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  • Writer's pictureSimon Rushby

Anxiety by Astor Piazzolla

#listeneveryday 4 Mar 2021

The Argentinian bandoneon player and composer Astor Piazzolla grew up in New York and settled in Buenos Aires in 1938, at the age of 17, joining the orchestra of one of the leading bandoneon players, Aníbal Troilo.

Piazzolla studied with both tango and classical teachers and became interested in fusions between the two styles. His works in the 1940s and early 50s sometimes offended Argentine audiences who felt that their beloved tango should not be combined with other genres, and slowly Piazzolla began to push tango aside and focus solely on classical and jazz styles.

He studied in Paris in the 1950s with celebrated teacher Nadia Boulanger who encouraged him to readopt his tango influences. Returning to Argentina he formed an octet, but again faced criticism from conservative Argentinians and moved back to New York. Slowly but surely he gained worldwide recognition and acceptance in his own country, and spent the rest of his life moving between Paris, New York and Buenos Aires. His Libertango for bandoneon and orchestra became world famous and he continued as a successful composer and performer until his death in 1992.

The bandoneon, once perhaps unfairly called 'the poor man's accordion', carries the distinctive sound of the tango, a passionate dance from the poor areas of Buenos Aires and Montevideo familiar to anyone who watches Strictly. Tango itself is a fusion and became popular in Europe - particularly in Paris. It symbolises the struggle of the Argentine lower classes and tangos have famously appeared in musicals such as Evita, Chicago and Rent.

Anxiety is the third of Piazzolla's Five Tango Sensations, written in 1989 for bandoneon and string quartet. His recording of it, with the Kronos Quartet, proved to be his last.

More to listen to

Piazzolla's famous Libertango.

On This Night of a Thousand Stars from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Evita, sung by the poor tango singer Agustin Magaldi.

Here's a live performance of Five Tango Sensations.

A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.

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