Astor Piazzolla was a musical genius, a man who used the national dance of Argentina as raw material for a whole new musical genre. In Le Grand Tango, María Susana Azzi and Simon Collier vividly capture the life of this extraordinary musician--a visionary who won worldwide acclaim, but sparked bitter controversy in his native land.
Azzi and Collier trace Piazzolla's early life from his birth in Argentina in 1921 to his childhood years on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he first developed a talent for the bandoneon, the accordion-like instrument central to the tango. They describe his return to Argentina at age 16 and his rapid rise in the intoxicating world of tango, where he quickly earned a place with the leading dance band, and then formed his own group. But at the height of his success, Piazzolla decided to take tango music to a new level and studied composition with the legendary Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Combining deft musical analysis and intriguing personal insight, Azzi and Collier show how he created a dramatically new style of tango music influenced by jazz and classical pieces--a tango music meant for listening, not dancing. But they also show that, in the birthplace of the tango, he met fierce resistance. He eventually left Argentina for Europe, where he emerged as an international celebrity.
Since Piazzolla's death in 1992, his influence has only grown. Jazz giants such as Gary Burton and Al Di Meola--and classical stars Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, and Daniel Barenboim--have all recorded albums of his works. Now Azzi and Collier have given us the first biography of this astonishingly gifted musician.
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From Kirkus Reviews:
María Susana Azzi is a board member of the Astor Piazzolla Foundation and the National Academy of Tango in Buenos Aires. This is her fourth book on the tango. She lives in Buenos Aires. Simon Collier is the author or co-author of seven books about Latin America, and is chairman of the Department of History at Vanderbilt University. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
A composer and musician who went from pariah to legend in his own lifetime gets his first English-language biography from an oddly matched but somehow appropriate duo. Azzi is an expert on Argentine tango, Collier the chair of the history department at Vanderbilt (specializing in Latin America), and it would take two people to keep up with the mercurial and dynamic Piazzollaa man whose life and exploits took him from a small town in Argentina to New York's Lower East Side, then back to his native country and then, finally, all over the globe. The grandson of Italian immigrants to Mar del Plata, he spent much of his childhood in New York, a feisty little kid who managed to get expelled from a couple of the city's public schools. Introduced to the bandoneon, the sweeter-voiced cousin of the accordion that is the heart of tango music, Astor began performing at 11, and encountered tango god and international star Carlos Gardel at 14. Returning to Argentina, he studied composition with her greatest 20th-century composer, Alberto Ginastera, and would continue for the rest of his life to balance tango and classical music, as well as influences from jazz and even rock. It was those other influences that made Piazzolla a figure of violent controversy in the hermetic world of tango, while propelling him to international stardom, first outside Argentina and, finally, in it as well. Azzi and Collier tell the story of his arduous ascent in copious detail. Does anyone really need to know the name of Piazzolla's Parisian veterinarian (and why leave out his Buenos Aires counterpart), or the history of every personnel change in his band? Yet for all the interviews excerpted and reviews quoted, they tell little about the music, and assume entirely too much knowledge of both tango and Argentine history on the part of readers. Nearly definitive but utterly lacking in the fire that made Piazzolla so great. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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