Composers Datebook®

Piazzolla passes

Composer's Datebook - July 5, 2023


On today’s date in 1992, lovers of the tango had good reason to be sad. The great Argentinean composer and bandoneón virtuoso Astor Piazzolla had died in Buenos Aires at the age of 71.

Now, the bandoneón is a close relation of the accordion, and for it Piazzolla composed new music inspired by the tango, an Argentinian dance form that originated in working-class dancehalls. While still a teenager, Piazzolla had played bandoneón in the orchestra of Carlos Gardél, the most famous tango singer of the 1930s. Eventually, Piazzolla formed his own band, which became famous throughout South America.

But Piazzolla had a burning desire to write concert music, and won a scholarship to study composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. She encouraged him to explore the possibilities inherent in the music he knew best, and so Piazzolla set about “reinventing” the tango. The result was dubbed “nuevo tango,” as vital as the old ones, but often dark and brooding.

When asked why these “new tangos” were so melancholy, Piazzolla replies. "Not because I'M sad,” Piazzolla replied. “Not at all.  I'm a happy guy.  … No, my music is sad because the TANGO is sad — sad and dramatic, but not pessimistic.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Astor Piazzolla (1921 - 1992) Tres minutos con la realidad Nestor Marconi, bandoneon; Yo Yo Ma, cello; ensemble Sony Classical 63122

On This Day


  • 1878 - English composer and pianist Josef Holbrooke, in Croydon

  • 1895 - English composer Gordon Jacob, in London

  • 1897 - German-born Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim (originally Frankenburger), in Munich

  • 1918 - American composer George Rochberg, in Paterson, N.J.

  • 1926 - American composer and teacher Kenneth Gaburo, in Somerville, N.J.


  • 1992 - Argentinian composer and bandonion virtuoso Astor Piazolla, age 71, in Buenos Aires


  • 1931 - R. Vaughan Williams: ballet, "Job (A Masque for Dancing)," in London

  • 1990 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Clarinet Quintet, at a Chamber Music Northwest concert in Portland, Ore. featuring clarinetist David Shifrin

  • 1996 - Stephen Paulus: "Partita Appassionata," for violin and piano, by William Preucil and Arthur Rowe, at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival

  • 2000 - Leslie Bassett: Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, during a World Saxophone Congress at Pierre Mercure Hall, Montreal, with soloist Clifford Leaman, and the Orchestre Symphonique de Laval, Louis Lavigueur, conducting;


  • 1877 - Polish harpsichordist Wanda Landowska is born in Warsaw

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®