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Astor Piazzolla: The Man Who Changed Tango


tango argentina piazzolla

The music of Astor Piazzolla is known today as a passionate fusion of
ages-old Argentine tango and contemporary musical stylings. Although
his work was originally met with resentment in a country where many
thought the tango was a custom to be conserved and revered, Piazzolla
is now known as one of Argentina's favorite native sons. Born in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1921, Piazzolla passed most of his childhood in New York City. At the age of 17 the musical prodigy returned to Argentina and joined an orchestra in Buenos Aires, where he made his living playing in the city's many tango clubs. Creative and experimental by nature, he soon began composing his own music, combining elements of jazz and classical music with the characteristics of typical tango. By the 1940s he was a successful composer and leader of his own band. The year 1953 marked a turning point for his musical career, when he presented his three-part symphony “Buenos Aires” for the prestigious Fabien Sevitzky competition. He won first prize, but the radical nature of his “nuevo tango” was viewed by old-school musicians as such blasphemy that a fist-fight ensued in the audience between Piazzolla's fans and the scandalized traditionalists.

In the decades that followed, Piazzolla developed a reputation as a
revolutionary composer, internationally respected but nationally
controversial. Even Argentina's then-dictator Jorge Rafael Videa
denounced Piazzolla's music as an unpatriotic defilement of one of the
country's proudest traditions. Because of this Piazzolla spent much of
his time abroad, traveling and performing with a succession of
different orchestras. His health began to decline in the late 70s and
early 80s; however, this was also when he released some of his most
famous and critically acclaimed works. Music reviewer Cliff Furnald
described the compositions of Love Tanguedia, an album recorded in the late 80s, as “enchantment, heartbreak and pure unadulterated sex
played out on string and reed in a pas-de-deux of dark and light.”
Although Piazzolla died of complications due to a stroke in 1992, he
is still remembered by modern musicians as a bold, progressive figure
who changed one of his country's staunchest traditions.

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29 Nov 2010

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