Category Archives: Composers

Manuel O. Campoamor

Manuel O. Campoamor was a pianist and composer of the early days of tango. In his youth, he performed in private parties and houses as well as in casas de baile were tango was becoming popular at the end of the 19th century. He was one of the first artists to record in Argentina both as a soloist and as accompaniment of other pioneers including Linda Thelma, Gabino Ezeiza, Higinio Cazón and Ángel Villoldo.

Manuel Oscar Campoamor was born in Montevideo in 1877. He was only 7 years old when his family moved to Buenos Aires. There he learned to play piano on his own while working as a telegraphist. In 1897 he was hired at the luxurious department store of Gath y Chaves where he remained for 25 years, working his way from the accounting department to a management position.

While Campoamor relied on these jobs all his life for to make a living, he also began performing in public as a pianist. He made his debut at la Casa Suisa when he was 17 years old [2] and quickly made a name for himself, performing in private parties and houses where tango was not yet admitted. Then he began performing in casas de baile such as la Casa de Maria la Vasca and Lo de Hansen. He composed his first tango “Sargento Cabral” in 1899, followed by “El séptimo cielo” (1900), “La c…ara de la l…una” (1901), “La metralla” (1902), “La franela” (1903) and “Mi capitan” (1905).

The tangos of Campoamor are the fast paced, lighthearted and often naughty tanguitos of the 1890’s. These are among the very first compositions which can be fully distinguished from other musical genres that came into the creation of argentine tango such as the tango andaluz and the milonga.

By the time tango was beginning to gain popularity in Buenos Aires around 1910, Campoamor already felt that his music was going out of fashion and significantly reduced his musical activity. He returned to tango in the early 1920’s, forming a cuarteto with Raimundo Petillo. The cuarteto turned into a sexteto and together they went on performing tango in their own old fashion manner as other musicians were already moving into the guardia nueva.

Manuel O. Campoamor died in died in 1941, never adhering to any of the various currents of renovation tango had been through during his lifetime. He did no express any resentment about the musical evolution of tango and simply said he did not identify with it. He is remembered as one of the great pioneers and proponent of the guardia vieja.

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[1] Selles, Roberto. El tango y sus dos primeras décadas (1880-1900). La historia del tango. Corregidor, 1977. Print.

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

[3] Silbido, Juan. Manuel Campoamor. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/507/Manuel-Campoamor/

 

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 affectuously as Pichuco, Gordo or El bandoneon mayor de Buenos Aires, was a 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 8 years old. As a child he was fascinated by the bandoneon, and though to buy such an instrument was a considerable expense for his mother, by age 10 he convinced her to buy him one. A year later he was performing in public for the first time in a bar next to the mercado Abasto.

Anibal Troilo was 14 years old when he formed his first quinteto. In 1929 he was invited to perform with Juan Maglio at the Café Germinal and in 1930 with Ciriaco Ortiz for the Sexteto Vardaro-Pugliese and the Orquesta los provincianos. 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 almost 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 later he signed a contract with Odeon but unfortunately was requested to record only two tracks under this label. This is why  “Comme il faut” and “Tinta verde” are the only recordings he have from his early years as a director until he began working with RCA Victor in  1941.

In 1942 Anibal Troilo was hired at the Cabaret Tibidabo, a restaurant-dancing which was located on Avenida Corrientes 1244. There he performed (season) with Francisco Fiorentino and Orlando Goñi, turning the place into one of the hot spots of the golden age where poets and muscians such as Homero Manzi, Pascual Contursi, Catúlo Castillo, César Vedani and José Razzano used to gather.

Anibal Troilo was the main attraction at el Tibidabo for over 10 years. He also appeared regularly 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 working 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 ochestras. From 1948 to 1976 he appeared in various movies including El tango vuelve a Paris”, “Mi noche triste”, and “Tango Argentino”.

One of the most significant contribution of Anibal Troilo in the golden age was to give a second life to tango poetry, which had lost ground following the death of Carlos Gardel in 1935. Troilo was also first to fully incorporate tango signers to his orchestra, working with the best of them including Fransicso Fiorentino, Alberto Marino, Floreal Ruiz, Edmundo Rivero, Roberto Rufino, Raúl Berón and Roberto Goyeneche.

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Gobello.

100 anos.

Catúlo Castillo

Catúlo Castillo was a pianist, composer, director and poet of the guardia nueva. Son of  Jose Gonzalez Castillo, in his youth he distinguished himself a musician and composer. After the death of his friend Homero Manzi in the 1950’s, he revealed himself as the last great poet of the golden age.

Ovidio Catúlo Gonzalez Castillo was born in Buenos Aires in 1906. He grew up in Chile where his father José Gonzalez Castillo exiled himself until 1913 because of his political ideas.

