Category Archives: Guardia vieja

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/

 

Derecho viejo (1916)

“Derecho viejo” is a 1916 tango composed by bandoneonista Eduardo Arolas. The title, as it was often the case in those days when copyrights did not exist, was chosen in honor of those to whom the piece was dedicated, in this case a group of law students.

According to an interview with musicologist Rafael Tuegols, published in the magazine Cantando in 1948, “Derecho viejo” was first performed at the cafe La Morocha where Arolas used to play for a crowd of workers from the brick kiln of the Parque Centenario.

Like many other compositions by Eduardo Arolas, “Derecho viejo” is structured in a way which allows for rich arrangements. It has been recorded countless times by various orchestras and solo artists from Julio de Caro and Francisco Canaro, to Juan d’Arienzo, Francini-Pointier, Nelly Omar, Astor Piazzolla and many others including contemporary orchestras. It has become one of  the best known pieces of the repertoire along with “La Cumparsita” and “El Choclo” and is commonly featured in tango shows. There unfortunately are no  recordings of it by Eduardo Arolas.

Though “Derecho viejo” is almost exclusively known as an instrumental theme, it is good to know that two sets of lyrics were written for it many years after its creation. The first one was written by Andrés Baldesari and recorded by the Orquesta Típica Victor with estribillo by Teófil Ibáñez in 1934.

Usted sabrá que cuando el amor comienza a taconear sentimientos en el pecho, la dulce tentación, sentimos sed de amar, de amar de corazón!

Y yo tambien amé con gran passión, amé con gran delirio, y coseché martirios, porque un padecer me brindó esa mujer que fue mi perdición!

The second one was written by Gabriel Clausi shortly before the 50th anniversary of Eduardo Arolas’s death and was officially registered in order to extend the copyright on “Derecho viejo” by the composer’s successors. This version was recorded by Nelly Omar accompanied by guitars in 1979.

Tango de mi ciudad, malevo y sensual, cayengue y triston, color de arrabal. Señor de salon, tienes emoción de noche porteña.

“Derecho viejo” is the title of a 1951 movie by Manuel Romero, inspired by the life of Eduardo Arolas.

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

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

 

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/

 

El entrerriano (1897)

“El entrerriano” is regarded as the first tango in history. It was composed in 1887 by pianist Rosendo Mendizábal under the pseudonym of A. Rosendo. Along with other early compositions such as Don Juan (1899) and “El cholco” (1903), it contributed to establish and consolidate the musical structure of tango.

Many others tangos had been composed and popularized before 1887, but   offered the first printed tango partitions with registered author[2] It is also the oldest tango still present in today’s repertoire and this is why it is regarded as the first tango in history.

“El entrerriano” means “the one who comes from the province of Entre Rios“. It was dedicated to Ricardo Sergovia, a member of a young men’s club which regularly held their parties at lo de Maria la Vasca, a well known casa de baile where Rosendo Mendizábal had become the regular pianist. Since copyrights didn’t exist at the end of the 19th century, it was common for composers to dedicate their work to someone who could pay them in return for the favour, in this case Ricardo Sergovia who was born in the province of Entre Rios. This is why the first tango in history is entitled “El entrerriano”. [1]

Like most early tango compositions, “El entrerriano” is essentially an instrumental piece. Many different lyrics were written for it over the years by A. Semino y S. Retondaro, Planells y Amor, Julián Porteño and Homero Expósito but these were rarely used or recorded. Ángel Villoldo also added some verses to “El entrerriano” for Pepita Avellaneda in 1900:

“A mí me llaman Petita, ay ay, de apellido Avellaneda, ay ay, famosa por la milonga, y conmigo no hay quien pueda” 

Unfortunately Rosendo Mendizábal died in 1913 leaving no recordings. That same year “El entrerriano” was recorded twice, first by Genaro Espósito and later by Eduardo Arola under the labels Atlanta and Odeon respectively. Other early recordings of “El entrerriano”  include that of Ciriaco Ortiz with his trio and another recording by the municipal band.

