Roberto Firpo

Roberto Firpo was an influential pianist, composer and director of the guardia vieja. He introduced the piano to the orquesta típica and was among the first musicians to record tango and to introduce it to good houses, theaters, cinema and radio. He performed with the duo Gardel-Razzano, composed the third part of “La cumparsita” and was appointed to perform Mi noche triste as part of the sainete “Los dientes del perro”. Between 1912 and 1959 he recorded an estimated 3000 tracks, 1650 of them in the acoustic area [2]. His most famous work as a composer is “Alma de Bohemio”.

Born in 1884 in Las Flores, in the province of Buenos Aires, Roberto Firpo began working at a young age at his father’s store to help sustain the family. When he was 14-years-old he was sent to Buenos Aires to work and this is where he met his friend Juan Deambroggio and began to study music on his own.

When Firpo turned 19-years old he was able to afford his first piano and began taking lessons. He studied with Alfredo Bevilacqua and began performing in 1906, forming various duos and trios with his friends Juan Deambroggio (bandoneon), Juan Carlos Bazán (clarinette) and Francisco Postiglione (violin).

The success of Roberto Firpo was such that he was a regular at Lo de Hansen by 1907. Around this time came his first compositions, some of which were recorded by Juan Maglio in 1910 and 1911. Soon he was performing everywhere in the city from la Boca to Avenida Corrientes. El Velódromo, El tambito, Bar iglesias, L’Abbaye, Teatro Nacional and Salón San Martín are some of the place where he could be seen early on in his career. He began recording in 1912 for the label Odeon.

Roberto Firpo formed his first orchestra in 1913. To the original trio composed of Eduardo Arola (bandoneon) and Tito Roccatagliatta (violin) he added a second violin (Agesilao Ferrazzano) and other musicians including Leopoldo Thompson (double bass), turning his trio into a cuarteto and a quinteto. His orchestra was the most sophisticated at this point and performed in prestigious venues such as the cabarets Armenonville, Palais de Glace and Royal Pigall. [1] Around that time came some of his most famous compositions including “Sentimiento criollo”, “De pura cepa” and “Alma de bohemio”. [3]

In 1930 Roberto Firpo was determined to quit tango. He bought a ranch and was going to dedicate himself to his estancia when a great flood destroyed his properties. Having lost the rest of his fortune in the stock market, Roberto Firpo was back in Buenos Aires where he continued perform and record tango until he retired in 1959.

Roberto Firpo died in 1969 having had one of the longest and most prolific career of all tango musicians. He was always faithful to the old fashion style of interpretation of the guardia vieja.

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[1] Tango: Cien anos de historia (Vol. II). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

[2] Taboada, Pablo Darío. Roberto Firpo: Historia de su vida artistica. Investigación tango. Online http://www.investigaciontango.com/inicio/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=203:roberto-firpo&catid=42:orquestas&Itemid=62

[3] Selles, Roberto and Pinsón, Nestor. Roberto Firpo. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/37/Roberto-Firpo/

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