This Sunday was a day of celebration for Lucca province and, in particular, for Garfagnana when a “new” name was added to the imposing roster of composers originating from this region: Astor Piazzolla, the great Argentinian musician, and creator of the “Nuevo tango”.
In 2012 Ofelia Lachner, in association with the Paolo Cresci Foundation, (familiar to anyone who has visited the fascinating Museo dell’emigrazione by the Palazzo Ducale) discovered in local parish registers that Piazzolla’s family came from the village of Massa Sassorosso in the municipality of Villa Collemandina near Castelnuovo Garfagnana.
Piazzolla’s celebration day began, appropriately, in Massa Sassorosso with the unveiling of a monument dedicated to him and the opening of an exhibition on the history of immigration in Argentina from Garfagnana and in particular on the history of the composer’s family. The event concluded in the evening in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana’s Mont’Alfonso fortress with dinner and a concert of music by Piazzolla.
In the commemorative Mass, celebrated in Sassorosso’s parish church, soprano Alessandra Meozzi, accompanied by Michael Salotti organ, performed Astor Piazzolla’s poignant Ave Maria. The church dedicated to St. Michael was the setting for the most important events of Piazzolla’s ancestors, including the marriage of his maternal grandparents, Clelia Bertolami and Luigi Manetti.
After Mass in the square outside the church, now dedicated to Piazzolla since last February, a monument to the musician, celebrating the cultural links between this part of the world and Argentina, and created by James Covina, who has a strong personal connection to Argentina, was inaugurated.
A photo exhibition telling the many stories of emigration to Argentina from Massa Sassorosso was also opened.
In the late nineteenth century and up to World War I Garfagnana contributed heavily to what is known as the “great emigration”. Argentina was one of the favoured destinations. Piazzolla’s maternal grandparents emigrated to Argentina in Mar del Plata, where there was a large community of immigrants, especially from Massa Sassorosso (members of the Marinelli, Manetti, Bertolami, Gaspari, Longhi, Domini and other families). Astor’s grandfather, Luigi, purchased a large plot of land on the outskirts of the city where he grew plants and vegetables. The trees Manetti planted are still there, although his land is now very much in the centre of Buenos Aires.
In the afternoon, events moved to Castelnuovo Garfagnana’s imposing and stunningly restored Mont’Alfonso fortress, where the director of the Paolo Cresci Foundation for the history of Italian emigration, gave a talk on “Taste and nostalgia from the Serchio Valley. : migration and food culture. ”
Appropriately, after the talk a dinner was served with traditional Argentine dishes including a lot of barbecued beef!.
Finally, a concert with music from the man himself. Performing were the world-renowned Q5 Tango quintet, consisting of Juanjo Mosalini on the bandoneon, violin Vincenzo Albini, Michele Paperini on piano, William Caioli on bass, Adrian Fioramonti on guitar and Ruben Peloni, singer, who performed a selection from the best of the six hundred published compositions of this great composer.
These are the bare facts of the day celebrating Astor Piazzolla. We were only able to attend the late afternoon and evening events and received reports of the morning ones. But the concert was assuredly the climax of this memorable day and the Q5 Tango quintet’s performance was both exciting and heart-rendingly moving.
Mosalini squeezed the ultimate drop of expressive juice from his bandoneon. Albini’s violin was searing and Paperini’s playing confirmed his supremacy among Nuevo tango pianists. I have never heard such altitudes of Tango musicality before. Judge for yourself in these clips I took from the evening:
Behind Astor Piazzolla’s noble, ecstatic and sensual music – indeed behind Tango as a whole I discerned and felt on the pulse the hopes, the aspirations, the tears, the disappointments, the melancholy of those Italians constrained by poverty in this region to leave their loved ones, the earth they knew so well, the landscape they had been brought up in, to cross the ocean they had never seen before and face an uncertain future in a new world. What times, what bravery, what desperation, what love!
These are the genuine roots of Tango, I truly believe.
Sassorosso (so-called because of the red granite from which it is built) will now forever be associated with the name of Piazzolla. Perhaps, after the example of Celle dei Puccini it should have the addition “Sassorosso di Piazzolla”.
How this region provides one with new and moving musical sensations all the time and these in the most exquisite and romantic settings – it’s all quite wonderful!