to Derby Cathedral disappoints Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Persuasive Fluency - Music for flute, played by Samantha Chang, heard by the late Howard Smith. '... captivating performances ...'
Ensemble. Piquancy and Elegance - A recital by Claire Wickes and Tomos Xerri, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Innate Musicality - The Eight Seasons of Vivaldi and Piazzolla, recommended by Giuseppe Pennisi. '... Yury Revich is a superb soloist, a real virtuoso with tremendous imagination and a splendid use of his instrument.'
CD Spotlight. Fetching Sensitivity - A guitar recital by Sergio Puccini, heard by the late Howard Smith. '... played here to the manner born.'
CD Spotlight. Agreeable Bounce - Quartetto Gelato's Musica Latina, welcomed by the late Howard Smith. '... high octane commitment to the entire programme.'
Ensemble. Haunting Effect - Spanish and Catalan music from Maria Camahort and friends, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. An Interesting Programme - Music for guitar and oboe / cor anglais, heard by Howard Smith. 'Zoco Duo's instrumental skills are beyond reproach ...'
CD Spotlight. Horizontal Intentions - Polly Ferman's Glamour Tango impresses Paul Sarcich. '... heaps of pizzazz, needle-sharp playing ...'
CD Spotlight. Rhythmic Compulsion - Music by Salgán, Binelli, Piazzolla and Ramíres, enjoyed by Robert Anderson. 'This is an abundance of riches.'
Ensemble. Powerfully Expressive - Mike Wheeler listens to saxophonist Anthony Brown
Ensemble. Liquid Velvet - Paul Wiffen listens to the new soprano-piano duo TangOpera
CD Spotlight. Melancholic Treatment - Iberian and Latin solo piano music, heard by Ron Bierman. 'Rosa Antonelli over-caresses most of these nostalgic Latin pieces.'
CD Spotlight. Artistic Merit - Music for saxophones, heard by Bill Newman. '... daring and exploratory.'
Ensemble. Nimble Playing - Music for saxophone and piano played by Huw Wiggin and James Sherlock, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Haunting Performance - Rob Buckland joins Jonathan Trout and Derby Concert Orchestra for Borodin, Glazunov, Piazzolla and Rachmaninov, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Flying Colours - Yelian He and Yasmin Rowe play Chopin, Beethoven and Piazzolla, heard by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Truly Dexterous - Music for solo violin and viola, heard by Howard Smith. '... an urbane, ear-catching sound.'
CD Spotlight. Loads of Variety - Latin music from Rachel Barton Pine, recommended by Howard Smith. '... immaculate, relaxed, resonant performances ...'
Ensemble. Songs of Exiles - The Canterbury Cellos, heard by Howard Smith
CD Spotlight. A Delightful Spirit - Balkan music for flute and guitar, heard by Howard Smith. '... a near perfect blend of timbre and balance ...'
Ensemble. An Ideal Balance - An evening with the Northern Sinfonia and friends delights Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Delightful Contributions - Nicholas Kok conducts Sinfonia Viva, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Shift of Perspective - The Stanford Quartet plays Mozart, Shostakovich, Borodin and Piazzolla, welcomed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Alert Playing - A recital for oboe and harp, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Powerful Stuff - Howard Smith was at the last Vector Wellington Orchestra programme engineered by Christine Pearce
Ensemble. Especially Successful - Gillian Wills reports from the Australian Fesival of Chamber Music
Ensemble. Exceptional Gifts - Lawrence Budmen reports from the 2009 Miami International Piano Festival
CD Spotlight. Simply Dazzling - Piazzolla and Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons', heard by Robert Hugill. '... I rather missed the sound of the bandoneon ...'
Record Box. Many Pleasures - Music for guitar quartet, recommended by Ron Bierman
CD Spotlight. A Curate's Egg - Tangos and fantasies, explored by Howard Smith. '... good in parts.'
CD Spotlight. Poetic Lyricism - Tim Hugh and Olga Sitkovetsky at London's Wigmore Hall, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... breathtaking musicianship captured my attention ...'
Refreshingly Poetic - Eleftheria Kotzia returns to Derby, and Mike Wheeler listens
Ensemble. Force of Nature - The Matsumoto/Jacobson Duo and The Art of Falconry, by Malcolm Troup
Ensemble. An Impressive Partnership - A recital by Katherine Jenkinson and Alison Farr, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Beyond Piazzolla - Tangos and dances played by Fionnuala Hunt, reviewed by Malcolm Tattersall. '... relaxing and eminently listenable ...'
Ensemble. A tropical farewell - Malcolm Tattersall sends a final report from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music
DVD Spotlight. Inexplicable passion - Astor Piazzolla in portrait, appreciated by David Wilkins. '... defying category but never defying mastery.'
Ensemble. Devastating power - Astor Piazzolla's 'Maria de Buenos Aires' in Copenhagen, recommended by David Wilkins
Ensemble. Rich harvest - Summer opera in the UK, reviewed and previewed by Roderic Dunnett
Maria of hope or despair? - David Wilkins was at the first fully-staged UK production of Piazzolla's 'Maria de Buenos Aires'
CD Spotlight. Exultant freedom - Giora Feidman plays music by Piazzolla and Ora Bat Chaim, reviewed by David Wilkins. '... consistently astonishing ...'
Ensemble. A week to remember - David Wilkins' reflections on the opening week of the 30th International Istanbul Music Festival