About this Recording
8.572596 - PIAZZOLLA, A.: Tango Distinto (Liarmakopoulos)

Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992)
Tango Distinto


Astor Piazzolla is known as the greatest master of the Latin American Tango and a virtuoso of the bandoneón, a square-built button accordion very popular in Argentina and Uruguay. His education was varied, combining various influences and his music forms a meeting point where classical music and jazz come together in the traditional Tango.

Born on 11 March 1921 in Mar del Plata, a village by the sea 420 kilometres south of Buenos Aires, Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla was the only child of Vicente Piazzolla and Asunta Mainetti. His grandparents were immigrants who had come to Argentina from Italy. At a very young age he suffered from polio and had to spend time in hospital a number of times for leg operations. Before he was five his family moved to the United States. When he was eight, his father gave him his first bandoneón, a disappointment, as he had set his heart on a pair of roller skates. His father, however, insisted that he should learn the instrument. Piazzolla showed little talent for it at first but soon became a good enough player, and at the age of eleven managed to impress with his skills. He began music lessons with Andres D’Aquila, a friend of his father who played the piano and knew the basics of bandoneón playing. A recording followed and his first tango was written under the title La Catinga. In the United States, apart from learning how to speak several languages, he also attended jazz performances in different clubs, a form of music that greatly impressed him.

Returning to Argentina in 1937 Piazzolla performed in clubs and became a member of various bands. The famous pianist Arthur Rubinstein, whose attention was caught by the skilled young performer, suggested that he should study composition under Alberto Ginastera. Attending orchestral rehearsals at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and carefully analysing scores by great classical composers mainly from the twentieth century, helped him understand form and structure in music. Further knowledge was obtained by studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, who helped him find his own musical voice and special style. Returning home in 1955 he started a successful career which, nevertheless, was not always free of severe criticism. A number of music critics were disappointed because his tangos did not really follow the traditional path and some commentators of that time even insisted that it was not tango music at all.

Piazzolla worked hard throughout his life, composed, performed in ensembles and as a soloist with famous classical orchestras, made several successful recordings, travelled around the world and especially during the last decades of his life, won praise wherever he went. His death in Buenos Aires on 4 July 1992, saddened the whole music world and since then famous and less famous musicians, groups and symphony orchestras, have paid frequent tribute to his art, performing his music in its original form or in transcriptions and reorchestrations.

Piazzolla’s very last public concert was given in front of an enthusiastic Greek audience on 3 July 1990, at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the glorious stone theatre built in 161 AD and situated below the Parthenon. He was accompanied by the Orchestra of Colours, under the direction of Manos Hadjidakis. It was a special and touching evening and Piazzolla’s admirers in Greece increased in number, passing on their passion to younger generations of Greek performers. It is, then, not by coincidence that the young Greek trombonist Achilles Liarmakopoulos chose to dedicate his first album to “El Gran Astor”.

The present volume is the first to appear with Piazzolla’s music played by solo trombone. With ten popular compositions it showcases the combination of the trombone with a number of different instruments and in the context of different moods that underline the composer’s romantic, erotic, passionate, nostalgic, imaginative and always generously warm-spirited music.

Michelangelo ’70, Soledad and Escualo were originally composed for bandoneón, violin, piano, electric guitar and bass. The trombone replaces the violin and some of the guitar lines have been replaced by the piano in this recording. Michelangelo ’70 is based on a repeated three note ostinato theme. This piece forms an exciting and emotional study. Soledad, for chamber ensemble, is a slow, very personal and atmospheric work, rather melancholy in mood. Escualo was created for the composer’s favourite violinist, Fernando Suarez Paz, Leo’s father. Escualo is the scientific name for the shark family. The original version includes an intensely virtuosic part for the violin. Bachian allusions of chorale writing and counterpoint will attract the attention of the careful listener.

Café 1930 and Nightclub 1960 form the second and third parts from the History of Tango suite originally composed for flute or violin and guitar. In Nightclub 1960 the guitar has been replaced by the marimba. The piece conveys the erotic-sexual atmosphere of nightclubs of the 1960s and requires exceptional technical polish and musicality from the performer.

Le Grand Tango was originally composed for cello and piano in 1982 and is dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. The composer sent the score to the renowned cellist, who at first ignored it putting it in a drawer where it remained unappreciated by him for some years. Rostropovich had never heard about Piazzolla and did not show any interest in his composition. In 1987 Piazzolla met the American cellist Carter Brey, who had won the 1981 Rostropovich International Cello Competition and who from 1996 has been principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in Mexico, and was so impressed by his talents that he sent him a copy of the same work. Brey gave the first performance. In 1990 Rostropovich finally showed interest in the piece and flew to Buenos Aires in order to meet the composer and to receive instructions on how to perform the work. He first performed it accompanied by the pianist Sara Wolfensohn in 1990 in New Orleans and recorded it a few years later in 1996. This demanding work for cello is even harder to perform on the trombone, requiring special stamina, flexibility and tonal range.

Oblivion for chamber ensemble is a rather late composition of 1982. It is one of Piazzolla’s most famous tangos and won world-wide popularity when it was released on the soundtrack album of Marco Bellochio’s 1984 drama film Henry IV.

The suite Serie del Angel includes three movements: I. La muerte del angel, II. Milonga del angel and III. Resurrección del angel. It also features some of Piazzolla’s most mesmerizing romantic melodies composed in 1962 and 1965. It has been arranged by the composer and conductor Gabriel Senanes, a very important musical figure in Argentina. The arrangement heard on the album was originally for bassoon (the bassoon part is replaced by the trombone) and string quintet and was especially written for the bassoonist Andrea Merenzon, who recorded it in 1996. The contrapuntal texture and strong rhythmic drive of the first movement, the broad emotional solo lines of the second and third movements, with the neo-baroque cadenza of the last movement, and a number of characteristic baroque elements create a special atmosphere that frequently looks back to the great art of Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the classical composers whom Piazzolla admired immensely and by whom he admitted to have been strongly influenced.

Constantine P. Carambelas-Sgourdas

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