Category Archives: Guardia vieja

Lo de Hansen

Lo de Hansen” was a very exclusive restaurant located in a ranch in the Parques de Palermo, near the limits of the 19th century city of Buenos Aires. It played an important role in the popularization of tango by introducing tango musicians of the first generation to the upper classes. It was demolished in 1912 but remained a legend of tango history.

The “Restaurant del parque 3 de Febrero y J. Hansen” was founded in 1877 by a German immigrant named Juan Hansen. During the day it was popular with good families coming for a daytrip to the park and stopping by for drinks and lunch. In the evening it was very animated with lights and exclusive entertainment for the high society.

Ángel Villoldo, Ernesto Ponzio, Luis Teisseire and Roberto Firpo are some of the first generation tango musicians who were featured at Lo de Hansen. Carlos Gardel also performed there in his youth, though he was not involved with tango yet.

There is a widespread believe that people used to dance tango at Lo de Hansen, as suggested in the 1937 movie “Los Muchachos de antes no usaban gomina“. However there is little evidence of that being accurate and it is in fact unlikely that tango music was ever performed on this site during Hansen’s lifetime.

Hansen past away in 1892 and the restaurant became the Cafe Tarana, owned by Anselmo Tarana. However people continued referring to it as Lo de Hansen.

What we do know for a fact, because of documented police reports, is that Ángel Villoldo’s tango “El esquinazo” was quite a hit at the Tarana in 1902. In fact it was banned because of the turmoil it caused when enthusiastic patrons began banging on tables and dishes to the point where the owner feared for his property. It is said that is was nearly destroyed once and there are reports of a warning sign saying “Forbidden to play the tango “El Esquinazo“.

According to Roberto Firpo, there was never any tango dancing at Lo de Hansen because dances involving “cortes and quebradas” were forebidden at that time. If Lo de Hansen gained a reputation for being a place where people danced the tango, it was most probably because of isolated cases of law defying acts. Not because it held sophisticated dance parties such as those we see in the 1937 movie.

The Tarana was demolished in 1912 by intendent Joaquín S. de Anchorena to open up the road to the Velódromo. Lo de Hansen was declared “Sitio de interés cultural” by the city of Buenos Aires in 1994. It is beautifully evoked in a 1929 tango by Francisco Canaro and Manuel Romero, “Tiempos viejos”.

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Benaros, León. “El tango y los lugares y casas de baile.” In La historia del tango, primera epoca. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.

Sitios de interes cultural: Lo de Hansen. Online. http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/areas/cultura/cpphc/sitios/detalle.php?id=4

“La historia del cafe de Hansen”. La Nación, August 22, 2017. Online.  https://www.lanacion.com.ar/2054462-la-historia-del-cafe-de-hansen-un-mitico-bar-de-palermo-donde-se-prohibio-un-tango

Alma de Bohemio (tango,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.

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. Roberto 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 tango canción by Juan Andres Caruso who often wrote for Carlos Gardel.

Traveler and dreamer, to sing…

I want [to sing] my fantasy

and the mad poetry which lies in my heart

“Alma de bohemio” was recorded many times over by Roberto Firpo himself as well as other orchestras, singers and musicians throughout the history of tango including 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 as recorded by Pedro Laurenz in 1943.

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

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/

Orquesta típica Victor (OTV)

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

Unlike regular orquestas típicas, the members of OTV were not fixed or predetermined. Each recording sessions brought together a different selection of artists which is often impossible to identify on specific recordings. However the orchestra maintained a remarquably consistent sound for over 20 years.

The cohesion of the orchestra was ensured by a director, first of which was Adolfo Carabelli (1925-1936) followed by Federico Scorticati (1936-1943) and Mario Maurano (1943-1944).

Some of the best tango musicians known to this day have performed for OTV including Pedro Laurenz, Elvino Vardaro and Anibal Troilo. Signers who recorded with OTV include Roberto Diaz, Juan Carlos Delson, Ernesto Fama, Jaimes Moreno and Carlos Lafuente. [2]

The Orquesta Típica Victor only performed in studio and was never been seen in public. It left over 444 recordings, many of which are still very much appreciated today for their quality and excellence of interpretation.

