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Astor Piazzolla

The life and music of Argentinian composer and musician Astor Piazzolla.

Donald Macloed explores the life and music of Argentinian composer and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla. Although he is best-known for his tango music, he also worked with classical and jazz styles.

Donald Macleod begins by tracing Astor Piazzolla’s early steps. He was born into the world of the tango in Argentina but, at the age of only two, his Italian immigrant parents moved him to the hustle and bustle of New York. It was there that he encountered the bandoneon and the classical music - two formative experiences which set the young Astor on his own musical path.

Donald Macleod goes on to evaluate the impact that studying with the famous French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in Paris had on Piazzolla's compositional direction. When he played her one of his tango compositions, Triunfal, she immediately identified where the Argentinian composer's special talent lay. It was not, as he had thought, through classical composition but in the tango world of his heritage.

The Argentinian composer had an intensely creative and emotionally difficult period during the 1960s. At the age of 45, he abruptly left his wife of 24 years and their two children. Thereafter he made headlines both personally and artistically with his new brand of tango, involving himself in artistic collaborations with Argentinian poet Horacio Ferrer and writer Jorge Luis Borges.

Donald Macleod observes how the Argentinian composer's restless nature saw him form several new ensembles during the 1970s. He expanded his gang of five musicians into a super-group of nine, moved into working with electronic instruments and successfully entered the world of jazz with a collaboration with Gerry Mulligan as well as establishing his celebrated second quintet.

Finally, Donald Macleod pieces together a picture of the complex character of this prolific composer as seen through the eyes of the people closest to him.

Release date:


1 hour, 5 minutes


Role Contributor
Composer Astor Piazzolla