Category Archives: Guardia vieja

Alma de Bohemio (1914)

“Alma de bohemio” is one of the oldest classics of the tango repertoire. It was composed in 1914 by Roberto Firpo for a play by Florencio Parravicini.

Parravicini was a regular at the cabaret Armenonville where Firpo used to perform with his leading edge tango orchestra. He hired Firpo to perform in his play “Alma de bohemio” which was premiered at the Teatro Argentino in 1914. Later Firpo edited it to be performed as a “tango de concierto”. [1]

Though the musical structure of “Alma de bohemio” remains that of a tango of the guardia vieja, it is said that it shows some refinement in the melody. Firpo was an innovative musician, a pioneer of tango and a visionary in many ways.

Like most compositions at that time,  “Alma de bohemio” was originally an instrumental piece. The lyrics we know today were composed well into the era of  the tango canción by Juan Andres Caruso who often wrote lyrics for Carlos Gardel.

Peregrino y soñador, cantar

quiero mi fantasía

y la loca poesía que hay en mi corazón

 

Traveler and dreamer, to sing

I want (to sing) my fantasy

and the mad poetry which is in my heart

[2]

“Alma de bohemio” was recorded many times by Roberto Firpo himself as well as many other orchestras, singers and musicians. These include the Orquesta Tipica Victor, Francisco Canaro, Rodolfo Biagi, Osvaldo Fresedo, Alfredo de Angelis, Ricardo Tanturi,  Osvaldo Pugliese, Ignacio Corsini, Alberto Castillo, Los Tubatango, Hugo Díaz, Astor Piazzolla and Plácido Domingo. “Alma de bohemio” was featured in the movie “Tango in 1933 with the voice of Alberto Gómez.

Alberto Podestá is famous for his interpretation of “Alma de bohemio” with long extensions of the second verse “cantaaaar” as recorded by Pedro Laurenz in 1943. π

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

[2] Paz, Alberto. Alma de Bohemio/Bohemian’s soul. Planet tango, 2011. Online.  https://letrasdetango.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/alma-de-bohemio/

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 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 performed 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, province of Buenos Aires, Firpo began working at a young age at his father’s store to help sustain his 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 was 19-years old he was finally able to afford his first piano and began taking lessons. He studied with Alfredo Bevilacqua and soon after in 1906 he began performing, forming duos and trios with his friends Juan Deambroggio (bandoneon), Juan Carlos Bazán (clarinette) and Francisco Postiglione (violin).

His success was such that by 1907 Firpo was a regular at Lo de Hansen. 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 used to play early on in his career. He began recording himself in 1912 for the label Odeon.

By 1913 Firpo had formed his first orchestra. To the 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 it 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 Firpo decided to quit tango. He bought a ranch and was determined to dedicate himself to his estancia but a great flood destroyed his properties and he lost the rest of his fortune when the stock market crashed. Back in Buenos Aires he continued performing and recording 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 viejaπ

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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/

Orquesta típica Victor

The Orquesta Típica Victor, also known as OTV, was a label orchestra created in 1925 by Victor for promotional purpose. It was composed of a selection of musicians and signers which were affiliated to the record company as a part of other major orchestras.

Each recording sessions brought together a different selection of artists which are often impossible to identify on specific recordings. Yet the orchestra maintained a consistent sound for over 20 years.

The cohesion of the orchestra was ensured by directors Adolfo Carabelli (1925-1936), Federico Scorticati (1936-1943) and Mario Maurano (1943-1944). Some of the most famous musicians who performed for OTV include Pedro Laurenz, Elvino Vardaro and Anibal Troilo. And signers who recorded with OTV include Roberto Diaz, Juan Carlos Delson, Ernesto Fama, Jaimes Moreno and Carlos Lafuente. [2]

As a label orchestras, OTV never performed in public. It left over 444 recordings, still known today for their quality and excellence of interpretation.

The Orquesta Típica Victor is only one of many orchestras assembled by the label Victor for promotional purposes. The others are La Orquesta Victor Popular, La Orquesta Típica los Provincianos, La Orquesta Radio Victor Argentina, La Orquesta Argentina Victor, La Orquesta Victor Internacional, el Cuarteto Victor and the Trio Victorπ

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[1] Pinson, Nestor. “Orquesta Tipica Victor”. Todotango. Web. Sept 2016.

[2] El tango: Un siglo de Historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

 

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 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 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 held on the old fashion style of playing the tango 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.

Ángel Villoldo

Ángel Villoldo was a musician, signer and composer of the early guardia vieja. He contributed to popularize tango in Buenos Aires cafes in the 1900’s and is regarded as the father of tango. Some say he was among the first to bring tango to Europe along with Alfredo and Flora Gobbi. [1] He is also the composer of one of the oldest and most famous tango of all times, “El Choclo”.

