Argentine Tango School

Argentine Tango mural in Buenos Aires today

Argentine Tango today

Argentine Tango today

Argentine Tango mural in Buenos Aires today

I would like to comment on the situation of Tango today (April 2023).
Concerning music, the trend that began in the late 90s and early 2000s has been increasingly affirmed, in which young musicians have revalued the relevance of dance in Tango as a whole, investigating the principles that shape the way of playing the Tango of the Golden Age, the glorious decade of the 40s, leaving aside the lines traced by Ástor Piazzolla (see the documentary film “Si sos brujo”).

As for the dance, the following process can be observed:

1. Firstly, in the 1980s, there was a concern about the appropriate methodology to transmit the Tango dance to everyone who wanted to learn. Let us bear in mind that for the dancers who were trained before the eclipse of Tango (for which, in my opinion, it is pertinent to take the year 1955), the way of learning to dance was what can be called “homemade” or “organic”, that is to say, they did not have to look for Tango classes, but instead, they were born in a time and an environment in which it was natural and expected of them to dance Tango. Tango was not seen as a profession, although no less was demanded regarding the quality of dance. The first steps could be taken inside the home if the relatives already danced Tango and transmitted it to the new family members along with all the other things in the home, such as meals, schedules, beliefs, and values.

Alternatively, or in the case of starting at home, the next steps were taken not far away, with friends from the neighborhood, in the club, and in “prácticas”, which were places of research, creativity, and collective teaching, where everyone learned from everyone and those who stood out were those who could show more excellent dexterity, “mischief”, transmitted and inspired more positive emotions (love, joy, etc.) to the witnesses, who were none other than the same friends from the neighborhood who attended the same practices, or those who saw them in the neighborhood clubs once they began to participate in the milongas. Friendship, in this case, did not force them to a hypocritical acceptance and easy approval; on the contrary, it forced them to express their assessments without ambiguity, be it acceptance or rejection, which contributed to a general improvement of the dance level. In those times, there were “Tango teachers”, some more or less authentic than others, who taught the steps of Tango to those who did not belong to that more natural and homely circuit and had the purchasing power to pay for lessons. We can also find attempts (commercially successful but not in the results of good dancers), such as Domingo Gaeta, who, copying Arthur Murray from the United States, taught to dance the Tango by mail, sending pieces of paper with foot-prints drawn, so that the student would put them on the floor and step on them and thus learn the steps of Tango.

 
2. The first methodology that we can find at the beginning of the “renaissance” of Tango, from the return to democracy in Argentina in 1984, is the one that uses the so-called “basic step”. This method is related to the language used in the Golden Age to communicate the necessary knowledge to dance in a more or less rational way.
 
3. Then, a movement of young dancers emerged who rejected the hierarchy within the environments of the dancers who had learned in the golden age. For these dancers of the Golden Era, this hierarchy was based solely on the quality of their dance and their experience, regardless of their aesthetic choices, always emphasizing that “each dancer develops their unique style”. To dance in the milongas required a quality of dance and an experiential understanding of Tango that was very far from what the new dancers could possess and develop (let us take into account that this hiatus of almost 30 years that took place between 1955 and 1984 produced a great distance between knowledge and experience between old and new dancers). The younger and more determined new dancers, with values already different from that generation, decided to create their own spaces, methodology, and understanding of Tango, calling this movement “New Tango”. Who knew how to give a language to this new way of understanding Tango while maintaining a continuity with the Tango of the glorious era was Rodolfo Dinzel. For Dinzel, Tango as a dance was not just “steps” but history and all the conflicts that inhabit it (social, political-economic struggles, gender conflicts, etc.) that are embodied in the dancers and continue each time that they update a choreography that does not “is” but “becomes”. However, there are very few who understood the depth of Dinzel’s vision, and much less those who today recognize his influence, the methodology that he developed to be able to explain Tango to new generations of dancers, both from Rio de la Plata and from all over the world, forever modified the physical-spiritual language of Tango, updating its interpretation to a time very different from that of the 40s and 50s.
 
4. Other movements arose in response to the irruption of the new Tango. Among them, the “milonguero” style that has been associated with the person of Susana Miller, who claims to be the one who coined this name; the salon style, which was centered around a group of dancers who self-awarded the name “Villa Urquiza style” due to the geographical location of the dance halls they attended in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of the same name. Other styles can be mentioned, although the essential thing is to understand that in the glorious era of Tango, the style was something individual, and therefore, the most pertinent thing would be to make a list of outstanding dancers and couples, which I leave for another future article.
 