Back in Buenos Aires, the family moved to Boedo where Catúlo began learning the violin with Juan Cianciarullo. By age 17 he was an accomplished musician and boxer. He won the national championship of lightweight in Argentina and almost reached the Olympic games of 1924. That same year he won the third place in a contest organized by Max Glucksmann with his tango Organito de la tarde.

During the 1920’s, Catúlo Castillo definitely turned to tango as he traveled Europe with his father and later with his own orchestra. As a composer he produced many tangos including Organito de la tarde”“Silbando”, “El Aguacero”, “Papel picado” and “El circo se va” with the lyrics of his father Jose Gonzalez Catillo, “La violeta” (1930) with Nicolás Olivari and “Viejo ciego” (1926) with his friends Sebastian Piana and Homero Manzi. He is the author of both music and lyrics of “Caminito del taller” (way to the shop), a politically engaged tango which was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1925.

In the 1930’s and 40’s Catúlo Castillo became increasingly engaged with poetry. With his friend Sebastian Piana and other composers he wrote remarkable pieces such as “Tinta roja” and “Caseron de tejas” (1941). In 1945 he began working with Anibal Troilo with whom he produced his best work as a poet in the 1950’s.

The 1950’s were critical years for tango as rock and roll was taking over in popularity with the youth. The great poets of the golden age were gone or had diminished their activities and it became increasingly difficult for tango orchestras to get work. Feeling perhaps that tango was coming to an end and building on the work of every other authors who came before him from Evaristo Carriego to Enrique Discepolo, Catúlo Castillo took tango poetry to it’s last apogee with titles such as “El ultimo café” and “La ultima curda” where the bandoneon cries in to the lonely man’s imagination “life is an absurd wound”.

Other tangos of that period by Catúlo Castillo include “Domani”, “La calesita”, “El cafe de los Angelitos” and “El patio de la Morocha”.

Besides his activities as a lyricist, Catúlo Castillo had an active professional life. In the 1950’s he became President of the SAIDAC and president of the Comisión Nacional de Cultura . He was declared Ciudadano Illustre of the City of Buenos Aires in 1974 and died the following year at age 69.

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

[2] Baccarelli, Nicolás Sosa. Catúlo Castillo o el existencialismo en la poesia del tango. Correveidile. Online. http://www.correveidile.com.ar/2014/11/12/catulo-castillo-o-el-existencialismo-en-la-poesia-del-tango/

[3] Tálice, Roberto A. “Evocación y ubicación de José Gonzalez Castillo”. In La historia del tango: Los poetas (I). Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.

Rosendo Mendizábal

Rosendo Mendizábal was a pianist and composer of the early guardia vieja. He contributed to popularize tango at the end of the 19th century and was among the first musicians to renovate the original style of tango. He is the author of “El entrerriano (1897), which is regarded as the first tango in history.

Anselmo Rosendo Mendizábal was born in Buenos Aires in 1868 to a wealthy afro-argentine family. His father Horacio Mandizábal was an educated man and author of two published collections of poetry. Rosendo’s father died in 1871, leaving him with a house on calle Pilar (now Montevideo) and a fortune of 300.000 pesos. [1]

In his youth Rosendo Mendizábal studied the piano at a conservatory. Soon enough he dilapidated his inheritance and went on making a living by teaching the piano in good houses and performing in cafes and nightclubs for the rest of his life.

Little is known about Rosendo’s life but at the end of the 19th century he was a regular in many establishments where the tango was becoming popular. He performed at Lo de Hansen, Lo de la vieja Eustaquia, La parda Adelina, lo de Harguindegui and La casita de la calle Mexico. He was particularly well known at Lo de Laura and at La casa de María la Vasca where his tango “El entrerriano” was presented to the public for the first time. [2]

Rosendo usually performed alone or occasionally with other musicians such as Luis Teisseire (flauta), Juan Carlos Bassan (Clarinette) and Vicente Ponzio (violin). [1] It was common at that time for tango to be performed by solo musicians or small bands with commonly available instruments such as guitars, flutes and violins.

“El entrerriano” was not the first tango strictly speaking. Many other tangos had been composed and were played by ear before but this was the first one to appear on partitions with registered author. It is also the oldest tango still present in today’s repertoire.

Other tangos composed by Rosendo Mendizábal include “Don Padilla”, “Don Enrique”, “Tres Arroyos”, “El oriental”, “Matilde”, “El descanso”, “Le Petit Parisien”, “El final de una garufa”, “Ahí esta la cosa”, “A la luz de los faroles”, “Polilla” and “La entrerriana“. All his work was published under his artistic pseudonym “A. Rosendo”.

When the first recordings were made in Argentina around 1910, Rosendo Mendizábal was already suffering from paralysis. He died in 1913 at age 45 leaving no recordings. π

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

[2] Del Priore, Oscar, and Irene Amachástegui. Cien tangos fundamentales. Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 1998.

