Category Archives: Bandoneon

Eduardo Arolas

Eduardo Arolas, also known as El tigre del bandoneon, was an influential bandoneon player, composer and director of the early days of the guardia vieja. He is the author of over 100 tangos including classics such as “Derecho viejo”, “La cachila”, “Retintin” and “Comme il faut”. With his vanguardist compositions and quality of interpretation, he contributed largely to define tango in its early stage. Many distinguished musicians of the guardia vieja made their debuts in his orchestra including Juan Carlos Cobian, Julio de Caro and Luis Bernstein.

Lorenzo Arola was born in Buenos Aires in 1892. He grew up in the neighbourhood of Barracas where his father owned a store. With his older brother he learned to play the guitar when he was 8 years old and began playing in the cafes of la Boca. This is how he met Ricardo Gonzalez who first thought him to play the bandoneon. Together they performed in duo for a while until Eduardo went his own way.

In 1911, Eduardo Arolas was 19 years old and fully dedicated to music. He studied with Jose Bombig and opened a café called “Una noche de garufa” where he performed on his own. This is where he composed his first tango, which bears the same name as the cafe.

Like many tango musicians of the first generation, Eduardo Arolas didn’t know how to read or write music. However he was a brilliant, prolific and innovative composer. He was also known for his style of interpretation and phrasing, which is more fluid then other orchestras of that time and sets new standards for tango musicians.

With his talent as a composer and interpreter, Eduardo Arolas quickly became popular around the city. With Leopoldo Thompson (guitarra) and Ernesto Ponzio (violin), he began performing at Café La Turca and traveled to Montevideo. Back in Buenos Aires, he formed another trio with Agustín Bardi (piano) and Tito Roccatagliatta (violin) and later on a cuarteto with flute. He was invited to perform at the prestigious cabaret Armenonville with Roberto Firpo in 1913 and then began forming his own orchestra.

With his orquestra típica, Eduardo Arolas continued performing in prestigious venues and cabarets such as El Estribo, L’Abbaye and Montmartre. He performed at Café Botafogo and Royal Pigall in In 1916 and Café Apolo in 1917. In those years he composed some of his most famous pieces and left recordings in which we can hear him play solo or with his orchestra.

During the last years of his life, Eduardo Arolas suffered from depression and alcoholism. He traveled extensively to Montevideo where he was a star at the carnavals of 1920 and to Paris where he performed at prestigious venues such as the Cabaret Parisien and Ermitage, contributing to the popularization of tango in the old world. He died in Paris in 1924 at 32 years old.

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

[2] García Blaya, Ricardo. Eduardo Arolas. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/23/Eduardo-Arolas/

 

Bandoneon

The bandoneon is a musical instrument of the family of the concertina which was created in Germany around 1845 as an alternative to the organ for religious services. It is not clear who first invented the bandoneon but it is has been attributed to Carl Zimmermann who sold his manufacture to Ernest Louis Arnold, manufacturer of ELA bandoneons. Ernest Louis Arnold was the father of Alfredo Arnold who later produced the bandoneon “doble A” which are highly praised by tango musicians.

It is not clear exactly when the bandoneon arrived in Argentina. The first documented mention of a bandoneon being played in the Rio de la Plata is from a newspaper article by Jorge Labraña from 1895. According to this article the instrument was brought to Uruguay by a Suiss immigrant in 1863. Other sources indicate that it was imported by an Englishman, Don Tomas, who came to Argentina in 1884. [1]

One of the first musicians to incorporate the bandoneon into tango is Domingo Santa Cruz, a musician who used to perform in the cafes of La Boca and Barracas in the early 1900’s. Other bandoneonistas of the first generation include Genaro Esposito, Vicente Loduca, Eduardo Arolas, Vicente Greco and Juan Maglio.

The inclusion of the bandoneon into tango bands during the first decade of the 20th century had profound repercussions on the music. Considering that these bands were mostly composed of guitars, flutes and violins, the adition of a bandoneon brought deeper tones and a slower pace of execution. It eventually replaced flutes and became a essential component of the orquesta tipica. [2]

Since the original manufactures in Germany have been closed for over 70 year, bandoneons are now rare and expensive instruments. [3] Artisanal bandoneons have been built lately but the process is long and complex and remains expensive.

The first bandoneon made in Argentina was released in 2000. The bandoneon AZ was built by Argentine luthier Angel Zullo and presented to the public on the day tango was officially declared world heritage by the UNESCO. [4]

It is said that bandoneons were built to last 200 years with proper maintenance.  π

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[1] Zucchi, Oscar. El tango, el bandoneón y sus interpretes. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1998. Print.

[2] Pesce, Ruben, Oscar del Priore, and Silvestre Byron. La Historia del Tango: La Guardia Vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[3] “Salvar el bandoneón”. La Nación. Web. June 26, 2009. Online. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/1143843-salvar-el-bandoneon

[4] “Empezó a sonar el primer bandoneón nacional” La Nación. Web. Oct 3, 2009. Online. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/1181690-empezo-a-sonar-el-primer-bandoneon-nacional