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The Golden Age and Guardia Vieja

Roberto Firpo (May 10, 1884 - June 14,1969)

Roberto Firpo (May 10, 1884  - June 14, 1969)  was an Argentine tango pianist, composer and leader.

Firpo was born in Flores barrio, Buenos Aires, where his father owned a grocery store.  Firpo left school at 15 to work with his father and then several other companies, he eventually save 200 pesos to buy his first piano.  Around 1903, at age 19 years of age, he began to have lessons and in 1907 began composing and performing.   

During his career Firpo played in most of the famous Buenos Aires tango venues.   In 1916, Roberto Firpo, leader of the most successful Tango band of his period, and creator of the standard Tango sextet - two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass - heard a march my a young Uruguayan, and decided to arrange it as a tango.  The result was the most famous tango of all time, La Cumparsita.  It has been recorded by almost every Tango orchestra in every style and is, the world over the symbol of Tango.

Firpo was a genius.   He was able to make the violins in his orchestra sometimes sound like birds chirping and other times made them sound as if laughing.

Firpo retired in 1959 and died on June 14, 1969. 

It is estimated that Firpo made between 1,650 and 3,000 recordings in his career.  He is considered one of the most conservative of the tango traditionalist but also one of the greatest prodigious of tango musicians and composers.   

External Links
Roberto Firpo on totango.net

Roberto Firpo cds
Roberto Firpo 1920-1944
Tangueros de Antano
De la guardia vieja
De la guardioa vieja vol 2
Monga Orillera


Francisco Canaro (Nov 26,1888 - Dec 14, 1964)

Francisco Canaro was an Uruguayan violinist and Argentine tango orchestra leader, his nickname was Pirincho.

Canaro was born in San Jose' de Mayo, Uruguay, in 1888.  He received his nickname at birth, a midwife exclaiming that she saw so much hair in an upright tuft that he looked like a Pirincho, a bird of Uruguay and Brazil.  His family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina and into a very poor neighborhood.  Canaro had little education, by 10 selling newspapers and later a house painter and later in the public works.  His early history is as murky as the history of tango itself.  Early on he there was a love for music and seems to be self taught, in love with the violin and performed in seedy bars outside of Buenos Aires.  

Returning home to the barrios of Buenos Aries he met Vicente Greco, a major tango musician of the Old Guard.  At the age of 20, in 1908, Canaro began playing at cafes in the barrio of La Boca and later joined Greco playing in many cafes surrounding and in Buenos Aires.  He wrote his first known tangos in 1912, "Pinta brava" and "Matasanos".   

In 1924 he was one of the first to incorporate a singer into the orchestra, but only to sing the "estribilio" or bridge, the brief main section of each tango.   So he started the estribillistas era, the first singer in his orchestra being Roberto Diaz.  

In 1925, at the age of 37, he traveled to Paris, where tango was the new fashion since 1920.   Canaro took with him the singers, Augstin Irusta and Roberto fugazot and a pianist Luciao Demare.  These three remained in Europe for ten years with great success.   Canaro returned to Buenos Aires after two years, finding other fine tango orchestras now prospering.   Canaro commenced on a extensive tour around the country to make himself well known.  He also took full advantage of radio, which was coming into vogue, becoming a major star.  

Canaro would go on to record over 3500 numbers and compose hundreds of numbers.  He became very wealthy.   His fortune was left in equal shares to his wife, "the French one" and to "his daughters born out of the love with the choir girl of one of the musicals."

Canaro was active in the cause of intellectual property rights of composers from 1918 onwards, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Argentine Society of Composers and Songwriters in 1935.   

Canaro later developed Paget's disease, and was forced to retire.   He died in Buenos Aires in 1964.

External Links
Francisco Canaro on totango.net

Francisco Canaro  music cds
Tangos con Armando Moreno
Tangos, Valses y Milongas
1938 - 1952 recordings
Bailando Tangos,Valses y Milongas
Poema 1935
Tango inovidables de 40's
Desde de Alma
Le Melodia de Nuestro Adios

Enrique Rodriquez (March 8, 1901 - September 4 1971)

Enrique Rodriquez was a bandoneon player, composer and an orchestra leader.   He was born either in La Plata, capital city of Buenos Aires or in Buenos Aires, a subject of dispute, but Argentinian non-the-less.   As a teenager and his early twenties he began playing the bandoneon in duet with a pianist in neighborhood cinema theaters, playing the musical background for silent movies.  And when the "radio days" began in Argentina, he joined groups playing the background for romantic soap operas.

At the age of 25, in 1926, he debuted in the sextet of Joaquin Mora and after playing in other groups, he joined the Edgardo Donato Orchestra.   He stayed only briefly, however his music was influenced by Donato's rhythmic and agile happy beat.

