Category Archives: Directors

Rodolfo Biagi

Rodolfo Biagi was a pianist, composer and director of the golden age of tango. He is known for his bold, rhythmical style of interpretation which takes the piano out of the background and into the spotlight. His nickname, Manos Brujas, means “sorcerer’s hands”. He is the author of many popular tangos such as “Indiferencia”, “Humillacion” and “Campo afuera”.

Rodolfo Biagi was born in Buenos Aires in 1906. Growing up in a humble family in the neighbourhood of San Telmo, it was difficult to convince his parents of buying him an instrument in his youth. However his insistence in becoming a musician was so strong they eventually agreed to buy him a violin and went to study at the conservatory of La Prensa.

Soon after he began his musical education Biagi discovered his preference for piano. He began working as a pianist at the Cine Colon when he was 13 years old and this is where Juan Maglio discovered him. He was invited to join the famous orquesta típica of Juan Maglio and began performing at the Cafe Nacional and Bar Dominguez on Avenida Corrientes. Later on he worked with the orchestra of Miguel Orlando at the Maipu Pigall, alternating with Elvino Vardaro, Cayetano Puglisi and Juan Bautista Guido. In 1930, he recorded with Carlos Gardel in the studios of Max Gluksmann.

After refusing an offer to travel to Spain with Carlos Gardel, Biagi joined the orchestra of Juan Bautista Guido and performed at the Cine Real and Cine Suipacha. There he missed the pleasure of performing im a cabaret and went back to the Pigall and Casanova with the orchestra of Juan Canaro.

In 1935, Biagi joined the orchestra of Juan d’Arienzo performing at the Chantecler. Together they worked for 4 years while forging their own styles until Biagi decided to assemble his own orchestra in 1939. This is when he began to fully express himself as a musician, taking his instrument another step beyond the simple role accompaniment which was usually reserved to the piano in tango orchestras.

Biagi made his debut as a director at the cabaret Marabu and Radio Belgrano. There he was remained 20 years and received the surname of Mano Brujas.

Rodolpho Biagi had a long successful career as a director. He worked with many signers including estribillistas Teofilo Ibanez and Andres Falgas in the beginning; Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Lago, Alberto Amor, Carlos Acuna and Carlos Saavedra later on in the 1940’s; Carlos Heredia, Carlos Almagro and Hugo Duval in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He appeared in the show Glostora tango club of Radio el Mundo and was the star of the television program entitled Casino Philips on Canal 13.

Rodolfo Biagi died on September 24, 1969 leaving 187 recordings as a director with the labels Odeon, Columbia and Music Hall. We can see him perform with the orchestra of Juan d’Arienzo in the 1937 movie “Melodias portenas”.

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[1] Gobello, José. Mujeres y hombre que hicieron el tango. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de Cultura Argentina, 2002. Print.

[2] Alvarez, Carlos. ”Biagi: Entrevista a Rodolfo Biagi en 1960”. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/286/Biagi-Entrevista-a-Rodolfo-Biagi-en-1960/

Juan D’Arienzo

Juan d’Arienzo was a violonist, composer and influential director of the guardia nueva. Also known as El rey del compas, or king of rhythm, his style of interpretation is characterized by a fast and steady beat which appealed to the youth in the mid 1930’s. With this renewed energetic style he gave a new impulse to tango as a dance and musical genre following the death of Carlos Gardel in 1935.

Juan D’Arienzo was born in the neighborhood of Balvanera to a family of Italian immigrants in 1900. He began studying the violin at the Conservatorio Mascagni when he was 11-years-old and completed his education with professor Fassano at the institute Thiebaud Piazzini. With his friends, Angel d’Agostino (piano) and Carlos Bianchi (bandoneon), he formed his first trio and began performing tango and jazz.

In 1926 Juan D’Arienzo decided to dedicated himself exclusively to tango. He performed in movie theaters with the Orquesta típica Paramount and the sexteto Los Ases. He also began forming his own orchestra and made his first recordings with Electra and the voice of Carlos Dante.

When sound films entered movie theatres in the 1930’s, leaving many musicians out of a job, Juan d’Arienzo was hired to perform with his orchesta típica at the cabaret Chantecler. This is where he spent the best years of his career and became the orchestra director we remember today. This is where he began working with Rodolfo Biagi (piano) and encountered the cheerful style of interpretation which brought tango back to life.

The success of Juan d’Arienzo at the Chanteclerc was sudden and intense. He began recording with RCA Victor and appearing on Radio Mundo. Dance halls and tango orchestras were flourishing around the city. D’Arienzo began traveling to Montevideo and became a regular at Teatro Solis and Café Tupí Nambá. In 1937 he appeared for the first time in a movie, “Melodias porteñas”. This movie was followed by many others including “Yo quiero ser bataclana” (1941), “El cantor del pueblo” (1948), “La voz de mi ciudad” (1953) and “Una ventana al éxito” (1966).