Ángel Gregorio Villodo Arroyo was born in Buenos Aires in 1868 in the neighborhood of Barracas. In his youth he worked at many different jobs and learned to play the guitar and harmonica in his spare time. Around 1900 he made a name for himself as a payador and performing tangos as well.

Villoldo is the most important lyricist of the guardia vieja. [2] His lyrics were not of sentimental nature like those of Pascual Contursi and other poets of the guardia nueva. They were more closely related to the songs of the country though they did present urban scenes and characters such as the compadritos and cuchilleros which are associate to the origins of tango.

Villoldo composed over 70 tangos, the first of which was “El Portenito”, followed shortly after by “El Choclo” (1903). He also wrote lyrics for “La Morocha” by Enrique Saborido and “El Entreriano” by Rosendo Mendizábal. His songs were interpreted by himself and other signers including Dora Miramar, Linda Thelma, Flora Rodriguez, Lea Conti and Pepita Avellaneda. [2]

It is said that Ángel Villoldo traveled to Paris to record for Gath y Chaves and contributed to popularize tango in Europe, though according to Hector Benedetti there is no evidence that Viollodo did travel to Paris and these records were never seen. [3]

Back in Buenos Aires, Villoldo played in cafes near the corner of Suarez and Necochea in the neighbourhood of La Boca where an increasing number of tango musicians including Vicente Greco, Francisco Canaro and Roberto Firpo were also performing in 1908. [2]

Villoldo published a compilation of Argentine folk songs in 1889 and another compilation of popular Argentinean songs in 1916. [1] He died in Buenos Aires in 1919 at age 51. π

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[1] Pinsón, Néstor. “Biographía de Ángel Villoldo.” Todotango.com. Web. Aug 2016.

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

[3] Benedetti, Hector Angel. “La tienda Gath & Chavez tambien publicó discos.” Todotango.com. Web. Aug 2016.

 

Orquesta típica

The orquesta típica in Argentina is a an orchestra specialized in performing tango. It is composed essentially of a two bandoneones, two violins, piano and double bass.

Before the orquesta típica was fully formed, tango used to be improvised or played by ear on commonly available instruments such as guitars, violins and flutes. The simple structure of the first tangos allowed for musicians to perform them on their own or in small bands of two to four musicians. [1] Tango was also performed by municipal, military and police bands.

The incorporation of the bandoneon in tango instrumentation around 1910 had a profound effect on the sound and feel of tango music. [2] It also creates a distinction between bands which specialized in performing the tango criollo and others which performed other rhythms as well since the bandoneon was not a common instrument and a difficult one to play.

The expression “orquesta típica criolla” first appeared on Columbia labels in 1911. It is is attributed to Vicente Greco who used it to distinguish his orchestra as one which was specialized in tango.

These first orquestas típicas were mostly cuartetos composed of guitars, violins, flutes and bandoneon. [1] The piano and double bass were included shortly after by Roberto Firpo and Francisco Canaro to complete the creation of the typical sexteto.  π

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[1] Pesce, Ruben. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

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

First tango recordings

Sound recording and reproduction technologies first appeared and evolved in parallel with tango. The phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877 and the gramophone followed in 1887, allowing to capture sound on a flat surface or disc instead of a cylinder.

The first tango recordings where made on cylinders and 25 cm discs in Europe (1902) and Argentina (1904). [1] These first tango recordings featured various singers, musicians and bands such as Angel Villoldo, Alfredo and Flora Gobbi, Manuel Campoamor and Andree Vivianne. They also include performances by military and police bands. In Argentina these were made on mobile phonographs by Zonophone.

The first recording studio opens in Buenos Aires when Jose Tagini gets a license to record for Columbia in 1911. [2] Tango happened to be an increasingly popular genre in cafes around the city and the bandoneon had just been integrated to orchestras which specialized in performing the “tango criollo”. Tagini contracted Vicente Greco and produced the first recordings by an “orquesta típica criolla“. He also recorded with Eduardo Arolas, Angel Villoldo, Genaro Esposito, los Gobbi and Juan Maglio whose recordings were a huge success in 1912. [3] Tagini also also gave Carlos Gardel his first opportunity to record though none of these early recordings were tango.

Casa Lepage was among the first to import phonographs and gramophones in Argentina along with Casa Tagini. It was sold to Max Glucksmann who signed with the duo Gardel-Razanni under the Odeon label and recorded “Mi noche triste” with Carlos Gardel in 1917. Other labels which produced some of the first tango recordings include Atlanta, Victor, Era, and Pathé. [3]

All early tango recordings made in Argentina were sent abroad to be pressed in the United States, Germany or Brasil. The discs would come back to Argentina six months later to be released. Max Glucksmann’s house was first to produce discs in Argentina in 1919. π

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[1] Luci, H. Lorenzo. “Los payadores y las primeras grabaciones en Buenos Aires.” Todotango. WEB. Aug 2016.

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

[3] El tango: Un siglo de Historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.