[3] Selles, Roberto. El tango y sus dos primeras décadas (1880-1900). La historia del tango. Corregidor, 1977. Print.

Ernesto Ponzio

Ernesto Ponzio was a popular violonist, director and composer of the early years of the guardia vieja. He was only a teenager when he began performing in houses such as El Tambito and Lo de Maria La Vasca were the girls used to dance for 3 pesos per hours at the end of the 19th century. He is the author of Don Juan, one of the oldest and most popular tangos of the repertoire.

Ernesto Ponzio was born in Buenos Aires in 1885 to a modest family of immigrants from Italy and Uruguay. His father, Antonio Ponzio, was a harpist who used to perform in cafes and nightclubs for a living. Having lost his father when he was 11 years old, Ernesto went to live with his uncle Vicente Ponzio who thought him to play the violin.

Soon enough “El Pibe” began making a living as a musician as well, performing on the train and other public places. He was only 13 years old when he began performing with his uncle in the infamous nightclubs and houses where tango was popular at the end of the 19th century. This is how he got this nickname “El Pibe” which means “kid” and stick to him for the rest of his life.

Ponzio was famous for his style of interpretation and quickly became a popular musician. With his friends Juan Carlos Bazán (clarinette), Eusedio Aspiazú (guitar), El tano Vicente Pecci (flauta) and other musicians, he began forming various trios and cuartetos and together they performed in various casas de baile including Lo de Hansen, El tambito, La casa de Laura, Lo de Mamita and La casa de Maria La Vasca.

Violent altercations were not unusual in this setting and in 1903 Ernesto Ponzio was shot in the leg at La milonga de Pantaleón. In 1912 he was condemned to 20 years in prison for killing a man in a brawl in the city of Rosario.

Back in Buenos Aires El Pibe Ernesto resumed his career as a musician in 1928 after spending 16 years in prison. By then tango hEl entrerrianoad evolved a great deal but Ponzio never embraced the new tango. With friend Juan Carlos Bazán he formed La orquesta de la Guardia Vieja and he worked with Julio De Caro at the cine Lavalle, giving De Caro a privileged insight into the old style of interpreting tango.

In 1933 Ponzio performed in “De Gabino a Gardel” at the Teatro nacional. He was also featured in the sound film “Tango!” interpreting Don Juan and “El entrerriano with his Orquesta de la guardia vieja.

Besides “Don Juan” he is the author of a dozen of tangos and milongas including “Ataniche”, “Quiero Papita”, “Viejo Taura”, “Avellaneda” and “Culpas ajenas” which was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1929 with the lyrics of Jorge Curi.

Ernesto Ponzio died suddenly in 1934 at age 49. He left no recordings besides those of the 1933 movie “Tango”. π

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

[2] Del Priore, Oscar, and Irene Amachástegui. Cien tangos fundamentales. Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 1998.

[3] Selles, Roberto. El tango y sus dos primeras décadas (1880-1900). La historia del tango. Corregidor, 1977. Print.

Astor Piazzolla

Astor Piazzolla was a composer and bandoneon player of the vanguardia. He is famous for incorporating elements of classical music and jazz into Argentine tango and creating a new distinct style called tango nuevo.

Piazzola was born in 1921 in Mar del Plata but he grew up in New York City where his family moved when he was 3 years-old. His father loved tango music and one day he found a small bandoneon in a shop and bought it for him; this is how Piazzolla began playing the bandoneon when he was only 9 years-old.

When Carlos Gardel came to New York City in 1934 he could hardly speak English and Piazzolla became his little friend and interpreter. This is how he ended up playing a small role as a boy in the movie “El dia que me quieras”. Gardel invited Piazzolla to join him on his tour but Piazzolla’s father refused as Piazzola was still very young. Gardel and his entourage died in a plane crash in Columbia one year later.

In 1936 the family returned to Argentina and Piazzolla began playing in traditional tango orchestras in Buenos Aires. He worked with Anibal Troilo for 5 years and with Francisco Fiorentino for two weeks before he formed his own orchestra in 1946 and began composing for movies.

In the early 1950’s Piazzolla decided to distance himself from tango and he went to Paris to study classical music at the Fontainbleau conservatory where he found his true identity as a musician. Back in Buenos Aires, he formed his controversial Octeto Buenos Aires, adding a cello and electric guitar to the traditional orquesta típica.

Piazzolla continued composing and developing his style throughout the 70’s and 80’s in spite of financial difficulties and strong criticism against his work. He is now known as one of the most important musicians of the history of Argentina.

Piazzolla died in 1992 shortly after dictating his memoirs to Natalio Gorin. π

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[1] Gorin, Natalio. Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir. Alba Editoral, 2003. Print.