Argentinian tango composer, arranger and bandoneon player Astor 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 Astor 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 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.
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.
An Elitist Dance? - George Colerick writes about the tango
CD Spotlight. The Spirit of Tango - Piazzolla's 'María de Buenos Aires', recommended by Gerald Fenech. 'Bouncy yet thought-provoking stuff.'
CD Spotlight. Past and Present - Gerald Fenech finds music for trombone and piano worthy of serious investigation. 'Performances are wonderfully attractive, with a certain exquisite timbre and beautifully shaped nuances permeating each piece.'
Ensemble. A Children's Game - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to special Rossini in a special place
Profile. Prodigious appetite for repertoire - Ron Bierman talks to coloratura soprano Alisa Jordheim
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
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.'
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
Record Box. Innocent Mischief - Eduardo Monteiro plays piano music from Brazil, reviewed by Bill Newman
Record Box. Unexceptionable - Malcolm Tattersall reviews music from Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina
Ensemble. Rich Gutsy Tone - Kala Ramnath and friends meet Sinfonia Viva, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Magical Blend - Malcolm Miller enjoys the Sariel-Ghilione Duo and Yehezkel Braun's new Sonata for Mandolin and Guitar
Ensemble. An Impressive Partnership - A recital by Katherine Jenkinson and Alison Farr, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Tanglewood and Beyond - The sounds of summer in the Berkshires, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
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 ...'
Record box. Skewering demons - Concert works by film composers, played by the New Art Trio and reviewed by Keith Bramich
Ensemble. A week to remember - David Wilkins' reflections on the opening week of the 30th International Istanbul Music Festival