Studies in Paris
At Ginastera’s urging, on August 16, 1953, Piazzolla entered his classical composition “Buenos Aires Symphony in Three Movements” for the Fabian Sevitzky Award. The performance took place at the law school in Buenos Aires with the symphony orchestra of Radio del Estado under the direction of Sevitzky himself. At the end of the concert, a fight broke out among members of the audience who were offended by the inclusion of two bandoneons in a traditional symphony orchestra. In spite of this Piazzolla’s composition won a grant from the French government to study in Paris with the legendary French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger at the Fontainebleau conservatory.
In 1954 he and his wife left their two children (Diana aged 11 and Daniel aged 10) with Piazzolla’s parents and travelled to Paris. Piazzolla was tired of tango and tried to hide his tanguero past and his bandoneon compositions from Boulanger, thinking that his destiny lay in classical music. Introducing his work, Piazzolla played her a number of his classically inspired compositions, but it was not until he played his tango Triunfal that she congratulated him and encouraged him to pursue his career in tango, recognising that this was where his talent lay. This was to prove a historic encounter and a cross-road in Piazzolla’s career.
With Boulanger he studied classical composition, including counterpoint, which was to play an important role in his later tango compositions. Before leaving Paris, he heard the octet of the American jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, which was to give him the idea of forming his own octet on his return to Buenos Aires. He composed and recorded a series of tangos with the String Orchestra of the Paris Opera and began to play the bandoneon while standing up, putting his right foot on a chair and the bellows of the instrument across his right thigh. Until that time bandoneonists played sitting down.