Piazzola – Bandoneón Concerto, “Aconcagua”

by Max Derrickson

Ástor Pantaleón Piazzolla     (b in Mar del Plata, Argentina, March 11, 1921; Buenos Aires, July 4, 1992)

Bandoneón Concerto, “Aconcagua”
1. Allegretto marcato
2. Moderato
3. Presto
They used to say in Argentina that “nobody messes with the tango,” so beloved is that dance-form there.  But Piazzolla did just that beginning around 1955.  It wasn’t easy getting accepted for it, though, especially once upstanding Argentineans learned that Piazzolla ’s equation for his new, “messed with” style of tango was “Nuevo tango = tango + tragedy + comedy + whorehouse.”  Today, however, he’s remembered in Argentina as a national hero, with his recordings numbering in the dozens and his compositions in the hundreds, and his musical fame spanning the globe.

His arrival into world fame came by way of a journey through fortuitous events, famous musicians and interesting places.  Born inArgentina, Piazzolla and his family moved toNew York Citywhile he was still a young boy.  There he delighted in Bach and the new sounds of jazz bopping off the streets.  Then one day his father presented him with a bandoneón (a button accordion) and directed young Astor to “Learn the tango.”
[. . .]

[. . .]
Boulanger told Piazzolla to quit writing like Stravinsky and write like the cabaret – for there was his true voice.  Within a year he returned to Buenos Aires with a new style of tango, his nuevo tango, which infused the rhythms and chords of jazz, baroque, and new classical trends into the cherished musical form that Argentineans were so adamant about not messing with.  But the new sound caught on in due time, and from that point forward his career continually blossomed as a composer and performer.

The bandoneón, which has come to be the voice of tango, has its own intriguing past.  Invented in Germany
[. . .]

And Piazzolla cherished that about his instrument – its wheezing charm on his countrymen and its acquired authenticity as a folk instrument.  He realized, too, however, that the bandoneón had always been as versatile as his own musical tastes.  Piazzolla’s Concerto exploits all of these features with an uncanny blending of genres, but nonetheless featuring, most of all, the tango.


The Concerto was written in 1979 and quickly found its way into concert halls the world over.  Its publisher, Aldo Pagani, nicknamed it “Aconcagua” because, as he said, “this is the highest peak of Astor’s oeuvre, and the highest [mountain peak] in South America is Aconcagua.”  And it is indeed a towering peak – it’s filled with Piazzolla’s brand of tango, with complicated harmonies and stinging dissonance, blended with tangos of melancholy – with those “black sounds” the Latin cultures call duende.
[. . .]