5. The appearance of the World Tango Championship, as an attempt, conscious or not, to maintain the relevance of Buenos Aires in a Tango that is an “intangible heritage of humanity” and its globalization, together with the faith in the economism of the predominant Anglo-Saxon culture that globalization has spread to all corners of the planet, generating two tendencies, to my understanding, equally superficial in terms of the way of assessing the significance of Tango: Tango as a profession, that is, as my grandmother Rita used to say “Por la plata baila el mono” (the monkey dances for money), in which the value of a dancer is discerned in economic terms or economic potential; hence the interest in winning a world championship is estimated in the economic benefits that this can yield in terms of publicity, prestige, and image. On the other hand, the mediocre and emotionless dance of those who dance “to distract themselves”, as a “hobby”, a superficial pastime, without caring about the quality of their dance (although there is no care for real emotions in the “professionals” either, besides acting as if they were feeling emotions while dancing for an audience). Let us remember here for a moment that those who learned to dance before the eclipse of Tango had no other interest than the personal satisfaction of being good dancers. Being good dancers coincided for them with a certain wisdom about life. Before, the objective of dancing well was to become “the king of cabaret”; today, it is a more abstract goal: to be a “world” champion. Before, a dancer was recognized spontaneously by his peers in his community; now, he needs to be approved by the “quality control” of the judges. The evaluation system of the first case is more intrinsic, organic, and homemade, more concrete and local. In the second case, it comes more from transcendent, universal abstractions. It cannot be separated from the conditions of world capitalism, that is, money and, more specifically, the dollar, which would be something like the world champion of currencies. This particular need to appear as the ideal of dancers before the most significant possible number of people (the entire world) produces a superficialization of Tango. It is necessary to appeal to an increasingly common denominator, that is, to vulgarize it, to spread it. Thus, the most intimate and profound elements of Tango are lost. It loses its modesty. It undresses, and therefore, he empties itself. The gestures are increasingly rehearsed and therefore lose spontaneity and honesty.

As for the poetry of Tango, it is absent in a world absent of poetry. In the words of my friend and teacher, the excellent dancer and milonguero Blas Catrenau: “What can poets write about today?” “My cell phone ran out of battery, and I can’t send you a WhatsApp?” 🤣

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Compadrito's knife of the history of Argentine Tango.

History of Tango | Excerpt: Differences between “compadrito”, “guapo”, and “malevo”.

History of Tango | Excerpt: Differences between “compadrito”, “guapo”, and “malevo”.

Compadrito's knife of the history of Argentine Tango.

Wondering what was the difference between “compadrito”, “guapo”, and “malevo”? Adrián Rodriguez Yemha offers us the results of his research:

Compadrito:

Dancer by nature, kind, friendly, always working honestly, neat, romantic, carried a knife and knew how to handle it very well if necessary.

Guapo:

Knives’ man, neighborhood’ strong man, bodyguard of political leaders, they formed a family, many over time even ended up in an honest job.

Malevo: 

Pimp, ruffian, quarrelsome, of bad habits, treacherous, without any nobility, if he could stab in the back he did.

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José Martínez, Argentine Tango musician and composer.

History of Tango – Part 11: José Martínez. The great intuitive.

History of Tango – Part 11: José Martínez. The great intuitive.

José Martínez, Argentine Tango musician and composer.

(28 January 1890 – 27 July 1939)

He was a great pianist and composer who has left lasting tangos, in versions that we still listen to and like to dance, even though he did not know how to write music nor did he study it formally.
He was known in the Tango scene by the nickname of El Gallego (The Spaniard), to which he replied: «That’s whimsical, I’m from Buenos Aires. I have a Spanish surname but my parents, my grandparents, and great-grandparents were Argentines».

Without having studied music, he played by ear, and yet he was a very good instrumentalist and a better composer; as he did not know how to write them, his creations were put on paper by other musicians, among whom were Eduardo Arolas, Augusto Berto, Agustín Bardi, and Francisco Canaro.

He was greatly intuitive and learned to play the piano by watching his friends play.