The Orquesta Típica Victor is only one of many orchestras assembled by the label Victor to promote their products. 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 Victor.

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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.

Bandoneon

The bandoneon is a musical instrument of the family of the concertina. It was introduced in the Rio de la Plata region at the end of the 19th century and became an essential component of the tango orchestra in the early 1900’s. It’s been the most emblematic instrument of tango music ever since.

The concertina was created in Germany around 1845 as an alternative to the organ and it’s original purpose was to be used for religious services. Though it is not clear who build the first bandoneon, the invention has been attributed to Carl Zimmermann, a fabricant who sold his manufacture to Ernest Louis Arnold, creator of ELA bandoneons. Ernest Louis Arnold was the father of Alfredo Arnold, fabricant of the bandoneon “doble A” which became the favorite of tango musicians.

The first documented mention of a bandoneon being played in the Rio de la Plata is from a 1895 newspaper article. According to it’s author, Jorge Labraña, the bandoneon 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.

One of the first musicians to associate the bandoneon with tango music was Domingo Santa Cruz who used to perform in the cafes of La Boca and Barracas in the early 1900’s. Other bandoneonistas of the first generation are Genaro Esposito, Vicente Loduca, Eduardo Arolas, Vicente Greco and Juan Maglio.

The inclusion of the bandoneon in tango bands had many repercussions. Because it was a rare instrument and a difficult one to master, a clear distinction begins to form betwee tango bands and other formations. The bandoneon replaces the flute, resulting in  deeper tones and a slower pace of execution of tangos. It became an essential component of the orquesta tipica and even a symbol of tango itself.

Because German manufactures have been closed since WWII, bandoneons are now rare and expensive instruments. New artisanal bandoneons have been built in Argentina but the process is 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 introduced to the public on the day tango was officially declared world heritage by the UNESCO.

Bandoneons were built to last 200 years with proper maintenance.

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

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

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

“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

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.

Ángel Villoldo

Ángel Villoldo, also known as the “father of tango”, was a musician, singer and composer of the first generation of the guardia vieja.  As a performer he contributed to the popularization of tango in the early 1900’s. He is the composer of one of the oldest and most famous tangos of all times, “El Choclo” (1903).

Ángel Gregorio Villodo Arroyo was born in Buenos Aires in 1868 in Barracas. In his youth he worked at many different jobs and learned to play the guitar and harmonica in his free time. Around 1900 he made a name for himself as a performer in the cafes of La Boca, contributing greatly to popularize tango where the payada was still dominating. Heis also remembered for his performances at the prestigious Restaurante 3 de Febrero in Palermo where his tango “El esquinazo” made a lasting impression.

An interesting fact about Villodo is that he was the most important tango lyricist of the guardia vieja. At a time when tango was merely and instrumental affair, he began writing lyrics which were inspired by the poetry the urban payador. These are not the sentimental tangos of Pascual contursi and the guardia nieva but they do lay the foundation for His tangos are the kind which describe the life in the city and anecdotes involving the compadritos and cuchilleros we now associate to the origins of tango.

Ángel Villoldo was a prolific composer with over 70 tangos in his repertoire, including “El esquinazo” (1900), “El Porteñito” (1903) and “El Choclo” (1903). He wrote lyrics for many of his own compositions as well as for “La Morocha” by Enrique Saborido and for “El Entrerriano by Rosendo Mendizábal. His songs were interpreted by himself and by other performers such Dora Miramar, Linda Thelma, Flora Rodriguez, Lea Conti and Pepita Avellaneda.

According to some, Ángel Villoldo traveled to Paris to record for Gath y Chaves and contributed to popularize tango in Europe. Others point out there is no evidence of that and no traces of these recordings.

Angel Villoldo died in Buenos Aires in 1919 at age 51.

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

El tango: Un siglo de historia (Vol. 3). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

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

Orquesta típica

In Argentina, the orquesta típica is an orchestra specialized in performing tango. The classic orquesta típica is a sexteto composed of two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass.

