Astor Piazzolla is one of the most widely performed composers of the late 20th century. His reinvention of the classic Argentine tango caused him to be branded an artistic heretic by tango traditionalists and hailed as a genius by musicians and listeners worldwide.
Born in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1921, Piazzolla and his family moved to New York City's Greenwich Village when he was 4. At the age of 8, Piazzolla's father presented him with a bandoleon he had a purchased at a pawnshop. The bandoleon, a small accordion with buttons in place of keys, was to become Piazzolla's signature instrument.
While studying with Hungarian pianist Bela Wilda, Piazzolla was exposed to the music of great composers such as Bach and Bartok. As he adapted their music for the bandoleon, he began to focus his attention on classical composition.
After returning to Argentina at 17, he studied with renowned Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera and later joined the Anibal Troila Orchestra as a bandoneonista. After Troila died, Piazzolla embarked on his solo career, which brought him massive success through the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1953, Piazzolla studied with Nadia Boulanger who pushed him to develop his tango writing in place of more classical compositions. Over the next two years, Piazzolla finished over 40 works.
From the 1950s until his death on July 4, 1992, Piazzolla and his many ensembles traveled the world performing concerts. He also produced a large body of work for musical revues, theater, and music for more than 60 films, including 12 Monkeys, Blue in the Face, Happy Together, and Lumiere.