Classical Music + Tango = Astor Piazzolla's Tangazo!

Nov 12, 2018

Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla took the tango of his youth to new places, infusing it with elements of classical music and jazz, creating his own distinctive style. WRTI's Susan Lewis reports on his work for orchestra, Tangazo.

On Sunday, January 5th at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, Miguel Harth-Bedoya leads The Philadelphia Orchestra in Piazzolla's Tangazo

Piazzolla wrote Tangazo in 1969, well into his long career as a composer. Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya says its an unusual piece in the orchestral repertoire, "because Piazzolla composed it himself for the orchestra.  We normally hear arrangements of music by Piazzolla.

Born in Argentina in 1921 to Italian immigrants, Piazzolla grew up in Argentina and New York; by his late teens, he was playing the accordian-like instrument, the bandoneon, in tango orchestras. He'd also discovered Bach, classical music, and  jazz, and was composing. He even went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger.

"He went to become a serious composer," says Harth-Bedoya, "and he was told, 'Do what you're doing, you are unique!

Piazzola experimented with different styles and instrumentation, writing often for quintets of bandoneon, violin, bass, piano and electric guitar. His orchestral work, Tangazo, means 'grand tango.'

"This piece has the flavor of tango even from its inception, when it was in very poor neighborhoods, when it wasn't a refined dance, says Harth-Bedoya.  "So he pays tribute, basically from the origins of Tango, with this sadness and deep feeling melancholy to the outburst of rhythmical music." 

"So he did find himself  becoming a unique creative voice."

PIazzola, who composed over a thousand works, has been called 'the father of the modern tango."