Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sinfonia Buenos Aires

Perhaps the most important composition in Piazzolla's career is Sinfonia Buenos Aires - a fragment of which is featured in today's video. It is also one of the very least played Piazzolla compositions. This is the first video of a live performance of the Sinfonia to appear on YouTube and, I believe, only the second time it has been performed in the U.S. in the last five years. What you will see in the video are some fragments of a rehearsal of the piece by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Giancarlo Guerrero in the Laura Turner Concert Hall in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

The reason the Sinfonia is important is that it was this piece which led to Piazzolla winning the Fabian Sevitsky Prize in 1953 which, in turn, provided him a one year scholarship to France to study with Nadia Boulanger. It was Ms. Boulanger who convinced Piazzolla to abandon dreams of becoming a classical composer and to apply his talents to tango. The result was nuevo tango which provided fame, and eventually some fortune, to Piazzolla.

The piece itself was composed in 1951 while Piazzolla was studying composition with Alberto Ginastera and is officially, Opus 15. As discussed in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, the piece was controversial in its debut - leading to fist fights in the audience. Piazzolla was reminded of a similar greeting to the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and was convinced that all publicity was good.

Were it not for the history associated with the piece, it would be forgettable - full of bombastic percussion and thematically vague - it tires me to listen to it. There is only one recording of the full work that I am aware of, a performance by the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen on the Chandros CD, Astor Piazzolla: Symphonic Works, Volume 2. Both volumes of this collection are very well done and provide important examples of what Piazzolla's music was like prior to his study with Boulanger.

The performance for which the orchestra is rehearsing in today's video was carried out on November 21st - about a month ago. Let's hope video was made of the performance and that the full performance will become available on YouTube.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

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