Though he thought singers were responsible for killing tango, taking the focus away from the beat, D’Arienzo worked with many distinguished estribillistas and signers throughout his career including Francisco Fiorentino, Alberto Echague, Hector Mauré and Armando Laborde. All of them were required to to follow the speed of the orchestra as d’Arienzo would never make any compromise on his conception of the music and rhythm.

Juan d’Arienzo is the author of many milongas of the new energetic and urban genre which we can hear in today’s milonga and contributes largely to impose this new genre in the 1930’s. This style of milonga must not be confused with the original milonga campera which pertains to Argentina folk music and contributed to the formation of tango at it’s origins.

While new musical styles were flourishing in the golden age, Juan D’Arienzo went on performing and recording with the same fast paced, rhythmical style. Critics said he had become repetitive and failed to evolve and this idea unfortunately has been repeated many time out of it’s original context. From a historical perpective Juan D’Arienzo was one of the most innovative director of tango history and the original force behind all the changes he has been accused of not following. It’s also important to note that he remains a favourite among dancers throughout the golden age and to this day.

When it became clear that tango dancing was not in style anymore, Juan d’Arienzo finally made some changes to his music and began performing on a more melodic tone in the 1960’s. He went on performing and recording until his death in 1976.

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

[2] Gobello, José. “Juan d’Arienzo” in Tango y Lunfardo. Chivilcoy, 1997. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/32/Juan-DArienzo/

[3] Jara, Fernanda. Hace 42 anos moría Juan D´Arienzo, El rey del compás. Infobae. Online. https://www.infobae.com/cultura/2018/01/14/hace-42-anos-moria-juan-darienzo-el-rey-del-compas/

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/

 

Anibal Troilo

Aníbal Troilo, also known as Pichuco, Gordo or El bandoneon mayor de Buenos Aires, was a highly renown bandoneon player, composer and director of the golden age of tango. With his personal charisma, sensitivity and excellence of interpretation he became one of the major figures of tango history. As a composer he left 60 pieces, many of which are now great classics such as “Barrio de tango” (1942), “Garúa” (1943), “María” (1945), “Romance de bario” (1947), “Sur” (1948), “Che bandoneon” (1950), “Responso” (1951), “La cantina” (1954), “La ultima curda” (1956), and ”Nocturno a mi barrio” (1969).

Troilo was born in 1914 in the neighbourhood of Abasto. He was the son of a butcher who died when he was only 8-years-old. By age 10 he convinced his mother to buy him a bandoneon and one year later he was performing in public for the first time in a bar next to the mercado Abasto.

Anibal Troilo’s experience as a musician in his youth was rich and diverse. When he was 14-years-old he formed his first quinteto. He performed with Juan Maglio at the Café Germinal in 1929 and played with Ciriaco Ortiz for the Sexteto Vardaro-Pugliese and the Orquesta los provincianos in 1930. In 1932 he joined the orchestra of Julio de Caro. Other major orchestras he worked with as a bandoneonista in the 1930’s include those of Angel D’Agostino, Alfredo Gobbi, La Típica Victor, Juan d’Arienzo, Luis Petrucelli and Juan Carlos Cobian.

In 1937 Troilo finally formed his own orchestra. He was 23-years-old. He made his debut as a director in the cabaret el Marabú and was immediately hired to perform at the Café Germinal. These were the years when Juan d’Arienzo brought tango dancing back into fashion and tango orchestras were needed all over the city.

One year after his debut in 1938, Troilo signed a contract with the label Odeon. Unfortunately he was requested to record only two tracks under this label and this is why “Comme il faut” and “Tinta verde” are the only recordings he have from his early years as a director.

In 1941 Troilo began working with RCA Victor.

In 1942 he was hired to perform at the cabaret Tibidabo, a restaurant-dancing which was located on Avenida Corrientes 1244. There he performed with Francisco Fiorentino and Orlando Goñi, turning the place into one of the hot spots of the golden age where poets and musicians such as Homero Manzi, Pascual Contursi, Catúlo Castillo, César Vedani and José Razzano used to hang out together.

Anibal Troilo was the main attraction at el Tibidabo for over 10 years. He appeared on popular radio programs such as Ronda de ases throughout the 1940’s. In 1953 he left el Tibidabo to perform with Roberto Grela in the musical “El patio de la Morocha”. The establishment was demolished two years later as cabarets began closing and tango orchestras were dismembered in the late 1950’s.

Though tango was going through profound a crisis in the 60’s and 70’s, Troilo continued experimenting with small bands, duos and giant orchestras. Along with Astor Piazzolla he became one of the pillars of the Vanguardia and continued renovating and performing until his death in 1975. He left and left 449 recordings with his orchesta típica and many more with other other bands and orchestras. From 1948 to 1976 he appeared in various movies including “El tango vuelve a Paris”, “Mi noche triste”, and “Tango Argentino”.

