Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Story of Nocturno

Remember the date: 21 September 1940

The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, describes the events surrounding that day in some detail.  It is the day that Piazzolla met Odette Maria Wolff, known to all as Dedé, who was later to become his wife and mother of his two children.

The story begins in Café Germinal on Calle Corriente in Buenos Aires sometime in December of 1939.  Hugo Baralis, a young violinist in Anibal Troilo's band, notices that Piazzolla is a frequent visitor to Café Germinal, where Troilo's band performs nightly, and strikes up a conversation with him.  Learning that Piazzolla is a bandoneónist who claims to know all of Troilo's repertoire, he arranges for Piazzolla to audition for Troilo.  From this encounter, Troilo gained a new bandoneónist for his band and Piazzolla gained a new lifelong, best friend in Hugo Baralis.

As young, single male friends will do, Baralis invited Piazzolla to a party at his family apartment to meet some girls. The girls were his two sisters, Olga and Delia, and their two school friends, Poupée and Liebe Wolff.  The Wolff girls brought along their little sister, Dedé.  The party took place on the 21st of September in 1940.  Piazzolla was apparently absolutely smitten by Dedé.  When he returned home after the party, he told his parents that he had found a girlfriend.

And here the story departs from the account in Le Grand Tango.  He not only told his parents he had a girl friend, he also sat down and composed a song. On the score, he wrote a dedication that translates roughly as, "to the princess 'Dedita', your prince Astor." He signed the score and dated it "21 September (Primavera) 1940."  He probably gave the score to Dedé at their very next meeting which was on October 19th.  The song was titled Nocturno - the subject of the previous blog.  I did not realize the significance of the work when I wrote that blog. It was only after Yazmina Raies sent me a photo of the date and signature on the score that the story began to reveal itself.

We may thank Alberto Gerding, a founder of the Centro Astor Piazzolla de a Ciudad de Buenos Aires, for uncovering the score.  Dedé gave a copy to Gerding during an interview in which Dedé was describing her first encounter with Piazzolla.  Gerding, some time later, gave the score to Mistango7, an all female tango band he manages. Yazmina Raies, the pianist in Mistango7, arranged it and performs it in the video below with vocalist, Rowina. The performance captured in the video represents the premiere of the work, nearly 72 years after it was composed.

According to Ms. Raies, the original score for Nocturno still remains in the Piazzolla family.  It predates his formal musical education with Alberto Ginastera - giving us a glimpse of Piazzolla's native talent as a composer. There is a logical argument that says Nocturno is the piece that he famously showed Arthur Rubenstein, leading to his studies with Ginastera.   It is probably his earliest surviving work - I know of none which predate it. And with the romantic story attested by the notes on the score itself, the score is truly priceless.  It should be an Argentine national treasure on display in a glass case at a museum.

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  1. what is the ending of this story???

  2. really interesting and good post. thanks for your work.