He even left the music on several occasions to work as a salaryman in different companies, such as the cereal companies Bunge & Born, Dreyfus, and in a notary’s office.
 
His professional career began in 1911, with a trio formed with Augusto Berto on bandoneon and Julio Doutry on violin.
He used to invent the melody of his compositions by improvising during his concerts.

At one point he joined a group with Francisco Canaro, who brought his first work to paper: “Pura uva”:

Carnival at Teatro Colón, 1917. Poster.

Once he had gained experience, playing in cafeterias in La Boca, he was summoned by Eduardo Arolas to fill the place left vacant by none other than Agustín Bardi.

In this period, Arolas would be in charge of the transcription of his compositions.
 
In 1917, Francisco Canaro had achieved a great reputation in the milonguero scene, and his orchestra merged with Roberto Firpo‘s to perform at the carnivals at the Teatro Colón of Rosario city.

Musicians such as Eduardo Arolas, Osvaldo Fresedo, Bachicha Deambroggio, Tito Roccatagliata, Pedro Polito, Agesilao Ferrazzano, Julio Doutry, Leopoldo Thompson, Alejandro Michetti, make up this group.

The pianists were Firpo himself and José Martínez.
In 1918 Osvaldo Fresedo, left the Canaro orchestra to form his own group and play at the Pigall Casino. Shortly after, Martínez is the one who became independent to form his own orchestra that would play at the L’Abbaye cabaret, on Esmeralda Street. Canaro himself confessed some time after that, he thought, it would greatly weaken his orchestra:
 
“Bandoneonists were scarce and I turned to Minotto Di Cicco, who worked in Montevideo. And since he had nothing to envy Fresedo, he prevailed shortly after…
The problem came when José Martínez decided to form his own orchestra to premiere with it at the cabaret L’Abbaye, at Esmeralda Street. That was a regrettable casualty!

I supplanted him with Luis Riccardi, a pianist with a good technique… and I had to put up with the complaints from Royal’s clientele. They noticed the change and missed the typical Martínez beat. It took me a lot to convince the clientele of the cabaret!”

Carlos Gardel, Argentine Tango singer with his racehorse.

Martínez also spent time playing with several successful theater companies, and in one of them, “El Gran Premio Nacional”, he would premiere his beautiful tango “Polvorín”, dedicated to a racehorse, with lyrics by Manuel Romero, recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1922.

Gardel would also record his “De vuelta al bulín”, with lyrics by Pascual Contursi.

In 1918, together with Francisco Canaro, Vicente Greco, Rafael Tuegols, Luis Teisseire, and Samuel Castriota, he was part of the group that met in a basement in Florida at 300 to shape an organization that would defend their rights and in 1920 he became part of the first board of directors of the entity that with time would become the current SADAIC.

At the end of 1928, he retired from the musical activity.

He would die at the age of 49, but he left us a series of tangos that enrich the floors of the milongas with their beauty.

Let’s listen to some that are very familiar to us:

“Pablo” Dedicated to Pablo Podestá.

By Anibal Troilo y su Orquesta Típica, 1943.

More about this song
“Canaro” Dedicated to Francisco Canaro

By Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica, 1941.

More about this song
“El pensamiento”

By Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica, 1945.

More about this song
“Punto y coma”

By Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Típica, 1948.

More about this song
“El cencerro”

By Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica, 1937.

More about this song
'La torcasita', Argentine Tango music sheet cover. “La torcacita”

By Carlos Di Sarli y su Orquesta Típica, 1941.

More about this song
“Olivero”

By Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Típica, 1951.

More about this song

Playing traditional bandoneon, the main instrument of Argentine Tango.

Argentine Tango and the bandoneon

Argentine Tango and the bandoneon

Playing traditional bandoneon, the main instrument of Argentine Tango.

How did the bandoneon become the instrument of Tango?

Invented in Germany, the bandoneon is an instrument from the concertina family.

History:

Concertinas were conceived as an improvement of the accordion: the first concertinas were independently invented in 1829 in England by Sir Charles Wheatstone and in 1834 in Germany by Carl Friedrich Uhlig, they had five buttons on each side of the box, where each button could play two different notes when opening or closing the bellows.

Concertina Uhling, antecesor of bandoneon, the main instrument of Argentine Tango.

