Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Piazzolla wrote the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires between 1965 and 1970, originally as four separate pieces for violin, piano, electric guitar, double bass and bandoneon – a Spanish accordion instrument popular in tango music. Piazzolla was a virtuoso of the bandoneon, having first learnt to play aged 8. He performed with a number of tango orchestras and this music, along with classical and jazz, influenced his compositional style.
This combination of styles was not overwhelmingly popular at the time and Piazzolla was disheartened. Luckily, his composition teacher Nadia Boulanger (whose influence has appeared a lot this season!) saw in his tango music something special. On hearing it, she said: ‘You idiot! Don’t you know, this is the real Piazzolla, not the other one? You can throw all that other music away’ which spurred Piazzolla to continue on his path.
Between 1996 and 1998, Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov arranged the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires for solo violin and string orchestra. This arrangement splits each season into three movements, in the style of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and also includes musical quotes from Vivaldi’s original. But remember, when it’s summer in Buenos Aires it is winter in Vivaldi’s home town of Venice, so these quotes might not be exactly where you expect…
As we’re shining a spotlight on individual members of the orchestra, each season will be performed by a different violin soloist. Ahead of the performance on Friday 14 May, we asked each violinist to tell us a little bit about their season and what it means to them as a performer.
Marie Schreer, Spring
We will be weaving Piazzolla’s Four Seasons through tonight’s programme, beginning with the season in which we currently find ourselves: Spring (Primavera Porteña). Like the leaves and blooms around us, the music awakens with a fugal opening. Then Piazzolla’s signature harmonies and tango rhythms take us for a ride through Buenos Aires, where we absorb the scents and sounds of the city and its soulful night-time ambience.
Gaëlle-Anne Michel, Summer
Verano Porteño is one of the most exhilarating pieces I ever listened to, and it is with great joy that I am playing it for you tonight. It is a colourful, sensual, evocative portrait of a summer day in Buenos Aires. The rhythm of tango is everywhere, pulsing throughout the piece; so infectious, that you might be able to see the orchestra and myself dance alongside it! The piece starts with an energetic theme, full of a contained, disciplined heat. It all seems to be perfectly on track when suddenly, from far away, out of the blue, an echo of Vivaldi’s Winter! The rhythm starts again, trying to take over, but somehow, it’s less convincing. The memory of Vivaldi comes back, stronger. Finally, the rhythm slows, the sound of the orchestra fades and mellows into a tender and poignant song, improvisation-like. The rest of the movement will oscillate between these two characters: two faces of the summer in Buenos Aires, the busy, clickety, strong dance-like theme; and the nostalgic, free singing from the lonely violin voice, soaring above the musical landscape.
Katerina Nazarova, Autumn
I had heard Piazzolla’s Four Seasons many times and loved it, though never played it, so it has been a pleasure to get to know Autumn. It’s raucous and outrageous, but also has some really beautiful tender and heartfelt moments too, especially in the cello cadenza. It is Piazzolla at his most cheeky and sublime!
Alanna Tonetti-Tieppo, Winter
Piazzolla’s Invierno Porteño meaning ‘Winter in Buenos Aires’ is at its core, a tango. Look out for those characteristic long and smooth, short, and snappy passages of the typical tango here. It is an expression, not of a traditional, western classical nature but a mix of Amerindian, African, and European styles of music and movement. It is a dance that celebrates passion. During his life, Piazzolla took this traditional tango and modernised it, with jazz influences, into what is known as ‘Tango Nuevo.’ It feels liberating to perform his music because, to me, it is a celebration of the human experience, both beautiful and imperfect.