Category Archives: Compositions

Don Juan (tango, 1898)

Don Juan is one of the oldest classics of the tango repertoire. There are no primary sources on the circumstances of it’s creation but it is generally attributed to 13-years-old violonist Ernesto Ponzio and dated 1898. According to a testimony by Azdrúbal Noble, it appeared a little later as a result of an improvisation at Lo de Mamita in 1900.

According Eusebio Aspiazu, a guitarist who used to perform at Lo de Hansen, with Ernesto Ponzio, “Don Juan” was originally entitled “El Panzudo” and dedicated to a club owner. It was later dedicated to a man named Juan Cabello (Don Juan) who was a regular at Lo de Hansen. This is the same Juan Cabello 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.

It was common for musicians in those days to dedicate their work as a means to earn money or favors.

“Don Juan” was recorded for the first time in 1910 by Vicente Greco. It was the first tango be recorded by a so called orquesta típica along with “Rosendo“. Other tangos had been recorded before by solo player or other band but never by an orchestra 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 recordings of “Don Juan” were made up to this day, most of which are instrumental versions. The Orquesta Típica Victor recorded a version with the lyrics of Ricardo Podestá and the voice of Alberto Gomez in 1932 and a few recordings where made with solo singers 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 versions each 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 own famous tango. However he can be seen performing “Don Juan” with the Orquesta de la Guardia Vieja in the 1933 sound film “Tango”.

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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.