The concertina’s sound was conceived to blend in with violins, to encourage its use in chamber orchestras.
The bandoneon is a musical instrument that resulted from the evolution of the concertina, invented by Carl Friedrich Uhlig (1789-1874) in 1839, inspired by the accordion, and conceived as a portable version of the harmonium (a type of pump organ). 

Carl Friedrich Uhlig, the inventor of the concertina, antecesor  of the bandoneon, the main instrument of Argentine Tango

The bandoneon is part of the hand-held bellows-driven free-reed category, sometimes called squeezeboxes.
 
The sound is produced as air flows past the vibrating reeds mounted in a frame.
 
The name comes from Heinrich Band, a musician who, in 1846, started selling an improved version of the concertina that he designed, with 28 buttons (producing 56 tones). He later added more buttons, reaching a total of 65.
It is worthy of note that Heinrich Band never patented the bandoneon, since he saw his instrument as an improvement of the concertina.
It got its name from Band’s customers, calling it ‘Band-o-nion.’

Heinrich Band died at 39 in 1860, and his wife continued the production of bandoneons.

Bandoneon AA 1920, the favorite of Argentine Tango players

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.

Production of bandoneons.

After the Second World War, Alfred Arnold’s factory, which was located in what became Eastern Germany, was confiscated and ended the production of bandoneons to become a diesel engine parts factory.
 
Arno Arnold, Alfred’s nephew, escaped from Eastern Germany and opened a bandoneon production factory in Western Germany in 1950.
This factory closed after Arno’s death, in 1971.

Bandoneon factory today

Because the bandoneon was not patented, there was never any information recorded about the materials used to construct one, like the precise alloys of the metallic vibrating reeds that are different for every note.
 
Today, several individuals and companies in Germany have partnered with the latest technology to study the historical AA bandoneons and produce them again.

The Bandoneon arrives in Buenos Aires

Bandoneon factory today

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.


“Unión Cívica” of Domingo Santa Cruz, by Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica, recorded in 1938.

Arturo De Nava, one of the first Tango dancers.

The bandoneon was not immediately accepted by Argentine Tango musicians and dancers.
The original music band formations of flute, violin, and guitar played a staccato, bright and fast rhythm.
 
The bandoneon, with its “legato,” with its low key notes, favored by its players, who would constantly insist to its German producers to add more low key notes, seemed to not belong to Tango.
 
But in fact, it gave Tango what Tango was missing until the integration of the bandoneon, and the bandoneon found the music it seemed to be created for.

Gaucho, Argentina

The bandoneon, contrary to other instruments of Tango, like the violin, the flute, the guitar, the harp, and later, the piano, had no traditions to refer to.
 
It was a blank piece of paper on which anything could still be written.
There were neither maestros nor methods for it.

Everything had to be created from scratch.

The culture of gauchos and compadritos, self-reliance and readiness for adventures, was apt to receive an instrument that nobody could tell you what to do with and in which you could become a total creator.

Organito, organ grainder, in the origins of Argentine Tango

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.”

Juan Maglio Pacho, Argentine Tango musician

Juan Maglio “Pacho”

(1881 – 1934) was essential to the acceptance of bandoneon as a musical instrument of Tango.

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.

In 1912 he started to record for Columbia Records.
His success was so great that the word “Pacho” became synonymous with “recordings”.

“Armenonville”, recorded by Juan Maglio “Pacho” in 1912.

In 1910, Casa Tagini, manager of the branch of Columbia Records in Argentina, produced the first recordings of a musical formation dedicated exclusively to playing tangos and including the bandoneon.
In need of an appropriated label for this musical formation, the term “Orquesta Típica Criolla” was born.

Columbia records orquesta tipica criolla greco Argentine Tango

Vicente Greco

(1888-1924), was the conductor and bandoneon player in this musical formation.

“Rosendo”, recorded by Vicente Greco y su Orquesta Típica Criolla in 1911.

Another advantage of the bandoneon was its portability.
Many of the first bandoneon players were guitar players: Vicente Greco, Ricardo Gonzalez “Muchila,” who introduced the bandoneon to Eduardo Arolas, who also played guitar before; Graciano De Leone, who played guitar and was submitted to the bandoneon by Arolas.

Eduardo Arolas 1917, Argentine Tango musician.

Eduardo Arolas

(1892 – 1924) is the greatest bandoneon player in the history of this instrument in Tango music:

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.

