Gaspar Astarita

Adiós Nonino

n 1999 there will be celebrated forty years of the creation of “Adiós Nonino”, Astor Piazzolla´s most representative work. Composed in 1959, moved by his father´s death, it would become a classic. Its author, of a prolific oeuvre as composer, has compositions more important and of higher value, but Adiós Nonino is and will be, forever, a synonym of Piazzolla.

«Every composer, no matter how vast his production, always has some work which, although not being the most perfected, is the one which defines his style. In it, by an exact and harmonic conjunction of certain values, the composer has externalized his sensitivity, has disclosed his roots, evidencing his knowledge and developed his creative capacity, achieving in that synthesis the identity of all his labor.

«Reasons of impact on popular liking, the acceptance and the incitement which it provokes on the players that, when including it in their repertories, create the essential channels to strive for the necessary diffusion and make that that composition stays forever in the ears and the emotion of wide audiences.

«Besides the technical and aesthetic values, the truth is that through all that context, a specific work of composition ends being, for its author, a kind of summary of his artistic personality.»

And this concept which I have put in writing in my work about Abel Fleury (GraFer, Chivilcoy, 1995), can be applied with accuracy and conviction to the piece which best identifies Piazzolla all over the world and in every level: “Adiós Nonino”.

His output as composer, profuse, meritorious and varied, inside and outside tango, since he experienced in compositions made according to other structures of European character, shows us works of great trascendence. But I guess that “Adiós Nonino” is and will be forever —I repeat— a synonym of Piazzolla. Even when interpreted by orchestras within a style more traditional, like the impeccable version recorded by Leopoldo Federico, or like the one we recently listened in Chivilcoy by the chamber trio led by the cellist Diego Sánchez, especially arranged by José Bragato.

Adiós Nonino” was composed around 1959, when Astor was on a tour of Central America. Then he had the news of the sudden death of his father, don Vicente Piazzolla, who was called Nonino.

Just arrived from New York, returning from that tour, at a time of deep sadness, of financial difficulties —due to his trip to the North which had resulted a failure, as a failure also was his intent to impose jazz-tango on the public—, now his father's death was added, far away, in Argentina. Then he wrote “Adiós Nonino”. Under the pressure of such a frame of mind the immortal notes spontaneously sprouted. He re-composed the early “Nonino”, a tango he had composed in París in 1954 (there is a recording of that work by José Basso's orchestra, in July 1962), of which he kept the rhythmic part. He re-arranged the rest and added that long melodic fragment, with long and touching notes, where a deep, choked and anguished lament underlies.

The restrained weeping and the pain of a son, at such a distance, was expressed in this sad and distressed passage. In these two phrases of eight bars (four plus four), which are repeated forming a precious section of sixteen bars, is the authentic sense and justification of the piece.

The artist, without tears, cried that night, but through his art. And left for the history of Argentine music, one of his most beautiful and everlasting pages.

And like a true classic, a great number of recordings of it were made. Small groups, orchestras composed by numerous musicians, and soloists too, have produced the most varied versions of “Adiós Nonino”.

The first is by its composer with his quintet: Piazzolla on bandoneon, Jaime Gosis on piano, Quicho Díaz on double bass, Horacio Malvicino on electric guitar and Simón Bajour on violin, a group which recorded it for the Antar-Telefunken label (Montevideo), in the year 1960. And that melodic, touching passage of the composition, almost usually assigned to the strings —which are those most suited to express it—, was in charge of the remarkable interpretation of Simón Bajour, one of the best violinists in tango history. The sweetness of his sound, the finesse of his interpretation and his extraordinary sensitivity knew how to understand and express the message of pain that the author left implied on that theme, in an admirable way.

I think that that passage was never surpassed. Enrique Francini, Hugo Baralis, Elvino Vardaro, Fernando Suárez Paz, Reynaldo Nichele, Mauricio Marcelli and many others have left beautiful recordings of that part. But —in my point of view, which surely will be objetionable—, I keep on saying that Bajour's bow, at least on that recording, is above them all.

This commentary does not pretend either to underestimate Piazzolla's irreproachable bandoneonistic display paraphrasing the same passage, or the pianistic labor by Jaime Gosis, but I stick to my concept and my ear: that of Simón Bajour is unbeatable.

Published in Tango and Lunfardo # 148, Year XVII, Chivilcoy, January 16, 1999.