Another important contribution of Anibal Troilo in the golden age was to give a second life to tango poetry. This aspect of tango was loosing ground following the death of Carlos Gardel in 1935 and Troilo was the first director to fully incorporate tango signers to his orchestra. He worked with many great interpreters including Fransicso Fiorentino, Alberto Marino, Floreal Ruiz, Edmundo Rivero, Roberto Rufino, Raúl Berón and Roberto Goyeneche.

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[1] Gobello, José. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de Cultura Argentina, 2002. Print.

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

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/

Juan Maglio

Juan Maglio, also known as “Pacho”, was a popular bandoneonista, director and composer of the guardia vieja. He was among the first tango musicians to adopt the bandoneon along with Eduardo Arolas, Vicente Greco and Arturo Bernstein. He contributed to popularize tango in Buenos Aires cafes in the 1910’s and composed many titles still present in today’s repertoire.

Juan Felix Maglio was born in Palermo in 1880 to a family of Italian immigrants. Together they moved to Boedo when he was 12-years-old. His father Pantaleón owned a concertina and used to perform in cafes in the neigbourhood and this is how Pacho first came in contact with tango.

After completing primary school Juan Maglio studied to become a mechanic and began learning to play the bandoneon on his spare time. He studied with Domingo Santa Cruz and eventually made a decision to dedicate himself to music.

In 1899 Juan Maglio began performing at the cafe El Vasco en Barracas and other cafes in the neighborhoods of San Telmo and Palermo. [3] By 1910 he was well known in the city and with his cuarteto he began to play at the cafe La Paloma and other cafes along avenida Corrientes. In 1912 he began recording for Columbia and his discs were so popular that a special label was created for him with his picture and signature. The other members of his cuarteto at that time were Luciano Rios (guitar), Carlos “Hernani” Macchi (flute) and Jose “Pepino” Bonano (violin).

His first composition was “El zurdo” followed shortly after by “Armenonville”. Other compositions by Juan Maglio Pacho include “La pareja”, “Margot”, “Sabedo ingles”, “Un copetin” and “Toma mate”.

With all his success Juan Maglio was eventually in a position to buy the cafe Ambos mundos where he used to play. He also invested in his recording company but lost everything during the war. Having lost his fortune he went on performing in cafes, carnivals, theaters and on the radio for the rest of his life. [2] In the 1920’s he created a sexteto where 15-year-old Anibal Troilo made his debut. He also founded a trio of bandoneon with Jose and Luis Servidio. Some of his work was signed with the pseudonym Oglima.

Juan Maglio continued performing tango in an old fashion manner until the end of his career. He died in 1934 leaving almost 900 recordings. π

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

[2] Pesce, Ruben, Oscar del Priore, and Silvestre Byron. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[3] Gobello, Jose. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Buenos Aires: Centro editor de Cultura Argentina, 2002. Print.

Francisco Canaro

Francisco Canaro was a prominent orchestra director, violinist and composer of the guardia vieja. He had a long and prolific career covering over 50 years of tango history from his early years with Vicente Greco up to the beginning of tango concerts in the 1960’s. He recorded over 3500 tracks, including over 900 titles in the acoustic era [3]. As a composer he produced many classics including “Mano Brava”, “Sentimiento gaucho”, “La ultima copa”, “Sonar y nada mas”, “Madreselva”, “El chamuyo” and “Se dice de mi”.

Francisco Canarozzo was born in Uruguay in 1888 to a humble family of Italian immigrants. By the age of 10 he began working in the streets of Buenos Aires selling news papers along with his brothers to help sustain the family. His first violin was made by himself out an oil can from a factory where he used to work. [1]

With his oil can violin Francisco Canaro began performing in public for money. By 1908 he was a regular in the cafes and nightclubs of La Boca. He joined the orchestra of his friend Vicente Greco and together they made their first recording in 1911. He composed his first tango “Pinta Brava” in 1912 and contributed to shape the first orquestas tipicas by incorporating the double bass.

By 1925 Canaro was in Paris with his own orchestra. He also went to New York and toured the interior of Argentina and Japan. He was first to include an estribillista in his orchestra in 1924. Some of the signers most identified with him in the early years are Charlo and Ada Falcon, a woman with whom he had a notorious love affair. [2]

Canaro contributed to many movies as a composer, actor and producer. In 1934 he founded his own production company, Rio de la Plata, which produced 11 movies but without much success. He also fought for copyrights and founded the Argentine Society of Composers and Songwriters (SADAIC).

According to José Gobello, Canaro is the second most important figure of tango after Carlos Gardel. His memoirs, published in 1956, are an important source on the history of tango.

Canaro died of Paget’s disease in 1964.

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[1] Canaro, Fransicso. Mis memorias: Mis bodas de oro con el tango. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1999. Print.

[2] Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos. Dir. Lorena Muñoz and Sergio Wolf. 2003. Film.

[3] Lanner, Christoph. “Discografia de Francisco Canaro”. sites.google.com. Web. Aug 2016.