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Astor Piazzolla

Unknown Born 11 Mar 1921 Died 05 Jul 1992

Piazzolla was a brilliant player of the accordeon-like bandoneon, and a composer who revolutionised tango, bringing it to a whole new audience (much to the distaste of critics and even the conservative government).  He was born in Buenos Aires in 1921.  He began playing in the 30s and 40s in the band of Anibal Troilo, and later with his own group.  As his compositions grew more complicated, Piazzolla turned towards classical music, receiving a scholarship to go to Paris and study with Nadia Boulanger.  Instead of growing away from the tango, he used his knowledge of classical and jazz music to evolve it, creating experimental tango operas and song cycles of great complexity in a style called 'nuevo tango'.

As well as a large number of tangos and tango songs, Piazzola has orchestral and chamber compositions and several stage works under his belt.  He tends to mix classical instruments (like the piano, violin and cello) with guitar and the bandoneon.  This instrument was  invented as a cheap substitute for church organs, but it was taken to the less salubrious environments of nightclubs and whorehouses, and this dual heritage is given voice in Piazzolla's music. 

Because he was adapting a traditional native dance in an unfamiliar, modern way, Piazzolla initially attracted controversy, becoming so dispirited that he considered giving it all up to open a hamburger restaurant.  As time went by, he took tango back to the concert hall, composing for ensembles and orchestras works which were less discernably tango-based.  Now his music today enjoys worldwide poularity, supported by artists including the Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma.

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