Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) was an Argentine tango composer and arranger. He revolutionized the tango into a style called nuevo tango, which fuses elements of jazz and classical styles. He incorporates extended harmonies, dissonances, and various textures and sound elements in his works. Biographers have estimated that Piazzolla had written about 3,000 pieces and recorded around 500 of them. He wrote orchestral works, chamber music, solo works, as well as music for film.
Piazzolla, aside from being and incredibly influential composer, was a virtuosic musician as well. He was also a master bandoneon player. The bandoneon is an instrument popular in Argentina, Uruguay, and Lithuania that physically resembles an accordion. The bandoneon is played by holding it between both hands, making pushing and pulling motions to force air through its bellows that are routed through reeds by pressing its buttons. It is regarded as an essential instrument in most tango music and ensembles, as well as traditional folk music ensembles.
Included below is a performance of one of Piazzolla’s orchestral works entitled Tangazo by the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá under the direction of Andrés F. Jaime. Tangazo opens with chromatic lines grumbling up from basses and cellos into an introduction of true harmonic intensity. Flute, clarinet, and percussion proceed into a jittery tango, first given to the oboe. There are various melodic episodes, including a slow section featuring horn solos, but there is an edge to this music not softened by the dying ending. Tangazo was first performed in Washington D.C. by the Ensemble Musical de Buenos Aires in 1970.
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