Category Archives: Music

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.

 

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/

Adios nonino (1959)

“Adios Nonino” is a tango composed by Astor Piazzolla in 1959 as a response to the sudden death of his father, Vicente Piazzolla.

Astor Piazzolla was performing in Puerto Rico with Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves when his father died in an accident in Mar del Plata. This event came at a difficult time of his life when he was struggling to hold onto his musical career, putting aside his own style and vision of tango and performing for money to sustain his family.

When Piazzolla came home after his tour in Puerto Rico he asked be left alone. According to his son, he locked himself up into a room and came out with Adios Nonino. Piazzolla himself says he composed it in one hour and left all the memories he had of his father in that one piece.

Piazzolla had already written a piece called Nonino in 1954, also in honor of his father. The two of them had been very close. Vicente Piazzolla transmitted his love of tango to his son and bought him his first bandoneon in New York when he was only 9 years-old.

Adiós Nonino is perhaps the best and most famous composition of Astor Piazzollaπ

The organito

The organito is a type of portable organ which was built to play music in the streets.  It was very popular in Buenos Aires towards the end of the 19th century and contributed largely to spread tango music in every neighborhood in the city.

Popular tunes which were arranged for the organito were recorded on a cylinder containing about 8 to 12 pieces. The masters were not particularly easy to produce so the organitos tended to repeat the same songs over again. Because tango was a novelty and a popular genre at that time it was included in the repertoire of the organito along with other popular rhythms such as waltz.

At a time when tango was associated to the slums and lower classes, the organito was there to impose it to every soul in the city. Tango tunes which were played over and over again by the organito became familiar even to those who didn’t want to hear it. It is said that tango entered every household through the windows and balconies because of the organito.

As recording technologies evolved and became more accessible in the 1910’s and 20’s the organito became obsolete. It has been evoked with delightful nostalgia in many tangos including “Sobre el pucho” (1922) and “Organito de la tarde” (1924) by José González Castillo, “La musa mistonga” (1926) by Celedonio Flores and “Ventanita de arrabal” (1927) and “El ultimo organito” (1949) by Homero Manzi. [1]

In his memoirs, Francisco Canaro remembers how boys used to dance tango in the streets of Buenos Aires to the sound of the organito. The instrument has been celebrated in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and Evaristo Carriego as well. π

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

[2] Etchegaray, Natalio. De Garay a Gardel: La sociedad, el hombre commun y el tango (1580-1917). Buenos Aires, Ediciones Bilioteca nacional. 1998. Foro Argentino de cultura urbana. Online. http://www.facurbana.com/tango.php?cc=101&t=El+Organito+y+Los+Poetas&ss=Costumbres&s=Enciclopedia+del+tango