Astor Piazzolla Composer
Ángel series, tangos for chamber ensemblePerformances: 40
Musicology:The "angel series" of pieces by Astor Piazzolla includes two of his most popular compositions. At about the same time Piazzolla wrote another series concerning a devil, known as the "Diablo series." These much harsher works have not gained popularity.
Ángel series, tangos for chamber ensembleYear: 1965
Genre: Other Chamber
Pr. Instrument: Chamber Ensemble
- 1.La muerte del angel
- 2.Milonga del angel
- 3.Resurreccion del angel
Piazzolla returned to Argentina in 1955, after some study in Paris, and founded his Octeto Buenos Aires. He was attacked for anything he did that was not traditional, including his preference to play the bandoneón standing rather than sitting. One of the tangos he wrote during this pioneering period was Tango del ángel.
Between 1958 and 1960, he lived in the United States and engaged in an ill-fated effort to found a style called "Jazz-Tango," but then returned home and founded the first of his quintets. He began to find some acceptance—especially, strangely enough, in the provinces and in Uruguay rather than in Buenos Aires.
At that point, the writer Alberto Rodriguez Muñoz approached Piazzolla about providing music for a stage play, Tango del ángel. This production reached the stage in 1962. For it Piazzolla provided three pieces: "Introducción al ángel," "Milonga del ángel," and "Muerte del ángel"). The play is about an angel who appears in a Buenos Aires apartment block to cleanse the souls of its residents.
"Introduction to the Angel" is an elegant, swaying tango with an appropriately soaring melody. The harmonies are often strange, and even, at times, seem to exist on two planes, with the rhythm and tune of the piece on one, and additional misty chord sequences on the other.
"Milongo of the Angel" is a gentle, sentimental piece. The milonga is a precursor of the tango, with a similar rhythm but is lighter and more gentle. This milonga has one of Piazzolla's prettiest melodies.
"Death of the Angel" (Muerte del ángel) is a startling example of the manner in which Piazzolla was pushing the boundaries of the traditional tango. It is a three-voice fugue with a propulsive bass line. The angel is attacked, and although it defends itself it is killed in a knife-fight. The rhythms and harmonies are harsh and uncompromising; the piece itself is exhilarating.
Even some of the hostile sectors of the Argentine musical public could see the appropriateness of writing this sort of music when it was linked to stage action, and the Milonga" and Muerte pieces in particular gained unexpected popularity. ("Introduction" remained less known.)
Evidently to make a concert suite with a happy ending, Piazzolla in 1965 added to these two pieces a new composition called "Resurrection of the Angel." In this highly attractive work, a very happy, vaulting theme alternates with further treatment of the original milonga theme representing the angel, while the mysterious chromatic chords are even more advanced and striking.
The four pieces involved in the play ("Introducción," "Milonga," "Muerte," and "Resurrección") have been arranged into a major concert work by Rolf Gupta under the title Concierto del Ángel. It is for a traditional tango quartet of violin, bandoneón, double bass, and piano with a string orchestra.
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1.La muerte del angelThis is the climactic piece Piazzolla provided for his incidental music to the 1962 Alberto Rodriguez Muñoz play Tango del ángel, in which an angel heals the spirits of the residents of a shabby Buenos Aires neighborhood, but is ultimately killed in that most Argentine of pastimes, a knife fight. Death of the Angel later found its way into at least two suites of Piazzolla's Angel-related music. Piazzolla performed and recorded the piece on many occasions, usually as a companion to Milonga del ángel, from the same source. This begins as a remarkable three-voice fugue, slicing out from a fast, jagged theme passed dissonantly among the instruments of the standard Piazzolla quintet (bandoneón, violin, piano, and acoustic and electric bass). The fugue pulls up short, though, for a central bandoneón-dominated section that is simultaneously sentimental and unsettled. The fugue theme then resumes, although it is no longer treated contrapuntally, and ends, appropriately, with slashing violin glissandi.
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2.Milonga del angelFor Alberto Rodriguez Muñoz's 1962 stage play Tango del Angel, in which an angel heals the spirits of the residents of a shabby Buenos Aires neighborhood, Piazzolla added two new pieces to an earlier tango that gave the play its name. This music reappeared in at least two different concert forms, but one of the unifying elements is the piece Milonga del ángel. A milonga is a sort of proto-tango, lighter and gentler than the more familiar form. This milonga is openly sentimental and begins with a lounge music feel with strummed bass chords; a simple, keening violin line; and a few tinkles from the piano. The bandoneón creeps in almost unnoticed, but takes control of the piece with a sad, nostalgic melody (at this point, one could easily imagine the piece being played in a jazz club). Just as the treatment of the melody becomes more complex and emotional, a secondary section arrives to allow some air around the music. It initially seems like a transition, but opens into a highly romantic and sensual violin solo. The bandoneón reclaims its place, offering its own variation on this melody, which is actually closely tied to the main theme, and musing on it with the violin and electric bass. A more intense passage leads to the coda, which strips the music down to a series of chords, much as the piece began.
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