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Astor Piazzolla

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

Nationality: Argentine
Born: March 11, 1921, Mar del Plata Died: July 4, 1992, Buenos Aires (age 71)

Tango Ballet for String Quartet

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
I. Titulos
II. La calle
III. Encuentro - Olvido
IV. Cabaret
V. Soledad
VI. La calle
Duration: 14 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1956 (age 34-35)
2 recordings, 2 videos
autoopen autoplay
Neues Sinfonieorchester Berlin Quarttet
Water Tower Quartet (extract)
From Kai Christiansen

Astor Piazzolla, 1921-1992

Tango Ballet, 1956
Astor PiazzollaThe Argentine Tango is music, dance, style, culture, and, arguably, a way of life that was born in the scrappy portside bars and brothels of Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century. From there, it rapidly migrated around the world, climbing the social hierarchy into cabarets, ballrooms, the cinema and the concert hall to become an internationally known stylization of desire, conflict, heartbreak and lonely nostalgia. Permuting into various musical contexts including popular song, jazz, rock and a variety of classical forms, its origins are no less diverse. From the Rough Guide of World Music, "It was a definitively urban music: a product of the melting pot of European immigrants, criollos [Creoles], blacks and natives, drawn together when the city became the capital of Argentina in 1880. Tango was thus forged from a range of musical influences that included Andalucían flamenco, southern Italian melodies, Cuban habanera, African candombé and percussion, European polkas and mazurkas, Spanish contradanse, and, closer to home, the milónga, the rural song of the Argentine gaucho [cowboy]. It was a music imbued with immigrant history."

Astor Piazzolla was the seminal figure in Nuevo Tango, a movement he began in the 1950's in which tango became a more abstract musical sensibility and a high art enriched by the complexities of jazz and classical music. Piazzolla was born in Argentina but spent much time in New York and Paris where, on a government scholarship, he studied with the legendary Nadia Boulanger. It was she who recognized his musical genius specifically in the language of tango and demanded that he remain true to himself. Thus, Piazzolla assumed his lifelong quest to liberate tango from its traditional patterns through a variety of advanced innovations. Piazzolla was a master of the bandoneón, a button accordion of German origin that by the 1920's had defined the signature sound of tango. He expanded the traditional tango sextet (two bandoneóns, two violins, bass and piano) to include cello and electric guitar and formed the Octeto Buenos Aires in 1955. It was for the Octeto that, in 1956, Piazzolla composed his Tango Ballet, a programmatic suite that has been subsequently transcribed for orchestra as well as string quartet. The music evokes the poignant essence of the tango ethos in a narrative of six scenes: introduction, the street, encounter / forgetfulness, cabaret, solitude, the street again. Piazzolla eventually composed more than 750 works for a wide variety of settings including concertos, operas, symphonic and film scores and especially, a diversity of intimate chamber ensembles. One of his final projects was a commission from the Kronos Quartet resulting in his Five Tango Sensations for bandoneón and string quartet of 1989.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.