Catúlo Castillo

Catúlo Castillo was a pianist, composer, director and poet of the guardia nueva. Son of a well-known playwrite and poet Jose Gonzalez Castillo, in his youth he distinguished himself mostly as a musician and composer. After the death of his friend Homero Manzi in the 1950’s, he revealed himself as the last great poet of the golden age.

Ovidio Catúlo Gonzalez Castillo was born in Buenos Aires in 1906. He grew up in Chile where his father José Gonzalez Castillo exiled himself until 1913 for political reasons.

Back in Buenos Aires the family moved to Boedo where Catúlo began learning the violin with Juan Cianciarullo. By age 17 he was an accomplished musician and boxer. He won the national championship of lightweight in Argentina and almost reached the Olympic games of 1924. That same year he won the third place in a contest organized by Max Glucksmann with his tango Organito de la tarde.

Later in the 1920’s, Catúlo Castillo traveled Europe with his father and formed his own orchestra. From then on he would dedicate himself only to tango. As a composer he produced many pieces including Organito de la tarde, “Silbando”, “El Aguacero”, “Papel picado” and “El circo se va” with the lyrics of his father Jose Gonzalez Catillo, “La violeta” (1930) with Nicolás Olivari and “Viejo ciego” (1926) with his friends Sebastian Piana and Homero Manzi. He is the author of both music and lyrics of “Caminito del taller” (way to the shop), a socially engaged tango which was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1925.

In the 1930’s and 40’s Catúlo Castillo became increasingly absorbed with poetry. With his friend Sebastian Piana and other composers he worked on remarkable pieces such as “Tinta roja” and “Caseron de tejas” (1941). In 1945 he began writing for Anibal Troilo with whom he produced his best work as a poet in the 1950’s.

The 50’s were critical years for tango as rock and roll was taking over the youth. Feeling perhaps that this was the end of an era, Catúlo Castillo took tango poetry to it’s last apogee. He wrote master pieces such as “El ultimo café” and La ultima curda“, a deeply heart breaking tango where the bandoneon cries in the lonely man’s imagination: “life is an absurd wound”.

Other tangos of that period by Catúlo Castillo include “Domani”, “La calesita”, “El cafe de los Angelitos” and “El patio de la Morocha”.

Besides his activities as a lyricist, Catúlo Castillo had an active professional life. In the 1950’s he became President of the SAIDAC and president of the Comisión Nacional de Cultura . He was declared Ciudadano Illustre of the City of Buenos Aires in 1974 and died the following year at age 69.

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[1] Gobello, José. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de Cultura Argentina, 2002. Print.

[2] Baccarelli, Nicolás Sosa. Catúlo Castillo o el existencialismo en la poesia del tango. Correveidile. Online. http://www.correveidile.com.ar/2014/11/12/catulo-castillo-o-el-existencialismo-en-la-poesia-del-tango/

[3] Tálice, Roberto A. “Evocación y ubicación de José Gonzalez Castillo”. In La historia del tango: Los poetas (I). Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.

Organito de la tarde (tango, 1923)

“Organito de la tarde” is a 1923 tango composed by Catúlo Castillo with the lyrics of his father Jose González Castillo. It celebrates in very poetic terms the obsolete portable instrument which used to “fill the neighborhood with musical notes” at the turn of the 20th century.

Al paso tardo de un pobre viejo
puebla de notas el arrabal,
con un concierto de vidrios rotos,
el organito crepuscular.

At a time when tango was little more then a vulgar product of poor uprooted immigrants jamming together in the suburbs and recording technologies were not yet available, it is said that the organito allowed it’s melodies to enter every household through the windows. The organito became obsolete in the 1920’s and so it’s repetitive, monotonus sound ceased to fill the air as described by José Gonzalez Castillo.

“Organito de la tarde” was presented in the first contest organized by Max Glucksmann in 1924 at the cine-teatro Gran Splendid. Only the music was eligible for the contest at that time. Each piece was performed by Roberto Firpo and voted by the public in various elimination rounds. [2]

Apparently this public contest was not very objective as there is evidence that Canaro, Lomuto and Gonzalez Castillo were competing to buy entries in order to win the vote. [1] Catúlo Castillo won the third place with “Organito de la tarde”. In firts and second place were “Sentimiento gaucho” by Francisco and Rafael Canaro and “Pa’ que te acordes” by Francisco Lomuto.

