Stream Music by Argentina’s Greatest Composers

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A couple dancing tango in a street of San Telmo, Buenos Aires. (Photo: pura-aventura.com)

Explore music of Argentina’s greatest composers, past and present, as KAIA String Quartet takes you on a musical journey throughout Latin America. KAIA, WFMT’s first ensemble in residence, will share the music of Argentina weekdays from July 10-21 through daily segments that air at 9:05 am and 6:00 pm on WFMT. Find each segment below after it airs, and discover more Latin American music with KAIA through July 2017 as the quartet continues its WFMT residency.


Astor Piazzolla: Tango Revolutionist, part 1

Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla performs in France in July 1986. (Photo: North Country Public Radio)

One of the biggest names in 20th century music, Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina in 1921. He then moved to New York City, where his appreciation for tango, jazz, and classical music grew. He also began playing the bandoneón, and by the age of 17 he was considered one of the greatest players in the world. As a mentor, composer Alberto Ginastera, helped Piazzolla sharpen his composing skills and introduced him to the music of Stravinsky, Ravel, and Bartók.  PIazzolla was instrumental in bringing tango music into the concert hall and championing the art form’s representation. He even wrote a tango opera, María de Buenos Aires, which has been performed internationally. Here, listen to a string quartet version of the Fuga y misterio from the opera.


Carlos Guastavino: Schubert of the Pampas, part 1

A painting of composer Carlos Guastavino.

Carlos Guastavino, nicknamed “The Schubert of the Pampas,” was one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. The composer would pen over 500 works in his lifetime. Born in Argentina in 1912, Guastavino studied music in his home country and earned a grant to travel to England and work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. His compositional style differed from his contemporaries who embraced the avant-garde modernist movements. By contrast, Guastavino’s works were characterized by nationalism and the influence of composers like Debussy, De Falla, and Albéniz.  Though his most popular works are for voice, he was a master composer for all instruments. Here is his work, Las Presencia, No. 6 “Jeromita Linares,” a lighthearted work based on traditional Argentinan music.


Alberto Ginastera: 20th Century Music Giant, part 1

Arguably one of the most important composers of the 20th century, Alberto Ginastera was born in Buenos Aries, Argentina in 1916.  He was the master of integrating Argentine folk music with complex European and American compositional techniques.  Also an important teacher, he influenced many of the next generation of composers including Astor Piazzolla and Alcides Lanza.  While his early works incorporated Argentine musical themes in a straight forward fashion, his later works abstracted folk tunes even more.  His Danzas argentinas, Op. 2 is a perfect example of his early writing style.  Rich in chromaticism and bitonality, this collection of dances is audience friendly but still sounds innovative, in part, because of its intricate rhythms and textures.


Ariel Ramírez: Argentine Folk Hero

Composer Osvaldo Golijov grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. His love of music began at a young age, and musical influences range from classical to klezmer to the Nuevo Tango music of Astor Piazzolla. Golijov furthered his musical education in Israel at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy, as well as in the United States with George Crumb. Golijov’s song Night of the Flying Horses uses themes from Yiddish and Gypsy music and was used in the Sally Potter film The Man Who Cried.


Osvaldo Golijov: Musical Hybrid

Composer Osvaldo Golijov. (Photo: osvaldogolijov.com)

Composer Osvaldo Golijov grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. His love of music began at a young age, and musical influences range from classical to klezmer to the Nuevo Tango music of Astor Piazzolla. Golijov furthered his musical education in Israel at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy, as well as in the United States with George Crumb. Golijov’s song Night of the Flying Horses uses themes from Yiddish and Gypsy music and was used in the Sally Potter film The Man Who Cried.


Domenico Zipoli: Italian Baroque Immigrant

Composer Domenico Zipoli.

Born in Italy in 1688, composer Domenico Zipoli immigrated to South America as part of a Jesuit mission in 1717. He received his musical education in Rome and studied under Alessandro Scarlatti before joining the Jesuit Order. While in South America, Zipoli spent time in Bolivia and Peru before settling in Argentina. He played organ in many churches throughout South America, taught music to indigenous people, and inspired the first generation of music composers in the area. Most of Zipoli’s works in South America had been lost till the 1970s, when they were discovered in cathedrals in Bolivia and Argentina.  Zipoli’s music was still being performed in religious ceremonies by the indigenous population and his works were considered sacred. His Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in A major is a glimpse at the genius of this Baroque composer. To learn more about Zipoli’s influence in South America, listen to this episode of WFMT’s Fiesta.


Carlos Guastavino: Schubert of the Pampas, part 2

The great Argentine composer Carlos Guastavino has been called the “Schubert of the Pampas” for his songwriting mastery. He has written many standards of popular music, as well as orchestral and chamber music. His music has been performed by some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century such as Martha Argerich, Kiri Te Kanawa, and  José Carreras. Gustavino once said, “I love melody. I love to sing. I refuse to compose music only intended to be discovered and understood by future generations.” His Cuatro Canciones Argentinas is a set of four songs at completely encompasses that aesthetic.


Astor Piazzolla: Tango Revolutionist, Part 2

Composer Astor Piazzolla.

Known for being one of the creators of “nuevo tango,” or “new tango,” Astor Piazzolla’s musical education reached far beyond his homeland of Argentina. At the bequest of hisn mentor Alberto Ginastera, Piazzolla entered his work Sinfonía Buenos Aires into the Fabien Sevitzky composition competition. It won first prize, earning Piazzolla a grant from the French government to study with Nadia Boulanger. Through her teachings, Piazzolla realized that his destiny with classical music was intertwined with tango.  It was then his goal to bring tango into the concert halls.  His work, Escualo or Shark, is titled after his hobby of shark-fishing and one especially hard catch he made.


Julián Aguirre: Folk Nationalism

Composer Julián Aguirre.

Argentine composer Julián Aguirre was born in 1868. His family soon moved to Spain, where Aguirre studied music at the Madrid Royal Conservatory. There, he was influenced by the nationalist music movement in Spain, and when he moved back to Argentina he sought to create nationalistic music for his home country. He was one of the first Argentinian composers to use folk music from Argentina in his compositions.  Mostly a writer for chamber works, Aguirre’s music is intimate and melodic. His Tristes Argentinos is full of folk melodies from Aguirre’s homeland.


Alberto Ginastera: 20th Century Music Giant, Part 2

Composer Alberto Ginastera. (Photo: Annemarire Heinrch)

One of the most important and prolific composers of the 20th century, Alberto Ginastera’s catalog of music includes opera, ballet, orchestral, chamber, and film music. His work is characterized by rhythmic vigor and great lyricism immersed in an expressionist atmosphere. His Pampeana No. 2 is an ode to his homeland: the Pampas region, or Great Plains. The work traverses many landscapes, from the rich cello cadenza at the opening to the melancholic middle section to the galloping frenzy at the end.