From Piazzolla to Pelé, Music for the World Cup

June 30, 2018, 7:00 pm

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Photo: Dan Gold danielcgold, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Soccer or as most people in the world call it – football – has inspired composers in many genres. And this is especially true in Latin America, where fútbol is one of the most popular sports. Elbio Barilari explores soccermania in music in this episode of Fiesta. Whether you’re watching the World Cup or practicing in the off season, this music is sure to score big.


Um a Zero, by Pixinguinha and Benedito Lacerda
Paquito D’Rivera, clarinet; Assad Brothers, guitars

This popular choro was inspired by the 1919 South American Championship of Nations final match between Brazil and Uruguay.  Brazil won the game 1-nil and it was the first time Brazil had won a major soccer tournament. Performed here by the Assad Brothers and Paquito D’Rivera, you can hear the frenetic pace and Brazilian celebration of this famous match.

Ínguesu, by Enrico Chapela
Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas; Alondra de la Parra, conductor

For the first time in an international tournament, Mexico defeated the titans of soccer, Brazil, 4-3 to win the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup. This inspired Mexican composer Enrico Chapela to write an orchestral piece dedicated to the historic victory.  Under the baton of Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas performs this work which makes you feel the ups and downs of this intense match, and yes, that is a referee whistle at the end!

Gambeta and Penalty, by Astor Piazzolla
Astor Piazzolla, bandoneon, and his Italian ensemble

In 1978, Argentina hosted and won their first World Cup, defeating the Netherlands 3-1.  Tango composer Astor Piazzolla was living in Italy at the time and decided to write an entire album dedicated to soccer titled “Mundial 78.” The album features song titles such as Wing, Golazo (Goal), Corner, Penal (Penatly), and Gambeta (Dribble).  The album is performed by Piazzolla and his famous Italian Ensemble.

Atlas Pumas, by Gabriela Ortiz

This work for violin and marimba was inspired by a match and rivalry between two teams from Mexico: Atlas from Guadalajara and Pumas from Mexico City.  The composer Gabriela Ortiz, who teaches at the University of Mexico (the Pumas’s home field,) is able to convey the aerobic athleticism and dynamics of this sport through these two instruments.

“Patadura,” by José López Ares
Carlos Gardel, vocals; José María Aguiar, Guillermo Barbieri and José Ricardo, guitars

“Patadura,” which means stiff leg, is a song written in 1928 about a really bad soccer player.  Sung here by the great tango singer Carlos Gardel, the song is a humorous take on the sport and has many references to famous soccer players of the time. It even compares losing a soccer match to losing your lover.

Santos Football Music, by Gilberto Mendes
Orquestra Sinfônica de Santos; Luis Gustavo Petri & Gilberto Mendes, conductors

This composition was written in 1969 about the famous Brazilian club Santos, which had star soccer player Pelé. It’s scored for orchestra and audience.  That’s right, the audience is invited to participate in this work.  The piece features two conductors: one for the orchestra and the other for the audience.  The audience conductor holds up signs that say, “cheer,” “goal,” “offsides,” or even “yell at the referee.” This work has all the drama and craziness of a soccer match both on the pitch and in the crowd.

“Meu mundo é uma bola,” by Pelé
Pelé, vocals; Jerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Sergio Mendes, producer & arranger

Written and sung by Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, the title of this song translates to “My World is a Soccer Ball”.  Together with the great jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and famous Brazilian musician and producer Sergio Mendes this song brings us into the life of one of the greatest soccer players of all time. It’s a tune that will be in your head the rest of the day.