The Double A and the Double Z – Piazzolla and the Bandoneon, cont’d

Pt 2. The Left keyboard (Bass)

The Bass keyboard on the Doble A is found on the left-hand side of the instrument in a setting much more simple than the treble keyboard. The blocky form of the extra resonating chamber takes up the space that on the right side was occupied by the decorative harp opening. The 33 keys above it seem to arrange themselves in a far less coherent grouping. The first key in this cohort works out as the year 1960, when Piazzolla and his family returned to Buenos Aires.

Although Piazzolla still had his critics in Argentina, he also had his supporters, the 5th key on the bass keyboard marks the year Piazzolla worked with the celebrated argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The 8th key represents 1968, the year of the premier of “María de Buenos Aires”, an operetta that Piazzolla wrote alongside the poet Horacio Ferrer. In 1970 Piazzolla’s solo work “Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas.” (the four seasons of Buenos Aires) was released to widespread acclaim.

When 1973 comes around, so much happens that the 13th key is scarcely big enough to contain it. Astor has a heart attack, possibly brought on by overwork. The former Argentine leader Juan Domingo Peron returns from his Spanish exile in June, bringing with him a balmy summer of hope that would begin the country’s descent into a winter more terrible and brutal than anyone could have imagined. Piazzolla moved to Italy for the good of his health. In 1974 he recorded “Libertango” in Milan. In 1976, the 16th key, he would read the newspaper that told him of the “Proceso de Reorganización Nacional” – The military dictatorship that had seized his homeland.

In 1981, the 21st key, Piazzolla has been an exile for nearly a decade. He returns to Argentina occasionally to give performances. Despite overtures from the dictatorship he tries to stay out of politics. Piazzolla meets the famous Argentine footballer Maradona in Paris, far from the Barrios of Buenos Aires.

The 23rd key sees the fall of the dictatorship one year after the Argentine defeat in the Falklands war. Though they were defeated in war, the Argentine people had liberated themselves from the generals. A national cultural resurgence begins, including a renewed enthusiasm for Tango. With winter finally over, Buenos Aires experiences a long-awaited springtime. At the Teatro Colón in the city centre, Piazzolla leads the Buenos Aires Philharmonic in a performance of his music.

The 27th key, 1987 is the year When Piazzolla returns to new York to play a concert in Central Park, his boyhood haunt. He would return to the US in 1989, to record with the Kronos Quartet. This album “Five Tango Sensations” would be Piazzolla’s last.

The 31st key marks the year 1990. Whilst in Paris, Piazzolla suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. He enters a coma from which he will never return.

There are 71 keys on a Double A and 71 years of Piazzolla’s life. However, the keys on the Bandoneon are not sequential and notes from different Octaves often sit side by side to each other. Any order I apply to these keys must therefore be arbitrary. How can I say which are the final keys that will mark his passing?

On the bass keyboard of a 142-tone Doble A, two keys stand out on their own. “A-flat/G 4” and “F/G-flat 2” they are separate in their own row as Piazzolla was separated in the last two years of his life, 1991 and 1992. Separated from the world and separated from his music. I choose these two to mark Piazzolla’s end as the last of my 71 witnesses to a life lived with a remarkable and enduring passion.

Adiós , Maestro.