Música en mi primer idioma: Astor Piazzolla

The brilliant and revolutionary and virtuoso Astor Piazzolla and his incredibly strong and vibrant music.

If there has been a rebellious musician who pressed all the wrong (and thankfully) right keys in Tango it was Ástor Pantaleón Piazzolla. Still today his name raises controversy among purists, the discussion of whether if his music is tango, neo-tango, classical or a different type of music can take hours, lots of wine and dare I say has costed friendships, but of course no one can deny his genius and unique voice, and by voice, I mean his bandoneon.

Libertango – Ástor Piazzolla

Now, there are several things I want to talk about before talking about Piazzolla. One of those is that his compositions have no lyrics, but I talked to the other administrator of this site, A.K.A. “The Husband” and he said “the fact that he did not write lyrics does not mean it is not music in your first language”, and thinking about it more, he is the truest post I have done in this series, because it is simply music (does that make sense or is that me raising that argument for the sake of it?). The other thing is that I want to explain that tangos are very popular in the area where I am from in Colombia, which is the coffee region around Manizales. Tango´s biggest singer, Carlos Gardel, died in a plane crash in Medellin (the biggest city in that region of the country) and there has been a bond between tangos and that area for a long time, so I grew up listening to tangos in family reunions and yes, tangos and Mexican rancheras are for me, synonymous of heartbreak and just require some rum.

He was born on March 11, 1921 and died in July 4th, 1992. A prolific composer, he hailed from Mar Del Plata in Argentina and was the son of Italian immigrants Vicente “Nonino PIazolla” and Asunta Manetti.  Before I continue, here is the composition he wrote to his father, his tribute, and one of my favorite pieces by him.

Adios Nonino – Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla grew up in New York, because he moved there with his family as a small child. He grew up listening to his father´s records, which were tangos and jazz and classical music. He started playing the bandoneon at the age of 8. He wrote his first tango “La Cantinga” when he was 11 years old. Then we went to classes with a woman who used to be a student of Rachmaninoff, who taught him to play classical music in his bandoneon.


In 1936 he was back in Buenos Aires and he was studying under bandoneon player Anibal Troilo, who mentored and helped him. Then in 1944 Piazzolla played in an orchestra with the singer Francisco Fiorentino, and he liked the experience so much that he formed his own orchestra in 1946. He debated between bandoneon and piano, and his compositions were mainly for string orchestras or solo instruments. He also wrote the score for around 40 movies, among them 12 Monkeys. I think one of the great music scores out there.

Vuelvo al sur, is actually one of my favorite tangos of all time. The lyrics were written by Pino Solanas, a film director and an Argentinean politician and the music was composed by Piazzolla. It is nostalgic and talks about going back south, back to that which is familiar and back and to love.

Vuelvo al Sur – Astor Piazzola y Roberto Goyeneche

PIazzolla traveled the world, and lived in New York, Argentina and Paris. His tutor had to also mentor him in taming him and  managing his music digestible for the general public. He was a wild card and a virtuoso on a league of his own.  He even released in 1965 an album with writer and intellectual Jorge Luis Borges. He also composed the music to the song Vuelvo al Sur (video bellow), lyrics were written by Uruguayan – Argentinean poet Horacio Ferrer. Music and cultural elite right there. It was first performed by Amelita Baltar, but it has been covered by many since then.

Balada para un loco – Astor Piazzolla e Amelita Baltar

He performed all over the world and is one of the most important figures in Argentinean music. He died in Buenos Aires. With him died a man that brought a new air to tango and Argentinean music, and whose music transcends boundaries and hearts and says more than most music without saying a word.



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