Many versions of “El entrerriano” were recorded by orchestras of the guardia vieja and of the golden age including those of Francisco Canaro, Julio de Caro, Osvaldo Fresedo, Juan D’arienzo, Alfredo de Angelis, Anibal Troilo and Osvaldo Pugliese. Astor Piazzolla  recorded his own version of the first tango in history with his Octeto Buenos Aires.

“El entrerriano” was performed in the Argentine sound film “Tango” (1933) by the Orquesta de la guardia vieja of Ernesto Ponzio and Juan Carlos Bazan. π

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

[2] Selles, Roberto. El Entrerriano. La historia de “El entrerriano” y sus principales grabaciones. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/380/El-entrerriano-Historia-de-El-entrerriano-y-sus-principales-grabaciones/

[3] Selles, Roberto. “El tango y sus dos primeras decadas (1880- 1900)” in La historia del tango: Primera epoca. Buenos Aires: Corregidor. 1977. Print.

 

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.

Don Juan (1898)

Don Juan is one of the oldest classics of the tango repertoire. There are no primary sources on the circumstances in which it was created but it is generally admitted that it was composed in 1898 by 13 years old violonist Ernesto Ponzio. According to another recount by Azdrúbal Noble it was the result of an improvisation by the same musician  at Lo de Mamita in 1900.

According to guitarist Eusebio Aspiazu, who used to perform with Ponzio at Lo de Hansen, “Don Juan” was originally entiteled El Panzudo” (the fat guy) in honour of a fat club owner. It was later dedicated to a man named Juan Cabello who was a regular at Lo de Hansen. This is the same Don Juan which appears years later in the lyrics of Ricardo Podestá:

Me llaman Don Juan Cabello,  anóteselo en el cuello, y ahí va, y ahí va, asi me quieren ver.

El cafe de Hansen, also known as cafe Tarana, was a restaurant where people used to gather at night to listen to tango musicians such as Angel Villoldo and Ernesto Ponzio in the early years of tango. This is where “Don Juan” became a hit at the end of the 19th century.

Another interesting fact about “Don Juan” is that it was composed in two parts, a structure which was unusual at the time but became a norm later in the 1920’s. It was inspired by an anonymous tango “¡Que polvo con tango viento!” (1890). [4]

Don Juan was recorded for the first time in 1910 by the orquesta tipica criolla  of Vicente Greco. Together with “Rosendo” it was one the first tangos to be recorded by an orquesta típica. Other tangos had been recorded before by solo player or other band but never by an orquestra dedicated to tango. It was recorded again in 1911 Alfredo Gobbi with lyrics of his own under the title of “Mozos guapos”: [3]

Al compas de una marchita, muy marcada y compadrona, a casa de Ña Ramona, me fui un ratito a bailar

Countless recording of Don Juan were made up to this day, mostly in instrumental versions. The  Orquesta típica Victor recorded a version with the lyrics of Ricardo Podestá and the voice of Alberto Gomez with the in 1932. A few other recordings where made with lyrics by solo artists such as Charlo and  Sophía Bozán. [2] Alfredo de Angelis recorded one version with estribillo of unknown author. [1]

Francisco Canaro, Juan D’Arienzo, Carlos Di Sarli and Anibal Troilo all recorded “Don Juan” more then once, leaving many different versons from the 1920´s to the 1960´s. Astor Piazzolla recorded his own version of “Don Juan” with his Quinteto in 1961.

Ernesto Ponzio left no recording of his famous tango but can be seen performing Don Juan with the Orquesta de la Guardia Vieja in the 1933 argentine sound film “Tango”π

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

[2] Selles, Roberto. Historia del tango “Don Juan”. Todotango. Online http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/215/Don-Juan-Historia-del-tango-Don-Juan/

[3] Alfredo Gobbi, Don Juan (Mozos Guapos), Disco original de 78 rmp. Youtube, Online.  Alfredo Gobbi – Don Juan (Mozos guapos) – Tango – Disco original de 78 rpm

[4] Selles, Roberto. “El tango y sus dos primeras decadas (1880- 1900)” in La historia del tango: Primera epoca. Buenos Aires: 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.