Astor Piazzolla and New Tango, Then and Now

Astor Piazzolla photo by Charles Reilly

As part of the centennial celebration of the birth of composer, player, and bandleader Astor Piazzolla, the Quinteto Astor Piazzolla, the repertory ensemble of the Astor Piazzolla Foundation, will celebrate the maestro’s New Tango in performance at the Arsht Center, November 11.

Rough-edged but cosmopolitan; by turns poetic, cerebral, and flashing the attitude of a brawler; Piazzolla’s New Tango reflects not only an exceptional talent but his unusual personal story and his place in music.

From birth, Piazzolla was an outsider in the tango world.

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Last Tango for Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts drumming with The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie band in 2010. Creative Commons

When I heard the news that Charlie Watts had died, my mind flashed back to the night we went to hear tango in Buenos Aires.

I remember watching him listening. He was taking in the whole scene – the place, the orchestra, the young singer, looking like a 40s crooner, dapper, his hair slicked back, and of course, the dancers. It was 2006, and La Ideal, a grand, beautiful, run-down belle epoque café, was still open then, and it was a favorite of local tangueros.

Now and then, he would ask a question, very specific, about the music or the rituals of tango dancing and fade back in his chair. There was no chit-chat. He wanted to know.

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BBC Radio 3 Music Matters: Celebrating a Century of Astor Piazzolla

Of the many tributes these past weeks to Astor Piazzolla, in what would have been his 100th birthday, here’s an informed exploration of his life and work by BBC’s Radio 3 Music Matters.

Tom Service commemorates the centenary of the birth of Astor Piazzolla with a portrait of the great Argentine bandoneon player and tango composer and explores his revolutionary style which changed the genre forever. He also questions his legacy in today’s Argentina. We hear from Piazzolla himself in rare BBC archive material, as well as his widow Laura Escalada Piazzolla; his grandsons Daniel Villaflor Piazzolla, who runs the ‘Fundación Piazzolla’ and Daniel ‘Pipi’ Piazzolla, drummer in the jazz band ‘Escalandrum’. There are contributions, too, from the critic Fernando González, who translated Piazzolla’s Memoirs into English and interviewed him for international publications; the pianist Pablo Ziegler, who performed with Piazzolla for 11 years in one of his Quintets; and amongst others, the singers Amelita Baltar, who premiered many of Piazzolla’s songs, and Elena Roger, who offers a new take of Piazzolla’s music. Also in the programme, the violinist Isabelle Faust describes her recent experience of traveling to Japan where she was able to perform to sold-out concert hall audiences. She shares her thoughts about the future of touring the world as a soloist, how things may look in a post-COVID world and the role of music for her during the pandemic.

Released On: 13 Mar 2021

The Astor Piazzolla feature begins around minute 12.

BBC Radio 3 Music Matters