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Astor Piazzolla
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Astor Piazzolla

Astor Piazzolla (March 11, 1921 - July 5, 1992) was an Argentine tanguero (tango musician), bandoneon-player and composer. His nuevo tango approach renewed the tango. He was a controversial figure, both musically and politically, among Argentinians during his lifetime.

Known in his native land as "El Gran Astor" ("The Great Astor") he is widely considered the most important tango musician of the second half of the Twentieth Century (Carlos Gardel being the most important of the first half).

It is said that in Argentina everything may change — except tango — and Piazzolla broke this rule. His music gained acceptance in Europe and North America before it did at home, and his revolutionary reworking of this traditional musical form aligned him, perhaps inevitably, with those who wished to make other changes in Argentine society.

Piazzolla's family lived during most of his childhood in New York City. A child prodigy on the bandoneon, Piazzola met Gardel there. He returned to Argentina in 1937.

His nuevo tango was distinct from traditional tango in its incorporation of elements of jazz, and in being more dissonant and contrapuntal than traditional tango. He also introduced untraditional instruments, including orchestral instruments like the flute, jazz instruments like the saxophone, electric and electronic instruments, and a full jazz/rock drum kit.

During the period of Argentine military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, Piazzolla lived in Italy, but returned many times to Argentina, recorded there and on at least one occasion had lunch with the dictator Jorge Rafael Videla. As recounted in Astor Piazzolla, A manera de Memorias (a comprehensive collection of interviews, constituting a memoir):

"Q: One year before the Los Largartos issue you went to Videla's house and had lunch with him, why did you accepted that invitation?"
"A: What an invitation! They sent a couple of guys in black suits and a letter with my name on it that said that Videla expected me a particular day in a particular place. I have a book around in some place, with pictures of all the guests: Eladia Bláquez, Daniel Tinayre, Olga Ferri, the composer Juan Carlos Tauriello, there were painters, actors [...]"
- Astor Piazzolla, A manera de Memorias, Libros Perfil 1998, ISBN 9500809206, p. 85

Also, from the same source:

"Q: What do you think of Pinochet?"
"A: I think that we Argentinians needed a character like Pinochet. Maybe Argentina needed a bit of fascism at some moment of its history."
- ibid., p. 86

Piazzolla also recorded albums in Argentina in those years, "Biyuya" in 1979 (Interdisc Slim 3055 L.P.), and in 1982 (in the middle of the Falkland/Malvinas war) "Piazzolla & Goyeneche" (RCA Victor AVS 4999 L.P.) in which Roberto Goyeneche -- a very famous tango singer -- makes a couple of anti-Margaret Thatcher remarks.

Piazzolla also recorded an album which was part of the official music soundtrack of the football World Cup that was held in Argentina in 1978 and was -- of course -- organized by the government, Videla's military dictatorship. The album, "Piazzolla 78" (Trova DA 5015), includes compositions such as "World Cup 78", "Penalty", "Goal" and "Champion".

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