The hundredth anniversary of the birth of Astor Piazzolla won’t arrive until 2021. But two events this month are spinning the clock forward in New York City, where the great Argentine composer spent most of his childhood and early youth. Together they confirm there’s no bad time to celebrate the music of the tango nuevo innovator.
Piazzolla discovered his true originality and found his artistic path when he began turning traditional tango music into high art. His works in this form remain wildly popular, with new recordings, interpretations, and arrangements arriving frequently.
This summer the composer finds his way into Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival as the Neave Trio makes its Lincoln Center debut performing Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” July 26 and 27.
Nearby, That’s Not Tango: Astor Piazzolla, A Life in Music goes further, delivering a theatrical interpretation of the composer’s life (with lots of music, of course) at Jazz at Lincoln Center July 30 and 31.
Mozart Who? Vivaldi Who? July’s the season for Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Last year the Neave Trio and mezzo-soprano Carla Jablonski released Celebrating Piazzolla, an album of arrangements of some of the composer’s tangos and songs (reviewed here). Deepening their exploration of his work, they now bring to Mostly Mozart an arrangement of “Las Quatro Estaciones Porteñas” (“The Four Seasons”).
Piazzolla wrote the suite for piano solo and later arranged it for his own ensemble, which included the bandoneón. Others versions have appeared over the decades: Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov, for one, created a version for violin and string orchestra.
Of course, with any music referencing the seasons, Vivaldi springs to mind. Sure enough, the Neave Trio’s recitals will precede performances of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra led by guest conductor Andrew Manze.
For information and tickets to these July 26 and 27 concerts, visit the Mostly Mozart Festival website.
More Than Tango: That’s Not Tango explores Piazzolla’s life and music at Jazz at Lincoln Center
Lesley Karsten narrates That’s Not Tango: Astor Piazzolla, A Life in Music, which she wrote with Stephen Wadsworth to illuminate Piazzolla’s music in the context of his life story. Karsten describes the show’s premise: “He’s dead, hates it and returns because he has unfinished business – with himself. He has regrets, struggles with isolation, memories of love lost. He gave what he had to give – and the music is astonishing – but he needs to set the record straight. There’s a price to be paid for immortality.”
Whatever the price, Piazzolla paid it, and we’re all the beneficiaries.
Karsten is joined on stage by JP Jofre (bandoneón), Brandt Frederiksen (piano), Nick Danielson (violin), and Pablo Aslan (bass). (See our review of Aslan’s superb solo album of nuevo tango-inspired music.)
New York City is the perfect place for a biographical exploration of Piazzolla’s life and art. His family migrated from Argentina to the Lower East Side when he was three years old. It was in NYC that he first heard tango on his father’s old records and learned to play the bandoneón. It was there that he absorbed classical, jazz, and ethnic sounds ranging from klezmer to the traditional music of his Italian forebears. Without his polyglot NYC background and life story, he surely wouldn’t have become the composer he did. “I believe New York lived on in him in a very deep, enduring way,” Karsten says.
That’s Not Tango dances into NYC on July 30 and 31, 2019 at 8pm at The Appel Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center‘s Frederick P. Rose Hall. Visit the event website for details and a link to purchase tickets.