Remembering Astor Piazzolla – Two new works for Wind Orchestra

Throughout the year 2021 we have commemorated the centenary of the birth of several illustrious composers, whose legacies, especially regarding band literature, are of capital importance and imprint.

Karel Husa (1921 – 2016), Alfred Reed (1921 – 2005), Désiré Dondeyne (1921 – 2015), Malcom Arnold (1921 – 2006), Vicente Mas Quiles (1921 – 2021), without forgetting Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921), whom we remember on the centenary of his death. 

All of them have contributed extensively to consolidate what today is part of the indispensable repertoire of every wind orchestra wishing to connect with the genesis of contemporary band music creation, a literature that, without turning its back on popular traditions, proposed erudite aesthetics and innovative languages, without being condescending or accommodating to the medium, but, on the contrary, knew how to exploit it in all its expressive potential.

Even today, for these same reasons, it is an important challenge to approach some of these compositions, which mature with the passage of time, remaining fresh and without wrinkles. 

The case of Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992) is slightly different. We also commemorate the centenary of his birth in 2021, although he never wrote for an orchestral ensemble exclusively of winds and percussion, although the salient features of his style would have lent themselves perfectly to that medium.

Melodic lyricism, ostinato rhythmics, classical counterpoint, clear and transparent articulation, are very idiomatic characteristics of the wind ensemble. This makes his music, whether arranged or transcribed, always sound convincing and natural.

Piazzolla’s art is, moreover, profoundly Argentine in essence, and through this particularity, it is inscribed in the universal. He sublimates elements of popular culture, through the procedures of erudite music, creating a unique and unrepeatable universe, with such an intense personality that his influence is inevitable.

Distances apart, it is what happens with names like Bartok in Hungary, Shostakovich in Russia or Gershwin in the United States. All of them sound and resound in the collective imagination of their cultures, because they are located in the interstice between the popular and the erudite, in the precise place where the culture of a country can flourish in all its splendor. 

It was during his lessons with Nadia Boulanger that Piazzolla would solve his compositional “dilemma”, deciding whether to continue along the classical path or to give free rein to his own tango language. The end of the story has already been mentioned. Undoubtedly, one of the most personal and original, immediately recognizable music of the 20th century.

Reflecting on these ideas, I have asked two Argentine composers what Piazzolla’s art meant to them. What were their memories and experiences with his music. To what extent he had influenced them, even if this influence was indirect and even unconscious.

With Eva Lopszyc and Marcos Franciosi, we came up with the idea of preparing a program that would highlight Piazzolla’s music in direct contrast to theirs.

A beautiful and fortuitous coincidence wanted the date of the premiere to be December 11, 2021, the date on which is celebrated the National Day of Tango in honor of the birth of Carlos Gardel and the violinist and orchestra master Julio de Caro.

The program, called “Astor’s Dilemma” included “El por siempre de un genio” by Eva Lopszyc, “Rampa” by Marcos Franciosi, as well as Piazzolla’s Libertango, Variaciones sobre Buenos Aires, Fuga y Misterio and Street Tango.

El POR SIEMPRE DE UN GENIO (2021), for Wind Orchestra, by Eva Lopszyc.

“El por siempre de un genio” (A genius’ forever) gives an important place to random playing and free expression. It uses indistinctly the conventional notation and the graphism of contemporary aesthetics. The work has a clear metrical organization, except in the “modo libero” sections, however this organization is not based on the notion of a pulse, but on a distribution of time determined by the gesture of sound, left to the discretion of the interpreter.

In the aleatoric sections, Lopszyc uses smooth, oscillating sonorities, tremoli, glissandi, clusters and irregular and fluctuating trills, as well as loops, which are melodic and rhythmic patterns that are repeated ad libitum, whether treated by sections or in the tutti.

A very brief quotation from “Fuga y Misterio”, recurring in the form of a loop, as well as the use of a three-note motif, with tone-semitone intervals, fourths, fifths or sevenths, reminiscent of Piazzolla’s music, articulate the form. The work reaches its twilight with the use of “parlato” (spoken text) and tubular bells, on the same three-note motif, this time in fourths and fifths. Creating a poetic and mysterious texture, almost like a call to the eternal and transcendental.

“El por siempre de un genio” has a duration of approximately 14 minutes and it is written for the following instrumentation:

Piccolo, Flute 1, 2, Oboe 1, 2, Clarinet Eb, Clarinet Bb, 1, 2, 3, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon 1, 2, Alto Saxophone 1, 2, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Bb Trumpets 1, 2, 3, Horns in F, 1, 2, 3, 4, Trombones 1, 2, 3, Euphonium, Tuba, Harp, Piano, Timpani (3), Percussion I (Xylophone, Triangle 1-2, Wood Block 1), Percussion II (Drumroll, Tam Tam, 3 Tom Tom – Bass – Middle – Treble), Percussion III (Suspended Cymbal, Gran Cassa, Tambourine 1-2), Percussion IV (Vibraphone, Wind Chimes, Tubular Bells, Wood Block 2), Double Bass.

