If Miguel Angel Estrella’s death touches music lovers, but also far beyond, it is because in him the musician and the humanist were one, in the service of a noble, courageous and generous conception of art. From a terrible ordeal – exile, prison, torture – the Argentine pianist had turned into a force, no doubt for himself but above all for others.
Born on July 4, 1940 in Tucuman in northern Argentina, he was the son of a poet of Lebanese descent whose parents had emigrated to Bolivia and an Argentine teacher of Native American descent. From his early adolescence he discovered the piano and, gifted as well as fascinated, entered the Buenos Aires Conservatory at the age of 18. He receives a grant to perfect his skills in London and Paris. There he meets and follows the teachings of the pianist Marguerite Long, but above all of the great pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, who “born musician” to the “contained power”. This far-sighted and very demanding woman recognizes it very quickly “also and first a poet”†
Prison and torture
The world discovered the name Miguel Angel Estrella in the late 1970s, when illustrious artists, such as Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, and great musical figures, including Nadia Boulanger, Henri Dutilleux or Yehudi Menuhin, rebelled against his incarceration by a Uruguayan prison. He had, in fact, had to flee his native Argentina and the canes of the junta, only to find himself detained and tortured.
→ REREAD. Miguel Angel Estrella, hope and music in the heart
In his cell, Miguel Angel Estrella is upset when he learns of the death of… “Miss Baker”in October 1979. He, then practicing his damaged hands playing Bach and Beethoven on a silent keyboard, confided to him: “Nadia had represented way too much in my life, not just musically. I had an insane love for her. She had spent so much time defending me and she didn’t want to die before I was released. † Partly as a tribute to him, his former student took French nationality in 1985.
Music for everyone and especially the poorest
The musician worked all his life, both in Latin America and in Europe, to take the classical repertoire beyond privileged circles. His repertoire then was eclectic, from Rameau to Latin American traditions, through Mozart and Beethoven to Piazzolla and Olivier Messiaen. He had performed in the slums of Buenos Aires with his wife Martha, a singer who died prematurely and mother of his two children. In 1982, this man driven by faith founded the Musique Espérance association “at the service of human rights, peace and youth” and also created the Orchestra for Peace, which brings together young musicians of all faiths. Miguel Angel Estrella, ambassador to UNESCO since 2003, headed the House of Argentina at the Cité Universitaire in Paris.
Just listen to his interpretations Lot No. 2 by Bach or Handel Variations by Brahms, where the song unfolds with nobility and simplicity, to be convinced by the grace that permeates his playing. The impression of serenity but also of freedom that it produces naturally refers to the dark hours of his life. And transcend them.