13 Of The Greatest Argentinian Composers You Probably Don’t Know

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If you’re like most people, the only Argentinian composer you know is Astor Piazzolla. While Piazzolla undoubtedly deserves his place in history, he’s just one of many great composers to come from Argentina.

Argentina is a country with an incredible musical heritage. Though you may not know many of their names, these 13 Argentinian composers have all made significant contributions to classical music. From the tango-inspired works of Astor Piazzolla to the operas of Alberto Ginastera, there is something for everyone in this list

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous Argentinian composers who have made an important contribution to classical music.

1. Ástor Piazzolla

Rightly considered by Argentinians to be their greatest composer, Ástor Piazzolla was an accomplished tango artist born in Mar del Plata in 1921. 

Among Piazzolla’s many other accomplishments, many credit him for inventing the new wave of tango named nuevo tango, revolutionizing the entire genre in the process.

Piazzolla’s nuevo tango incorporated vastly different classical music and jazz elements to create an entirely new sound compared to traditional tango. 

Early in his career, he played in Aníbal Troilo’s orchestra, one of (if not the) greatest tango orchestra of all time.

While Piazzolla is well-known for his bandoneon playing, he composed for full-band concert orchestras, four-piece jazz bands, solo guitar acts, and more. 

2. Alberto Ginastera

Alberto Ginastera

Alberto Ginastera is held in the pantheon of the best composers of the 20th-century, and many consider him the greatest Argentinian classical composer to have ever lived. 

Ginastera is widely known as one of the most important figures in Argentinian folk music history as well as writing a number of operas, ballets, and film music.

His recognized talents in the classics gave him an international platform to showcase Argentinian folk, something that wasn’t popular at the time. 

His work is broken into three periods, each reflecting a certain time in the composer’s life.

While rather blunt in his mixing of folk and classical in his early career, his later compositions reflected a more abstract approach befitting a master of his craft. 

3. Osvaldo Golijov

Born in La Plata in 1960, Osvaldo Golijov was part of a Romanian Jewish family who had immigrated in the years prior.

He studied piano from a young age and was taught by the prolific Gerardo Gandini, eventually moving to Israel to further his studies. 

Golijnov has held many positions throughout his career, and his compositions earned him the admiration of many critics and academics alike.

He’s currently the Loyola Professor of Music at the College of the Holy Cross. 

Some of Osvaldo’s best-known compositions include The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind and St. Marks Passion

4. Carlos Gardel

Considered the father of the tango, Carlos Gardel is the most prominent historical figure in the genre, second only to nuevo tango pioneer Ástor Piazzolla.

Gardel was known for his baritone voice and high-energy performances, but many don’t know that he was the composer behind most of his music. 

Although there were many tango recordings before Carlos Gardel hit the scene, he was the first to make the genre popular outside of Argentina and Uruguay.

His recordings were played in countries worldwide, providing Gardel with the opportunity to tour almost everywhere. 

5. Alberto Williams

One of the great classical Argentine composers of the 19th century, Alberto Williams was born in Buenos Aires in 1862.

A classically trained pianist, Williams was given the scholarship to study piano in France at a young age, giving him the opportunity to study under the European masters of the time. 

Like other Argentine composers, Williams was heavily influenced by Argentine folk music, especially during his formative years as a young adult.

His compositions increasingly utilized folk rhythms and themes as time wore on, authoring several texts on music theory simultaneously. 

6. Carlos Guastavino

Carlos Guastavino

Carlos Guastavino was a national treasure of Argentina, considered one of its foremost classical composers who was also increasingly influenced by Argentinian folk music. 

Throughout his career, Guastavino was the recipient of several significant awards, including the Municipal Prize from Buenos Aires, the Prize of the Cultural Commission of Santa Fe, and a prize from the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Music Council. 

7. Mauricio Kagel

Born into a Russian Jewish family who had fled Russia in the 1920s, Mauricio Kagel started his life in 1931 in Buenos Aires.

Considered by many to be the “academic’s” composer, Kagel’s compositions were often critical of the traditionally understood place for music in society. 

Out of his many compositions, Kagel’s best-known work remains Staatstheater, which showcases his tendency towards the absurd rather than the classically palatable. 

8. Silvina Milstein

Silvina Milstein is one of the most famous Argentinian composers alive today.

While she currency resides in London as a professor of music theory at Kings College London, she’s best known for her kaleidoscopic compositions that meld different forms of Argentinian music. 

Milstein is also well-known for her analytical pieces on the nature of composition in different eras.

You can see the influence of her analytical thought processes on many of her works, including tigres azules and surrounded by distance. 

9. Felipe Boero

Felipe Boero was an influential composer from Buenos Aires born in 1884.

While his operatic compositions are his most well-known, he also crafted noteworthy pieces for full orchestras as well. 

Boero’s first composition, an opera called Tucumán, gained recognition as one of the best operas to come from Argentina during the 20th century.

It won the Municipal Prize the year it premiered. 

10. Juan Carlos Paz

Juan Carlos Paz

Compared to other Argentinian composers of the time, Juan Carlos Paz was much more focused on bringing his country into the realm of modernity.

This put him in direct opposition to the trend of many Argentine composers using Argentinian folk music in their compositions. 

Paz was one of the founding members of Grupo renovación, an influential organization that pushed for promoting modern music in Argentina, especially in the country’s rural areas. 

11. Julio de Caro

Born in Buenos Aires in 1899, Julio de Caro was an influential member of the tango community up until his death in 1980.

He got his start as the violinist of Arola’s Orchestra, eventually forming a quartet with other members before splitting up and touring in the United States. 

De Caro played through the formative years of internationally-recognized tango, along with the nuevo tango movement that dominated the scene later on. 

12. Andrés Calamaro

Widely held as one of the greatest Argentinian rock musicians to ever live, Andrés Calamaro is an accomplished rock composer and master of several instruments. 

Calamaro got his start with Los Abuelos de la Nada, but his solo work is what has earned him his legendary status among Argentines.

He’s a Latin Grammy winner and multi-platinum record holder for several of his works across different genres, including funk, tango, reggae, and more.

13. Julián Aguirre  

Born in Buenos Aires in 1868, Julián Aguirre was a significant classical and Argentine folk composer during the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

He was also a noteworthy critic during his time as a composer as well. 

His works are viewed as influential to many of the classical folk composers to come after him, and he was one of the first of his peers to synthesize the two genres.

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.