Columbia records orquesta tipica criolla greco Argentine Tango

Pedro Maffia

(28 August 1899 – 16 October 1967)

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.

Osvaldo Fresedo Argentine Tango musician

Osvaldo Fresedo

(5 May 1897 – 18 November 1984)

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.


“Arrabalero” Osvaldo Fresedo y su Sexteto Típico, 1927.

Carlos Marcucci, Argentine Tango musician

Carlos Marcucci

(30 October 1903 – 31 May 1957)

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.


“Mi dolor” by Carlos Marcucci y su Orquesta Típica, 1930.

Pedro Laurenz. Argentine music at Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires.

Pedro Laurenz

(10 October 1902 – 7 July 1972)

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.

Carlos Marcucci, Argentine Tango musician

Ciriaco Ortiz

(5 August 1905 – 9 July 1970)

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.


“Alma de bohemio” by Ciriaco Ortiz trio with guitars, recorded in 1935.

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.

Anibal Troilo, Argentine Tango musician.

Anibal Troilo

(11 July 1914 – 19 May 1975)

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.

Anibal troilo and his Orquesta Típica.


“Quejas de bandoneón” by Anibal Troilo y su Orquesta Típica, 1944.

Bandoneons make the flesh of the songs in Juan D’Arienzo and Osvaldo Pugliese’s orchestras. 

Juan D'Arienzo conducting at bandoneon player


“El marne” by Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica. 1938.

Pauses, rests, essential to dancing Tango


“La Yumba” by Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Típica, 1946.

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.

Vitruvian man Leonardo


“Y hasta el cardo tiene flor” by Carlos Di Sarli y su Orquesta Típica, 1941.

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.
In addition to its excellent sound range -at least 142 notes (compare it with a piano which has 88), the character of its sound changes depending on the actions of opening (smooth, airy, and sweet) and closing (ruff, strong and throaty). 

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Agustín Bardi. Argentine music at Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires.

History of Tango – Part 10: Agustín Bardi. The composer for the future of Tango.

History of Tango – Part 10: Agustín Bardi. The composer for the future of Tango.

“Tinta verde” by Osvaldo Fresedo y su Sexteto Típico, 1927.

Agustín Bardi. History of Argentine Tango music at Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires.

Chapter 1: Life

He was born on August 13, 1884 in Las Flores, in the city Las Flores, then a town in the district of Azul, Province of Buenos Aires. At an early age he was sent by his parents to the home of relatives living in the capital, in the Barracas neighborhood, to attend primary school. In this house he also began his musical education, studying guitar with a relative.

At eight years old, he joined a carnival troupe, standing out for his skill as a guitarist.

At thirteen he started working as a telegraph trainee at Ferrocarril del Sud, and in 1904 he was summoned to fulfill the mandatory military service.

None of this was enough to deter him from his musical vocation.

Agustín Bardi studies violin and begins playing professionally | History of Tango

After the military service, he was employed with an initial position in the commercial company “La Cargadora”, located in Bolivar 375. He retired from the same company in 1935, after 30 years of excellent work, reaching the position of general manager.

In 1905, Bardi began playing the violin, perfecting himself for 3 years and in 1908 he began his career as a professional musician.

In 1909 he played in La Boca, the headquarters for Tango musicians of that time, where the Porteños’ popular music would begin to move to downtown, and from there, throughout the entire city.

He was average height, stocky, and broad-shouldered. With pleasant features, he wore a neatly trimmed mustache and doctoral lenses. His friends affectionately called him “El Chino” (The Chinese) because of the sharp longitudinal section of his eyelids, perhaps his most predominant feature.

He was temperamentally serious, circumspect, soft-mannered and had a restful, kind way of expressing himself.

He was not a man of the night, but rather dedicated to his family, his wife and two children.

Agustin Bardi became a pianist. | History of Tango

It was in 1910, when he joined the quartet of Genaro Expósito (bandoneon), in the cafe “La Marina”, after a season in the cafe “del Griego”, that one night, before opening the doors of the cafe to the patrons, Bardi sat at the piano vacated by “el Johnny” Prudencio Aragón, improvising some of the tangos of the quartet repertoire.

His teammates felt so comfortable with his interpretation that they urged him to play that instrument from then on.

And that is how Agustin Bardi became a pianist.