One year after the contest, “Organito de la tarde” was premiered in Teatro San Matín by Azucena Maizani. Soon after it was recorded by the orchestra of Francisco Canaro and featured in a 1925 silent movie also entitled “Organito de la tarde” by José Agustín Ferreyra. Carlos Gardel recorded his own version in his early years with Odeon and Carlos Di Sali produced 3 instrumental versions in 1942, 1952 and 1954. Other recorded versions of “Organito de la tarde” include those of Rodolfo Biagi (1956) and Roberto Ruffino (1959).

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

[2] Concursos de Max Gluksmann. Wikipedia. Online. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concursos_de_Max_Gl%C3%BCcksmann

[3] Tálice, Roberto A. “Evocación y ubicación de José Gonzalez Castillo”. In La historia del tango: Los poets (I). Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.

Jose Gonzalez Castillo

Jose Gonzalez Castillo was a journalist, playwright and lyricist of the early years of the guardia nueva. He is the author of numerous sainetes including “Los dientes del Perro” which showcased the first tango canción, Mi noche triste,” with the orchestra of Roberto Firpo in 1918.

Gonzalez Castillo was born in 1885 in the city of Rosario. Having lost his parents at a young age, he was raised by a priest in the Province of Salta and became a journalist and a playwright.

Following the success of “Mi noche triste” Jose Gonzalez Castillo began writing his own tango songs. The first one of those, “Que has hecho de mi cariño,” was composed for a play entitled “Don Agenor Saladillo” and presented to the public in 1918 with the music or Juan Maglio. Other tangos by him include “Sobre el pucho”, “Organito de la tarde”, “Griseta”, “A Montmartre”, “Bandoneon”, “El porteño” and “Por el camino”.

Jose Gonzalez Casillo is the father of Catúlo Castillo with whom he collaborated on many tangos including “Organito de la tarde”, “Silbando”, “El Aguacero”, “Papel picado” and “El circo se va”. He worked on various films including the silent movie “Nobleza gauchesca” (1915) and “La ley que olvidaron” (1937). He died in Buenos Aires in 1937.

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[1] Tálice, Roberto A. “Evocación y ubicación de José Gonzalez Castillo”. In La historia del tango: Los poetas (I). Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.

[2] Del Greco, Orlando. Gardel y Jose Gonzalez Castillo. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/ficha/296/Jose-Gonzalez-Castillo

El entrerriano (tango, 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 “El entrerriano” offers the first printed tango partitions with registered author. [2] It is also the oldest tango still present in today’s repertoire and so is generally 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.

Lo de Maria la Vasca was 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. Ricardo Sergovia, to whom this tango was dedicated, was born in the province of Entre Rios in Argentina and this is why the piece was entitled “El entrerriano”. [1]

Like most early tango compositions, “El entrerriano” is essentially instrumental. Many different lyrics were written over the years by A. Semino y S. Retondaro, Planells y Amor, Julián Porteño and Homero Expósito but 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 by Genaro Espósito and 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.

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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 to define it’s musical structure. He is the author ofEl 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 Mendizábal 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 with as a musician, 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 tango was becoming popular. Lo de Hansen, Lo de la vieja Eustaquia, La parda Adelina, lo de Harguindegui and La casita de la calle Mexico are some of the places where he used to perform. He was particularly well known at Lo de Laura and at La casa de María la Vasca where his tango “El entrerrianowas presented to the public for the first time. [2]

Rosendo usually performed alone. He was occasionally seen with other musicians such as Luis Teisseire (flauta), Juan Carlos Bassan (Clarinette) and Vicente Ponzio (violin). [1] It was common at the end of the 19h century 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 were composed and popularized before but “El entrerriano” was the first one to appear on partitions with registered author. Therefore it is the fort tango in historical terms. 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 recording technologies became available in Argentina around 1910, Rosendo Mendizábal was already suffering from paralysis. He died in 1913 at age 45 leaving no recordings.

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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 (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.

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 were available to dance for 3 pesos per hours. He is the author of Don Juan, one of the oldest and most popular tunes of the tango 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 lived with his uncle Vicente Ponzio who was also a musician and thought him to play the violin.

Soon enough “El Pibe” began making a living as a musician as well, performing in trains and other public places. He was only 13-years-old when he began performing with his uncle in 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 “the kid” and stuck to him for the rest of his life.

Ponzio was very much appreciated 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 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 Ernesto Ponzio was shot in the leg at La milonga de Pantaleón in 1903. Also he was condemned to 20 years of prison in 1912 for killing a man in a brawl in the city of Rosario.

Back in Buenos Aires after serving his time in prison, El Pibe Ernesto resumed his career as a musician. By the time he was back in 1928 tango had evolved a great deal but Ponzio never embraced the new tango. With his friend Juan Carlos Bazán he formed La orquesta de la Guardia Vieja and 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” Ponzio 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”.

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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.

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