DECEMBER 17 | Obituary | Luis BacalovDECEMBER 17 | Obituary | Luis Bacalov
By RAY PICOT
ILAMS is sad to hear of the passing of the eminent Argentine born composer, pianist and conductor Luis Bakalov on 15 November 2017, aged 84, in Rome.
Bacalov was born near Buenos Aires in 1933 but spent most of his working life in Italy, where in the early 1960s making his name as a pianist and composer, and started to carve our a career in the genre of film music. His name will forever linked with the Italian ‘spaghetti westerns', but he composed over 50 original scores for diversely-themed films, including crime thrillers, prolifically over 3 decades, his last being in 2010. Bacalov received an Academy Award for his renowned score for Il Postino in 1996, having received several nominations over the years. The contemporary film producer Quentin Tarantino notably introduces several of Bakalov’s songs in his movies, demonstrating the clear affection the film world had for this great musician.
A noted pianist and conductor, Bakalov was active musically throughout his life and became the principal director from 2005 to his death of the Orchestra della Magna Grecia in Taranto. Bakalov's musical interests proved very diverse and he was responsible for producing albums for progressive Italian rock bands in the early 1970s, whilst being busy as a recording artist, and conducting his music, as well as that of other film composers.
However, throughout his career Bakalov, despite living in Italy, retained a great love and affection for Argentina and in particular one of its greatest musical icons, Astor Piazzolla. Whilst the shadow of the tango rhythm and the distinctive sound of the accordion (or bandoneón) can be frequently heard in his film scores, Bakalov recorded several distinctive albums paying open tribute to the tango through the Luis Bacalov Quartet (Tango and Around), as a solo pianist (Tango e Ditorni) and as a collaborator with Roberta Aloisio and Walter Rios (Xena Tango). However, the biggest step was into the classical world with the Misa Tango of 1997, when he audaciously wrote a mass, sung in Spanish for soloists, bandoneón, chorus and orchestra. As a practising Jew, he cleverly stripped back the Latin text, removing overt references to Christ, allowing the form to achieve an appeal to all Abrahamic faiths. In 2000 Deutsche Grammophon released a recording of the work to great acclaim.
His clear mastery of the tango was reinforced with his own Tangosain and orchestrations of Piazzolla’s Adiós Nonino and Libertango, which featured Bakalov as a pianist. In 2005, Gisele Ben-Dor conducted Bakalov’s extraordinary Triple Concerto for bandoneón, piano, soprano and orchestra and a year later, a commissioned work , the choral piece, Cantos para nuestros tiempos, amongst other works. His distinct voice will clearly be missed but he leaves behind a rich body of music for us all to enjoy.
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