In 1911, Bardi composed “Vicentito”, dedicated to Greco, who recorded the song | History of Tango

With his characteristic sense of responsibility, he began studying piano technique, reaching a good level in a few months.

As a pianist, he joined the quartet of flutist Carlos Macchi “Hernani”.

Then he left La Boca, to play in the cafe “El Estribo”, joining the orchestra of Vicente Greco. In 1911, Bardi composed “Vicentito”, dedicated to Greco, who recorded the song on two occasions, which launched the authorial career of Bardi.

Other ensembles of the time also began recording his tangos.

Original cover of

In 1914, Bardi played with Eduardo Arolas. It was at the time that Arolas returned to his artistic career after a frustrating venture to open his own business failed.

They played practically by heart, after sight reading, the tangos that day by day arose from the inspiration of the musicians.

Bardi deliberately set aside compositions that, once released, did not satisfy his demanding taste, and he refused to play them again when his orchestra partners requested it. But Arolas liked one of these tangos very much, and, in the face of Bardi’s excuse of having misplaced it, said: “the one you wrote with green ink (tinta verde)…”

This tango went on to become one of the most well known compositions of Agustín Bardi, whose original edition of the score featured a cover illustrated by Arolas himself.

Let’s listen to it in the rendition of Anibal Troilo y su Orquesta Típica recorded 1n 1938:

Agustín Bardi composed

Having disconnected from Arolas, in 1916, he went on to play at the Avellaneda’s Paris cinema, which was a precursor to having orchestras for silent films, with a trio completed by Graciano de Leone on bandoneon and violinist Eduardo Monelos.

There, Bardi incorporated the tangos “El jagüel” and “Cordón de oro” into his repertoire, composed by Carlos Posadas — the composer he most admired — and made his own, “El rodeo”, known.

Here is the 1943 recording by Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Típica:

His work at the company “La Cargadora” often forced him to move away from musical activity as a performer, which is why he never wanted to take responsibility for conducting an orchestra.

He did not like to play in the cabarets, since these performances had to be done very late at night, and he had to get up early for his daytime work. The last years of his performance as a professional pianist developed in dancing halls on Saturdays and Sundays in the halls of the Spanish and Italian collectives.

At the beginning of 1921, he toured the interior of Argentina, taking advantage of his vacation from the company, with Graciano De Leone.

It was the prelude to his definitive departure as a professional pianist.

“La última cita” by Ángel D’Agostino y su Orquesta Típica with Ángel Vargas in vocals, recorded in 1944.

Gran Orquesta of Francisco Canaro for 1921 carnivals | Agustín Bardi| Argentine Tango History

His last performances were in the giant orchestra that Francisco Canaro convened for the carnivals of 1921.

On this occasion, however, Bardi refused to Canaro’s invitation to premiere his tango compositions, claiming that he did not compose carnival tangos, nor was he interested in its diffusion under such circumstances.


“Lorenzo” by Francisco Canaro y su Orquesta Típica, recorded in 1927.

From this moment, and then with his retirement from the company “La Cargadora”, Bardi devoted himself to the deep study of harmony and composition with the Salecian priest José Spadavecchia, to the composition of tangos, and to the manufacturing of rolls for pianolas for the company “Pampa”.

Agustín Bardi with his family | History of Argentine Tango

Another of Bardi’s great contributions to Argentine popular music was the creation, together with Canaro, Filiberto, Lomuto, Greco, Martinez and others, of a society that protected the rights of musicians and composers, a society that over time would become the prestigious Sociedad Argentina de Autores y Compositores de Música (SADAIC).

He died on April 21, 1941.


“Independiente Club” by Alfredo Gobbi y su Orquesta Típica, recorded in 1948.

Chapter 2: Work

Florcita, composed by Agustín Bardi, interpreted by Lucio Demare y su Orquesta Típica in 1945.

Bardi’s compositions were ahead of his time.

Like Eduardo Arolas’s compositions, they had to wait for the arrival of more trained interpreters, in the mid 1920s, to present all the splendor of their beauty.

According to Luis Adolfo Sierra, Agustín Bardi’s compositions contain “clarity in the concept of sound elaboration, balance in the melodic drawing of always pure and direct phrases, some sumptuousness in the firmness of the harmonic structure, and a refined good taste, they are in general the salient attractions that emerge in the entire work of this talented composer ”.

