Born on March 11, 1921 in Mar de Plata. In 1925, his family migrated to New York, where Astor was raised until he was fifteen. In this bustling city, he received his father’s bandoneon, and began to study the instrument with Adrés D’Aquila. He then met Carlos Gardel and got a small role in the movie El Dia que me Quieras (1935). With the return of his family to his home country, Argentina (1936), Piazzolla began to join various orchestras; in 1939 he joined the bandoneon line of Anibal Troilo and soon after got promoted to the position of arranger for this group. Parallel to his group activities, he continued his studies with Alberto Ginastera and Raul Spivak, and in 1942 he married Dedé Wolff, with whom he had two children- Diana and Daniel. His arrangements began to show much more complexity than what Pichuco had likened, in such a way that in 1944, Piazzolla left the group and moved on to direct the accompanying orchestra for singer Francisco Fiorentino. The musical collaboration with Fiorentino lasted about two years, but this short period of time was enough to register notable versions of works like “Viejo Ciego” and “Volvio una noche”, among others.
In 1946 Piazzolla formed his own orchestra, with which he recorded thirty pieces, including compositions such as “Taconeando”, “La Rayuela” and “El Recodo”, as well as five of his own original compositions.
From this point forward, Piazzolla’s creative compositions began to flourish, having some his pieces such as “Para Lucirse”, “Contratiempo” and “Triunfal” become part of the repertoire of orchestras such as Troilo, Francini-Pontier and Osvaldo Fresedo, among others. In 1949, Piazzolla decided to dissolve his orchestra and distance himself from tango for a while. He searched for his musical identity in the works of Bartók, Stravinsky, jazz music and other styles. He abandoned the bandoneon and began studying conduction in orchestra. In 1953, his work titled Buenos Aires (three symphonic movements) won the first award in the Fabien Sevitzky contest and sparked an intense debate among the public for the incorporation of the bandoneon in a formal orchestra setting.
Funded by the Paris Conservatory, Piazzolla moved out to France in 1954 to study music with composer and famous pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, who, according to Astor, persuaded him to not abandon the bandoneon or tango; she asked for him to “never abandon the true Piazzolla”. Following her words of advice, Astor Piazzolla stuck to his style and recorded sixteen pieces, accompanied by the Paris Opera Orchestra and pianist Martial Solal. This is how tango pieces such as “Nonino” (the antecedent to “Adios Nonino”), and other pieces such as “Marrón y Azul” and “Chau Paris” came to be.
Piazzolla then moved back to Argentina and formed two new bands: one of them, an orchestra of bandoneon and strings; the other, the Buenos Aires Octet. With such exceptional high-level musicians and a unique formation of bandoneons, violins, contrabass, cello and electric guitar, the octet began the initiation of the contemporary tango, with a style branded for the compositional innovations and interpretations that separates itself from the classical model of the typical orchestra; of the singer and dancer. The group recorded two albums until its dissolution in 1958.
Piazzolla then traveled to New York, where he experimented with tango jazz , and in 1960 he returned to Buenos Aires to from the Nuevo Tango Quintet, which would be one of his most symbolic ensembles. He recorded numerous original compositions with this quintet, such as “Adios Nonino”, “Decarisimo”, “Introduccion al angel”, “Muerte del Angel” and much more. In 1965 he registered two important albums: Piazzolla at the Philharmonic Hall in New York, and El Tango (built around the poems of Jorge Luis Borges, with voice narration by Edmundo Rivero). The small opera, Maria de Buenos Aires (of 1968), is the fruitful harvest of his creative collaboration with Horacio Ferrer, with whom he composed, among many pieces, “Balada para mi muerte”, “La Bicicleta Blanca” y “Chiquilin de Bachin”. The most popular piece from this duo is “Balada para un loco”, featuring vocals by Amelita Baltar. This popular musical work went on to sell 250 thousand units in a short amount of time.
In the years that followed, Piazzolla registered his Concert for Quintet LP, and in 1972 he formed the band Conjunto 9, with which he edited contemporary music from the City of Buenos Aires. Soon after, he installed himself in Italy, where some of his works like “Libertango” and the album Renuion Cumbre (recorded with the saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and an orchestra of Italian musicians) became well-known. He also wrote a series of musical works for the disputed Mundial de Futbol in Argentina 1978. From then on, Astor joined the ranks of huge international musicians such as Gary Burton, and became a cultural figure in jazz festivals. His ensembles gained international recognition, and one of the highlights was a concert performed at Central Park in New York 1987, with a quintet made up of Pablo Ziegler on piano, Fernando Suárez Paz on violin, Horacio Malvicino on guitar and Hector Console on bass. This performance was recorded and registered in an album, with hits such as “Verano Porteno”, “Lunfardo”, “Adios Nonino”, “Contrabajisimo” and others.
In August of 1990, while Piazzolla was staying in the city of Paris, he suffered a cerebral thrombosis and passed away in Buenos Aires on the 4th of July, 1992. He has left behind a powerful legacy of more than a thousand musical compositions, material made for more than forty films and a powerful musical influence clearly evident in the generations that came after. He has received immense praise and tribute from figures such as Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet, Gidon Kremer and Al Di Meola, among many others.