Legendary composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) redefined classical Argentinian tango by infusing it with jazz and classical techniques to create New Tango. His output includes more than 1000 works, and continues to influence the best musicians in the world, including violinist Gidon Kremer, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Mstislav Rostropovich, the Kronos Quartet, pianist Emanuel Ax, guitarist Al Di Meola, and numerous others.
A virtuoso bandoneon player, Piazzolla played in tango orchestras in Argentina as a teen, including the Anibal Troilo orchestra, one of the greatest of the time. Piazzolla discovered Bach while studying with pianist Bela Wilda, and his passion for classical music led to studies with Alberto Ginastera and Raúl Spivak. His symphonic composition Buenos Aires won first prize in the Fabien Sevitzky competition in 1953, enabling him to study composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, who encouraged him to continue to explore his creative ideas regarding tango.
Piazzolla formed Octeto Buenos Aires in 1955, a chamber group that broke away from the “orquesta tipica.” A series of small ensembles would follow throughout the decades, with his signature ensemble a quintet consisting of bandoneon, violin, bass, piano, and electric guitar. With these ensembles, Piazzolla developed New Tango, a fusion of tango, classical, and jazz. Initially rejected by the traditional Tango community, the overwhelming acceptance of New Tango was cemented by hit after hit.
In the 1970s, Piazzolla moved to Italy, experimenting with rock-inspired music and large fusion concerts, and developing a following. In the 1980s, Piazzolla returned to the quintet, concertizing in Europe, South America, Japan, and the United States, and appearing as a soloist with symphonies and chamber ensembles. Recordings from this period include: Tango Zero Hour, Tango Apasionado, La Camorra, Five Tango Sensations with the Kronos quartet, Piazzolla with Gary Burton, Live in Wien, and many more. His final concerts include New York’s Central Park in 1987, Teatro Opera in Buenos Aires with the New Tango Sextet in 1989 and an extensive tour throughout the US, Germany, England, and Holland.