Argentine Tango and the bandoneon
The concertina's sound was conceived to blend in with violins, to encourage its use in chamber orchestras.
It is worthy of note that Heinrich Band never patented the bandoneon, since he saw his instrument as an improvement of the concertina.
Carl Zimmerman owned the factory where the bandoneons were produced.
He emigrated to the US and kept producing his instrument, which became popular among Irish immigrants and also invented another stringed instrument known as the autoharp and sold his factory in Germany to Louis Arnold.
The son of Louis Arnold, Alfred Arnold, who worked in the factory since childhood, eventually developed a bandoneon with 71 buttons and two notes each (producing 142 tones).
His version, called “AA”, became the preferred bandoneon of Argentine Tango musicians.
This factory closed after Arno’s death, in 1971.
The first bandoneon player ever mentioned in Buenos Aires was Tomas Moore, “el inglés” (the Englishman), who brought this instrument to Argentina in 1870.
Domingo Santa Cruz (author of the famous tango “Unión Cívica”) played the concertina until Tomas Moore presented his bandoneon.
These bandoneons were a primitive version of the 32 toned instruments.
After 1880, when Tango began to develop its definitive form, the most recognized bandoneon players were:
Antonio Francisco Chiappe and “El Pardo” Sebastián Ramos Mejía.
From these bandoneonists, there is a primitive tango, or “proto-tango”, “El Queco”, very popular at the time.
The bandoneon was not immediately accepted by Argentine Tango musicians and dancers.
There were neither maestros nor methods for it.
Perhaps the similarities between its sound and the sound of the organitos that disseminated Tango everywhere helped its acceptance.
In the earlier years of Tango music, the “organito” (barrel organ) had a significant role in the initial spread of tango music throughout the city of Buenos Aires.
It was made of tubes or flutes and a keyboard operated by the cylinder, enabling the passage of air to produce different notes.
Bellows generate air activated simultaneously with the cylinder by rotating a handle.
The “organito,” like the organ and the bandoneón, is a wind instrument.
The sound of the “organito” prepared the ears of the Porteños for a natural transition to the bandoneon in Tango, when it finally arrived in 1880.
It is around these “organitos,” where men were seen dancing tangos in the street, practicing “cortes y quebradas.”
He started playing as a professional at the beginning of the 1900s, first in brothels and then in cafés, until, due to his rising prestige, he was convinced to play at the very famous Café La Paloma, in Palermo, in 1910.
His success was so great that the word “Pacho” became synonymous with “recordings”.
"Armenonville", recorded by Juan Maglio "Pacho" in 1912.
In need of an appropriated label for this musical formation, the term “Orquesta Típica Criolla” was born.
"Rosendo", recorded by Vicente Greco y su Orquesta Típica Criolla in 1911.
Another advantage of the bandoneon was its portability.
He created the octave phrasing, the passages harmonized in thirds played with both hands, the “rezongos” played with the bass notes (a particular effect that makes the bandoneon sound like grumbling), and with Juan Maglio Pacho, perfected the bandoneon legato technique, all elements which became essential to Tango.
"Rey de los bordoneos", recorded by Eduardo Arolas y su Orquesta Típica in 1912.
He found in the bandoneon those dark sounds which separated the bandoneon from the flute forever, which in the beginning the bandoneon replaced and tried to imitate.
It is not known what secret gift made him find in the core of the bandoneon sounds that nobody had discovered before.
"Un capricho", recorded by Pedro Maffia y su Orquesta Típica in 1929.
Born in Buenos Aires to a wealthy family seems to have influenced his art: his refined and aristocratic orchestra was the favorite of upper circles.
However, even though Osvaldo's father was a wealthy businessman, at the age of ten, his family moved to La Paternal, a neighborhood somewhat away and humble, with flat houses in popular surroundings, which affected his destiny.
It was there where he started playing the bandoneon.
A bandoneon virtuoso, wrote a method to learn to play the instrument that is still in use.
He was one the precursors of the virtuoso stream in bandoneon playing.
He was a great technician but also with great gifts for interpretation. His arrangements were complex.
He wrote an outstanding variation for his tango, “Mi dolor.”
He possessed a high technical command, fabulous fingering, and an overwhelming speed in his running variations performed with mathematical precision.
It was his initiative to systematize the solos played with both hands.
He continued the way Arolas played by incorporating the "compadreadas" that he liked much.
He was a bandoneon player of great techniques, skillful with both hands (high and low pitches), superb in sound, energetic in performances, and earnest in phrases.
He founded a performance school, composed outstanding tangos, and wrote exquisite variations.
"Arrabal", recorded by Pedro Laurenz y su Orquesta Típica in 1937.
He was a bandoneon player noted for his phrasing and ability to make the bandoneon sing.
It would be impossible to transcribe what he plays on his instrument on a music sheet.
What he contributes is the way of phrasing, dividing the melody, finding nuances, of harmonizing.
It is a style with reminiscences of the guitar plucking of the milonguero criollo, which, even though it has had no followers, may have much influenced Aníbal Troilo.
He was one of those few artists who made us wonder what mystery, what magic produced such a rapport with people.
He integrated all of these approaches into his way of playing the bandoneon, taking something from each of them while being a master of personality and feeling in his expression.
In Anibal Troilo’s orchestra, his bandoneon is the instrument at the center of the musical arrangements.
Bandoneons make the flesh of the songs in Juan D’Arienzo and Osvaldo Pugliese’s orchestras.
In Carlos Di Sarli’s orchestra it blends a shade of color, perhaps realizing the intention of Ulich (the inventor of the concertina) of giving a particular nuance to a chamber orchestra.
The bandoneon is an instrument of exceptional expressivity, which made it perfect for a musical genre that intends to communicate all the rainbow of possible emotions.