Eva Irene Lopszyc (Buenos Aires, 1956) graduated from the Conservatorio Superior de Música “Manuel de Falla” Buenos Aires (CSMMF) in piano, composition and orchestra conducting. She began her piano studies with her mother, Tatiana Vaistij Lopszyc and later with Elsa Piaggio de Tarelli, Charles Dobler; Ángel Lasala, forming a piano duo with her sister Diana. She studied composition with her great-uncle Jacobo Ficher, Alicia Terzián, Roberto García Morillo and Augusto Rattenbach, and orchestra conducting with Alfonso Stagno; Miguel Ángel Gilardi, Adela Marshall, Mario Benzecry and Pedro Ignacio Calderón. As a composer, her production covers various genres, premiered by outstanding performers in Argentina as well as in Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Cittá Dell Vaticano, Italy, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Israel, United Kingdom, China and Belgium. Her work “Brigantia de los vientos” has recently been a compulsory work in the Second Section of the “133 Certamen Internacional de Bandas de Música de Valencia”, Spain, in 2019. She has participated in Contemporary Music Festivals and Symphonic Band Music Congresses in Europe, performing world premieres of her works. Contact :

« RAMPA » (2021) by Marcos Franciosi, for Wind Orchestra, piano, percussion and sampler

RAMPA is Marcos Franciosi’s first composition for wind orchestra.

Rampa is dense and virtuosic in texture, with a complex rhythmic treatment, reflecting the stubborn and ostinato character of Piazzolla’s music. Structured in two large contrasting sections, Rampa has a duration of 10 minutes. The instrumentation used is as follows: Piccolo, Flute, Oboe 1, 2, Clarinet 1, 2, Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone 1, 2, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Bassoon, Contrabassoon, Horns 1, 2, 3, 4, C-Trumpets 1, 2, 3, Trombones 1, 2, 3, Euphonium, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion 1, 2, 3, Piano, Double Bass, Sampler.

Program notes by the composer:

RAMPA is a piece for wind symphony, piano, percussion and sampler that seeks to reflect on the figure and music of the great composer and bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla. The title, on the one hand, comes from the representation of the exponential dynamic gesture in crescendo, typical of the result of violently opening the bandoneon’s bellows; a common characteristic in tango, but even more marked in Piazzolla’s style. The notion of ramp is also taken from an ascending chromatic gesture, which will appear three times throughout the piece, affecting the height. 

Piazzolla used to say that the day he would no longer have the strength to fish sharks, he himself would naturally realize that he could no longer play the bandoneon because of the strength demanded by his interpretation. His life was always marked, as well as his genius, by a quarrelsome, urgent character, and a certain violence that is evident in his music, as well as a deep melancholy. This finding can be evidenced many times in the formal character of his compositions, which go from an extremely lively kinetic dynamic to a kind of plateau or valley, in which he, from his bandoneon, or one of his musicians, explored that melancholic state, which was then quickly substituted or sublimated again by his overwhelming power. These observations are part of the formal development of Rampa.

Finally, the piece is not directly based on thematic quotations, but on the very sound of Piazzolla’s bandoneon and gesture. For this, I based it on a solo from “Tristezas de un doble A”, recorded live at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1994.It is a non-thematic material of gestures and connective passages taken from that solo, from which the motoric notions in charge of the instruments will be derived. The idea was based on making Astor himself appear playing from a sampler, as if it were his spectrum in a continuous dialectic instance with the orchestra, but not quoting his classic melodies, but his between, or rather, from the Piazzollian entropy.

Marcos Franciosi (Córdoba, Argentina, 1973), teacher, composer and researcher Marcos Franciosi (Córdoba, Argentina, 1973) studied composition at the National University of Córdoba and at the Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Art of Québec, Canada. He has served as director of the Bachelor of Composition with Electroacoustic media of the National University of Quilmes, as well as professor of composition at the Faculty of Musical Arts and Sciences of the UCA (2008-2017), Musical Appreciation at the IUNA (2012-2013), Contemporary Techniques II at CEAMC (2006-2008) and harmony, counterpoint and composition at UCASAL (2012). He has been adjudicator and visiting professor on numerous occasions in Argentina and abroad. Franciosi has received numerous distinctions, including the Award Konex, Classical Music Merit Diploma 2009-2019. His works have been commissioned by orchestras such as the Ensemble Modern, National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina Teatro Colón, Circle of Contemporary Music Concerts at the San Martín Theater, the Strasbourg Conservatory of Music, among others. He has written acoustic, electroacoustic and mixed music, symphonic music, chamber music, as well as music for film, dance, theater and opera. He is a currently professor of Acoustic and Electroacoustic Composition and Chair of Musical Creation Workshop at the National University 3 de Febrero, Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

Published by Miguel Etchegoncelay

conductor, teacher, composer

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