He was born in the city of Mar Del Plata (Argentina) on March 11, 1921. From 1924 to 1937 he lived with his parents in New York. In 1930 he started to study the bandoneon, then he perfected under the guidance of Maestro Bela Wilda (pupil of Sergei Rachmaninov), adapting compositions for piano to the bandoneon.
The great Carlos Gardel (the most famous interpreter of tango in the history) met him in New York and invited him, just fourteen, to record various themes for his film "EL DIA QUE ME QUIERAS.” In 1937 he returned to Argentina, to Buenos Aires, where he started to work as a bandeonist and arranger in the Anibal Troilo Orchestra. In 1940 he started to study with Alberto Ginastera and in 1946 he formed his first orchestra; in the same period he devoted himself to concert music and composed chamber works for large orchestra. In 1950 he left the orchestra to dedicate himself entirely to composition. In 1952 he received the EMPIRE TRACTOR CO. USA award for composition "RAPSODIA PORTEÑA". In 1953 he won the FABIEN SEVITZKY prize with the symphony "BUENOS AIRES" and in 1954 he obtained the MENTION OF MUSIC CRITICS OF BUENOS AIRES award for the “SINFONIETTA". During this period he studied orchestral conducting with Hermann Scherchen and the following year the French government offered him a scholarship. In Paris he studied with Nadia Boulanger, who advised him to continue with popular music by telling him “Here's Piazzola, don’t ever leave him!”.
After his return from France, he formed two bands: "EL OCTETO DE BUENOS AIRES" and "LA ORQUESTA DE CUERDAS" that revolutionized all the music of Buenos Aires attracting the most severe criticism, but this did not stop him from continuing in the genre he felt deeply. He was boycotted by record companies, radio and television and for this reason he moved to New York in 1958, where he worked as an arranger. After two years he returned to Buenos Aires and formed a quintet, even more convinced that tango was a music to listen to and not to dance. He played concerts, made records and numerous tours in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, United States etc. In 1963 he received the "Hirsch" award, composed "TRES MOVIMIENTOS SINFONICOS" that Paul Klecki conducted that same year. In 1967 Piazzolla wrote with the poet Horacio Ferrer the small work "MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES”. Later he composed "TANGAZO" at the request of Maestro Pedro Ignacio Caldenòn, conductor of the Ensemble Musical de Buenos Aires that will represent it during the tour in the United States; "TANGO SEIS" for the Melos Ensemble and in "MILONGA EN RE" for the violinist Salvatore Accardo. Continuing to work with Ferrer, Piazzolla began a new experience: the tango-song. In 1969 the theme "BALADA PARA UN LOCO" became the biggest success of the year in several South American countries, beating all the sales records in Argentina. This genre, apparently more commercial, gave him the opportunity to approach a big audience. His concerts, previously reserved for a small number of people, were now attended by an increasingly large audience that finally recognized in Piazzolla the most authentic expression of the music of Buenos Aires. In 1970 he returned to Paris and lived in the Cité des Arts (Mozarteum) for five months, during which he composed, again with Ferrer, an oratory: "EL PUEBLO JOVEN", whose first performance was given in Saarbruken.
In September 1971 he formed his CONJUNTO NUEVE, and it was now the "Municipalidad de la ciudad de Buenos Aires" who casted him for two years to give concerts throughout Argentina and all over the world. His greatest triumphs were in Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santiago de Chile. In April 1972, after having had him as guest at the International Festival ONDA NUEVA in Caracas, the Maestro Aldo Pagani, who later will become his publisher and producer, found the opportunity to present Piazzolla and his "NONETO" to the Italian audience, organizing two concerts at the Istituto Italo-Latino-Americano in Rome and recording for RAI the broadcast "TEATRO 10" presented by Alberto Lupo. As a regular guest of the show, the singer MINA, who was fascinated by the music of Piazzolla, absolutely wanted to record with him the song "BALADA PARA MI MUERTE”.
For the first time, on August 17, 1972, he gave a concert in the famous TEATRO COLON in Buenos Aires and the preparations of the show forced him to refuse the offer made by the director Bertolucci to write the music of the film "LAST TANGO IN PARIS”. However, he dedicated to this film the song "JEANNE Y PAUL". Also in August he presented at the Teatro Coliseo the premiere of his "CONCIERTO DE NACAR" for nine soloists and for the "Ensemble Musical de Buenos Aires". In 1984 he began a series of recitals with the Quintet and the singer MILVA. In recent years he prefered to perform in concerts as a soloist accompanied by symphony orchestras performing his own compositions, not disdaining even to perform some concert with his quintet (his most beloved formation). He recorded with Lalo Schifrin and with the St. Luke Orchestra "ACONCAGUA" (Concierto para bandoneon y Orquesta) and "TRES TANGOS”; "PUNTA DEL ESTE SUITE” with the Caracas Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by M Aldemaro Romero, and with the Kronos Quartet he recorded the suite titled "FIVE TANGO SENSATIONS" which remained in the Top classica album for more than a year in the USA. Astor Piazzolla was one of the few people who have recorded all his works (over 600) on approximately fifty Long Playing. Even the cinema has not remained immune to the fascination of its music, as well demonstrated by the soundtracks of the films "ERNRICO IV" by Marco Bellocchio, "CADAVERI ECCELLENTI" by F. Rosi, "EL EXILIO DE GARDEL" and "SUR" by Fernando Solanas, "TWELVE MONKEYS" by Terry Gillian; he collaborated on films by Jean Moreau, Alain Delon, Trintignant etc. and composed music for theatre and ballets. Director Gabriele Salvatores has presented at the Venice Film Festival 2000 the film “DENTI", whose soundtrack contains the song "El Penultimo”. He died in Buenos Aires on July 4, 1992.
The jury of the Italian Music Critics Award, in 1974, unanimously awarded Astor Piazzolla the First Prize for the best instrumental music record, with the following motivation: "For the validity of the compositions and for the surprising inventiveness of the arrangements that give tango a completely new dimension”. In 1993 in Los Angeles the song "OBLIVION" got the nomination for the GRAMMY AWARD in the category "Best Instrumental Composition": this song is, according to many critics of international fame, one of the most beautiful compositions ever written by Piazzolla, as well as being one of the most recorded. In 1998, in Hollywood, the song "LIBERTANGO" won the GRAMMY AWARD, always as best instrumental composition of the year, thanks to the “Soul of Tango” record of cellist Yo Yo Ma. The date marked the beginning of a new ascent of “piazzollana music”, which in a short time became a transversal genre, captivating even for the new generations of artists, producers and audience.
Piazzolla nel XXI secolo
In 2001 the French band Gotan Project reached world fame with the album "La revancha del Tango", in which appears the song "Vuelvo al sur", composed by Piazzolla with lyrics by Fernando Solanas. In 2003 Richard Galliano, the greatest living musician, published the album “Piazzolla Forever”, an homage to the music of the Maestro. But it was the great conductor Gustavo Dudamel who bring Piazzolla's music back to a more classic context, with his LA Phil and the incredible show “Tango under the sky”, on stage in 2017 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Other great artists who plays or have played the music of Piazzolla: Al Di Meola (guitarist), Gidon Kremere (violinist), Michel Camilo (pianist), Tomatito (guitarist), Aleandra De La Parra (conductor), Sarah Chang (violinist), Cameron Carpenter (organist), Bob Sinclar (DJ).