Astor Piazzolla

Astor Piazzolla was a composer and bandoneon player of the vanguardia. He is famous for incorporating elements of classical music and jazz into Argentine tango and creating a new distinct style called tango nuevo.

Piazzola was born in 1921 in Mar del Plata but he grew up in New York City where his family moved when he was 3 years-old. His father loved tango music and one day he found a small bandoneon in a shop and bought it for him; this is how Piazzolla began playing the bandoneon when he was only 9 years-old.

When Carlos Gardel came to New York City in 1934 he could hardly speak English and Piazzolla became his little friend and interpreter. This is how he ended up playing a small role as a boy in the movie “El dia que me quieras”. Gardel invited Piazzolla to join him on his tour but Piazzolla’s father refused as Piazzola was still very young. Gardel and his entourage died in a plane crash in Columbia one year later.

In 1936 the family returned to Argentina and Piazzolla began playing in traditional tango orchestras in Buenos Aires. He worked with Anibal Troilo for 5 years and with Francisco Fiorentino for two weeks before he formed his own orchestra in 1946 and began composing for movies.

In the early 1950’s Piazzolla decided to distance himself from tango and he went to Paris to study classical music at the Fontainbleau conservatory where he found his true identity as a musician. Back in Buenos Aires, he formed his controversial Octeto Buenos Aires, adding a cello and electric guitar to the traditional orquesta típica.

Piazzolla continued composing and developing his style throughout the 70’s and 80’s in spite of financial difficulties and strong criticism against his work. He is now known as one of the most important musicians of the history of Argentina.

Piazzolla died in 1992 shortly after dictating his memoirs to Natalio Gorin. π

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[1] Gorin, Natalio. Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir. Alba Editoral, 2003. Print.

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