November 2021 | Cecilia Pillado remembers Piazzolla

November 2021 | Cecilia Pillado remembers Piazzolla

I am very lucky to have met the master of the 'tango nuevo', Ástor Piazzolla, personally. This was in the 1980s when I was a young student in Berlin: he came to play in a jazz festival called Horizonte, at the Philharmonie Berlin. At that time, if I was not practising the piano, I was hanging around with a group of  Latin American friends. We all went together to Piazzolla's concerts, and as fans usually do we went backstage to meet him and the other musicians of his group. They also cannot be separated from the name 'Piazzolla' of that time: Fernando Suárez Paz (violin), Pablo Ziegler (piano), Oscar López Ruiz (electric guitar) Héctor Console (contrabass). They were very happy to meet Argentinians abroad and chat in the same language, and were open and friendly. As taking photographs was not the normal practice, as it is now with your 'phone, I only have one picture together with the Maestro, taken by a friend.

One night after the concert, we all went to the hotel at the Hardenberg Strasse, in front of the University of the Arts Berlin and chatted with Piazzolla until at least four in the morning!  I was so impressed that Piazzolla had more than a couple of whiskies, which for me was alot, and he never got drunk!  We spoke about his style and he showed me his sheets of music and at the places where there was nothing, he said: “You see, here, that is the place I let everyone improvise, but not so long a time! If it becomes too long I cut them!”

The master of improvisation was Piazzolla. Listening to him in a  live concert was an amazing and unforgettable experience for me. His charisma and personality were strong, magnetic and passionate. When he closed his eyes and began to improvise he got into a trance; he transformed himself and his bandoneon began to speak from his soul. He was his Bandoneon, part of his body and soul. And he expressed his really very new music, which was a mixture of jazz, tango, classical and modern with an intensity never heard before from a bandoneon. He went with scales up and down, combined rhythms, changed harmonies. Those improvisations have remained in my memory. 

In 1989 I began building an Argentinian repertoire, and one the first  pianists from my country that included Ginastera, Guastavino, Piazzolla and Ramírez in concert programs and recording them. At that time Piazzolla was not recognized as 'classical' enough to be in a classical concert program. I also began to arrange his works in 1991 and played some of these arrangements at concerts in Argentina, but I was heavily criticized, to dare to include Piazzolla. During this period of my life in 1992 I was desolated when I heard of his death. I felt there was a strong reason to continue with my work and bring Piazzolla’s music to concerts halls and in recordings.

I arranged a lot of themes and recorded some of them. The first published recording was also produced by myself: Argentine Piano Music (1994) which was licensed to Berlin Classics in 1998. The album included : La Muerte del Ángel, Amelitango, Meditango, Retrato de Alfredo Gobbi and Michelangelo 70. The most difficult to arrange were Amelitango and Meditango because of the polyphony;  the different voices that need to be separated and to decide which hand is going to play which voice. Meditango has also some Bach’s moods; Michelangelo has nice big jumps; Gobbi doesn’t need to be arranged as well as La muerte, just beauty adjustments.

On the 5th March 1997, commemorating the 5th anniversary of Piazzolla's  death, I organized a tribute concert at Philharmonie Berlin and played more than five pieces, among which were Adios nonino and Balada para un loco that are inspired by his improvisations: I also composed variations in the middle of these themes and that remained “my Piazzolla”. Maybe Chopin improvised that style as well, going up and down on the keys, but this is Piazzolla and he was my inspiration. 

Cecilia Pillado

For more information about Cecilia Pillado and her also check out her recording 'Listen to My Piazzolla'



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