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Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires: a guide to Piazzolla’s piece and its best recordings

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons are some of the most familiar works ever written, often recorded and occasionally mimicked. He was of course not the only composer to look to all things seasonal for musical inspiration... Michael Beek guides you through Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires guide and best recordings

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons are some of the most familiar works ever written, often recorded and occasionally mimicked. He was of course not the only composer to look to all things seasonal for musical inspiration.

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There are seasonal works by Haydn (The Seasons), Tchaikovsky (erm, The Seasons), Philip Glass (The American Four Seasons) and even John Cage (a ballet called… you guessed it, The Four Seasons).

Then there’s Piazzolla, the Argentine King of the Tango. He, too, composed a set of seasonal works in the vein of Vivaldi… well, sort of.

What is Piazzolla’s Four Seasons called?

Piazzolla’s take on the seasons is known as Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (or indeed The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires).

When did Piazzolla write his Four Seasons?

Now here’s the thing. He very much wrote them separately and didn’t quite imagine, at the beginning, that they’d be a set. ‘Summer’ appeared in 1965 and was actually born of music he wrote for a play by Muñoz, called Melenita de Oro. It wasn’t until 1969 that he wrote ‘Winter’, and then 1970 that he got around to ‘Spring’ and ‘Autumn’. Once they had all been written, he did occasionally perform them as a set.

What instruments did he write his Four Seasons for?


Piazzolla composed this music for a cabaret band. The pieces are Tangos – he was the Tango King, remember? As such, if you’d heard them back in the day, the pieces would have been played by violin, piano, electric guitar, double bass and bandoneon.

Does Piazzolla’s Four Seasons borrow from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons?

Yes and no. You see, another composer took what Piazzolla composed and reimagined it as an orchestral suite. That suite, arranged by Leonid Desyatnikov in the late ’90s, is perhaps more familiar to audiences now than Piazzolla’s original. Desyatnikov arranged the four pieces in a more traditional concerto form, with movement sections and the violin leading the way. He also tipped his hat to Vivaldi, bringing in some elements of the composer’s original. Cleverly, he takes into account the fact that Piazzolla and Vivaldi lived in different hemispheres, so Piazzolla’s ‘Summer’ features bits of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’, and so on.

What are the best recordings of The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires?

Arabella Steinbacher on Pentatone

Nashville Symphony on Naxos

Gidon Kremer on Nonesuch (download)

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