Let’s hear “Florcita” recorded by Lucio Demare y su Orquesta Típica in 1945:

Luis Adolfo Sierra adds next: “Bardi felt a marked propensity towards harmonized melody. He was passionate about the effects of syncopation and tonal modulations within melodic development … He admirably handled the development of half-stepped melodies. that is, everything that would bring musical charm into an intransigent stylistic purism. And, above all, he was a jealous self-critic of his authorial production.”.

Bardi himself said that “it is necessary to achieve the greatest melodic clarity, to beautify it later with the appropriate resources of musical technique.”

Let’s listen to “¡Qué noche!” recorded by Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica in 1937:

So much was his sense of aesthetic and professional responsibility that at the age of forty he decided to study musical theory in more depth to put his future compositions at the height of the great Tango instrumentalists of the “De Caro’s” school.

Here is the recording of “Nunca tuvo novio” by Pedro Laurenz y su Orquesta Típica with Alberto Podestá in vocals from 1945:

Agustín Bardi has very deservedly received the title of “composer of musicians.”

The excellent quality of his works always had the recognized admiration of all professional musicians without exception.

The musical elaboration of his tangos allows the showcasing of the Orquestas Típicas in any of its interpretative modalities.

Before Cobián, Fresedo, De Caro, Maffia, Laurenz, and the definitive renovation line that Roberto Firpo printed to his orchestra in the early twenties, there was no clear definition of styles in Tango.

Until then the people in Tango was more interested in the repertoire itself, the quality or success of the work, than the way of playing.

Tango was executed using the simplest chords, accentuating a rhythmic marking with a certain monotonous rigidity, without individual performance of the musicians, in a joint work of all voices in unison.

Pedro Laurenz & Julio De Caro | Argentine Tango music

Bardi’s tangos were not written to be played in the manner of primitive ensembles, without harmonic concerns or aesthetic interest in achieving greater musical enhancement.

The greater technical possibilities of the musicians of later promotions, from Julio De Caro, allowed them to enter the spirit and the musical structure of Bardi’s tangos.

Julio De Caro found the precise formula and opened the gap by which would then follow the evolution of Tango music, and gave his versions of Bardi’s compositions an aesthetic dimension that primitive ensembles could not have achieved.

Thus, other excellent later ensembles collected the attractions of the instrumentation techniques exhibited by the De Caro’s orchestra, making it clear that Bardi’s tangos were written to be played like this.

Here is an excellent example in the recording of “Chuzas” by Alfredo Gobbi y su Orquesta Típica in 1949:

Bardi’s works always retain freshness and strength, reaching ever greater attraction in their audiences for the beauty and authenticity of their content.

Listen for example to “Tierrita”, recorded here by Ricardo Tanturi y su Orquesta Típica in 1937:

Bardi felt “Tango with a countryside essence, as if it were a transplant of the traditional Argentine gaucho sensitivity to the music of Tango, which is the most representative sentimental manifestation of the city.”

Here is the recording of “Se han sentado las carretas” by Francisco Lomuto y su Orquesta Típica with Fernando Díaz and Jorge Omar in vocals, 1939:

Bardi regularly attended the presentations of the Julio de Caro’s sextet.

L. A. Sierra tells us that Bardi confessed to experiencing immense spiritual joy every time he listened to some of his compositions through what he so happily called:

“the great interpretative creations of the Julio De Caro’s orchestra.”

Let’s listen to “Gallo ciego”, recorded here by Julio De Caro y su Sexteto Típico in 1927:

And Luis Adolfo Sierra adds that “when Bardi extended his praise to the Julio De Caro’s orchestra, it was to affirm that ‘it was formed by six composers, each elaborating on the prodigy of their respective instruments, an inspired and difficult score, always embellishing the values of the work with excellent musical ideas of original creation, without altering or distorting its own original feeling ”.

Remarkable assessment judgment that could be gathered as irrefutable testimony of the significance of that orchestra in the evolution of instrumental Tango.

In 1937, Bardi regularly attended the Germinal café on Corrientes Street to listen to the brand-new Anibal Troilo’s orchestra, and used to exclaim with sincere admiration:

“We would not have been able to play like that!”

Let’s hear the rendition of “C.T.V.” recorded by Anibal Troilo y su Orquesta Típica, 1940:

Audio:


Video:


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