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

The incorporation of the bandoneon in tango instrumentation around 1910 was an important event in the evolution of tango orchestras. Because it was such a rare an difficult instrument it sets appart tha band dedicated to tango music. It also had a profound effect on the sound and feel of tango music.

The expression “orquesta típica criolla” first appeared on Columbia labels in 1911 to introduce the orchestra of Vicente Greco as a band which specializes in tango.

The first orquestas típicas were mostly cuartetos composed of guitars, violins, flutes and bandoneon. The piano and double bass were introduced by Roberto Firpo and Francisco Canaro. The classic sexteto and musical structure of the golden age was established as a result of the work of Julio de Caro in the 1920’s.

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

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

Acoustic recordings

In Argentina, the acoustic era of sound recording coincides with the gestation and guardia vieja periods of tango history.

The first tango recordings where made on cylinders and 25 cm discs in Europe (1902) and Argentina (1904). These recordings featured primitive or very early tangos performed by various singers, payadores and musicians such as Gabino Ezeiza, Higinio Cazón, Angel Villoldo, Flora and Alfredo Gobbi,  Manuel Campoamor and Andree Vivianne. They also included tangos performed by military and police bands.

The first recording of a tango by an orquesta típica criolla was made by Jose Tagini with Vicente Greco in 1911. Jose Tagini was a sucessful importer of gramophones and discs and his store acted as the first recording studio in Buenos Aires. Casa Tagini had an exclusive contract with Columbia and also recorded with Eduardo Arolas, Angel Villoldo, Genaro Esposito, Alfredo Gobbi and Juan Maglio (Pacho), who became extremely popular in 1912. Tagini also gave Carlos Gardel his first opportunity to record, though Gardel was not a tango signer at that time.

Another important actor in the early history of tango recording was Henri Lapage, owner of a photography store which was also among the first to import phonographs and gramophones in Argentina. Casa Lepage was sold to Max Glucksmann who signed with the duo Gardel-Razanni for Odeon and recorded Carlos Gardel’s first tango, “Mi noche triste“, in 1917.

Early recordings made in Argentina were sent to be pressed in the United States, Germany or Brasil. Discs were shipped back to Argentina six months later to be released. Max Glucksmann was first to produce his own discs in Argentina in 1919.

Acoustic recordings were entirely mechanical processes. They involved collecting the physical air pressure of sound waves into large conical horns. This pressure was used to activate a stylus to scratche an analogue of the sound waves onto a moving medium. 

Cylinders appeared first in 1877 and were associated with phonographs. Gramophones appeared in 1887 along with the first discs. Zonophones were phonographs which were commonly used in Argentina.

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

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

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

 

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 1960’s. He recorded over 3500 tracks including 900 titles in the acoustic era only. As a composer he produced classics such as “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. When he was 10 he began selling news papers in the streets to help sustain his family. His first violin was made out an oil can from a factory where he used to work.

With his oil can violin Francisco Canaro began performing in public for money. By 1908 he was a regular in the cafes of La Boca and he joined the orchestra of Vicente Greco with whom he made his first recording in 1911. He composed his first tango in 1912 and contributed to shaping the first orquestas tipicas by incorporating the double bass.

In 1925, Canaro was in Paris with his own orchestra. He also performed in New York and Japan. He was among the first to experiment with tango signers and to include an estribillista in his orchestra in 1924. Some of the signers most identified with him in his early years are Charlo and Ada Falcon, a woman with whom he had a notorious love affair.

Another important aspect of Canaro’s career was his involvement in the film industry 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. He published his memoirs in 1956  and died of Paget’s disease in 1964.

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Pesce, Ruben, Oscar del Priore, and Silvestre Byron. La Historia del Tango: La Guardia Vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.
Canaro, Fransicso. Mis memorias: Mis bodas de oro con el tango. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1999. Print.
El tango: Un siglo de historia (Vol III). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992.
Gobello, Jose. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Buenos Aires: Centro editor de Cultura Argentina, 2002.