The Kennedy Center

Histoire du Tango

About the Work

Astor Piazzolla Composer: Astor Piazzolla
© Augustin Hadelich

Originally written for flute and guitar (the earliest tango instrumentation), the four movements of Histoire du tango by Ástor Piazzolla retrace the history of Argentine tango throughout the 20th century: The first movement, titled Bordel 1900, is written in the fast and lively style of the first tangos-played and danced in the bordellos of Buenos Aires starting around 1882. Café 1930 strikes a very different note. Tango has evolved to become slower, more melancholic, and no longer just for dancing. People are now listening to tango orchestras, and violins are featured for the first time. By the time we reach Nightclub 1960, the tango has been enriched by the influence of bossa nova from Brazil. This is the passionate, rambunctious style of the tango that made Piazzolla world-famous. Finally, in Concert d'aujourd'hui, the tango has arrived in the concert hall. This movement showcases Piazzolla's unique compositional style, with influences from great 20th century composers such as Bartók and Stravinsky. Having started out in seedy red-light districts and survived eras when it was outlawed in Argentina, the tango is now being celebrated in the most illustrious concert halls throughout the world.