Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b '21, Mar del Plata, Argentina; d 5 July '92, Buenos Aires) Arranger, bandleader. Grew up in NYC; encouraged by his father, learned to play bandon‚on (an Argentine accordion), studied music. First heard proper tangos at 13 when Carlos Gardel performed in NYC; Piazzolla auditioned and played for Gardel in one of his Paramount films; returned to Argentina at 16 and from '39 played in all the current tango bands, also arranging for them; formed own tango orchestra '46. Disenchanted with a restricting genre he went to Paris, worked at formal composition and won awards; he studied with Nadia Boulanger, who persuaded him to take a new look at the tango. From mid-'50s he turned it upside down, injecting new rhythms and harmonies, called it the 'new' tango; though welcomed in concert halls in NY and Europe, danced by the world's leading ballet companies, it was not accepted in Buenos Aires. He wrote over 750 compositions incl. concertos, operas, film and theatre scores (but lost assignment of Last Tango In Paris '72 to Gato Barbieri: it made Gato famous). He made over 70 records incl. Revolution In Tango 1965 on Polydor, Live In Wien on Spalax with quintet; Tango: Zero Hour '86 on Pangaea/American Clave with New Tango Quintet was an international breakthrough. Astor Piazzolla: Live on American Clave was recorded in Austria and may be the same as the Spalax record. Sur on Milan was soundtrack of a film by Fernando E. Solanas. Made two albums for American Clave '80s; Astor Piazzolla on Nonesuch had him playing his concerto for bandon‚on and three tangos with the Orchestra of St Luke's cond. by Lalo Schifrin; Five Tango Sensations on Nonesuch was recorded by the Kronos Quartet with the composer.
He also wrote for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; his musical Dangerous Games: Two Tango Pieces premiŠred at Philadelphia's American Music Theatre Festival '89 and he was thinking about a grand opera on the life of Carlos Gardel which he hoped would star Placido Domingo. Last album Luna '91 released on EMI's Hemisphere label; his compositions Concerto Bandon‚on, Tres monimientos tanguisticos porte¤os and several tangos on Harmonia Mundi '96, cond. by Josep Pons, with Pablo Mainetti on bandon‚on, Lluis Vidal on piano. His reputation continues to grow: violinist Gidon Kremer led a quartet incl. piano, bass and bandon‚on (Per Arne Glorvigen) on Hommage … Piazzolla: Tangos '97 on Nonesuch; Phil Woods's Astor And Elis on Chesky was a tribute; cellist Yo-Yo Ma released Soul Of The Tango '97 on Sony Classical, one track with Piazzolla dubbed on bandon‚on; Concierto de N car, Muerte del Angel, Tres minutos con la realidad and two-CD Libertango all '97 on Milan/BMG. He said Live At The BBC '89 was his finest hour, on Intuition '98.