At the age of 33, in 1934 he joined a trio to back the singer Francisco Fiorentino on  Radio Belgrano.   In the year that followed, he formed a quartet for the same purpose, this time for actress and singer Maria Luisa Notar, who would soon become his wife.

Two years later, he started his own orchestra, "La orquesta de todos los ritmos",  The Orchestra of All Rhythms.   The orchestra played polkas, waltzes, fox trots, and tangos and played at balls and parties.

In 1937, at the age of 36, the Odeon company signed him as an exclusive artist.  The relationship continued for 34 years, with Rodriquez recording over 350 numbers.   There were several singers over the year, however it was Armando Moreno, "El nino Moreno", who joined the orchestra on three different periods of time.  The orchestra made several tours of Latin America, including Colombia, where they were idolized.

It is said that Enrique Rodriquez was a true follower of the traditional rhythmical style played y Edgardo Donato and Juan D'Arienzo.     His orchestra was very popular in the 40's and 50's for the dance beat and beautiful harmonious sounds.   

Enrique Rodriquez music cds
Tangos con Armando Moreno
Armando Moreno TVM

Historia _ The Old Guard and Golden Age

The Old Guard and The Golden Age

The Old Guard.    In 1916, Roberto Firpo, leader of the most successful tango band of this period, and creator of the standard Tango sextet - two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass - heard a march a young Uruguayan, and decided to arrange it as a tango.  The result was the most famous tango of all time, La Cumparsita.  It has been recorded by almost every Tango orchestra in every style and is, the world over, the symbol of Tango.

Other earlier composers, considered of the "Guardia Vieja" or the Old Guard, including Firpo are Vincent Greco and Francisco Canaro.   Canaro's early milongas are generally the slowest and easiest to dance to; and for that reason, they are more frequently played at tango dances also known as milongas.

(remember, there are three definitions for milonga 1) a place where tango is danced  2) the with song with a 2/4 rhythm, and 3 the music of the dance.   So one can dance a milonga to a milonga at a milonga. )

The "Golden Age" of tango music and the milonga is generally agreed to have been the period from 1935 to 1952.  During the first decade of this period was one of astounding creativity on every front.   The dance matured into one of the most beautiful couple dances the world has ever seen.

Some of the many popular and influential composers with their orchestras included Francisco Canaro, and Edgardo Donato, Juan D'Arienzo, Osvaldo Fresedo, Carlos Di Sarli, Ricardo Tanturi, Rodolfo Biagi and Enrique Rodriquez.   The Tango Orchestra matured now, comprised of 4 violins, a viola, a double bass, a grand piano and 4 or 5 bandoneons.   The bandoneon became the signature instrument of the tango sound.   You can learn all about the History of the Bandoneon on the website IN-Tango.com.   D'Arienzo was called the "King of the Beat" for his driving rhythms.   Another composer, Carlos Di Sarli, has a lush, grandiose sound and emphasized the strings and piano over the bandoneon.

What happended to Tango after 1955?  There was a coup in Argentina, an overthrowing of the government.  The former leader Juan Peron was very supportive of Argentine Tango music and the dance, however the new government, fearing anything that was related to Peron, discouraged Tango and banned meetings of more than three people, for fear of political agitation, making the public dances difficult.   Dancing to survive went underground.

In 1983, Argentina elected democratically, Raul Alfonsin.  The current present of Argentina is Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.  Argentina is a Republic, just like the United States with a democratic government.  Tango returned to Buenos Aires, Argentina with great fanfare.  And Tango has found a resurgence all over the world, with the evidence of the Tango Festivals being held in almost every country in the world.   The United States alone has close to 30 scheduled major Tango Festivals each year.

written by Philip Lechtenberg

External Links

Edgardo Donato (April 14, 1897 - Feb 15, 1963)

Edgardo Donato was a Uruguayan tango composer and orchestra leader, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.    He made music for dancing.......just that simple.   Rhythmic, playful, melodic - his music inspires happiness.  

Edgardo was born in the Buenos Aires barrio of San Cristobal, April 14, 1987.   While still a child, his family moved to Montevideo, capital of Uruguay.   His father, Ernesto, played mandolin and later violincello and music was his passion. And so too for Edgardo, he studied music with his father and worked with his father at the age of 21 in the opera scene.

But soon he was forming his own tango orchestras, at the age of 22 composing his first tango hit, "Julian".   In 1923, at the age of 26 he wrote tango hits "Beba", "Muchacho" and "Corozoncito de Oro".    And soon he composed what would be one of the most popular recorded tangos in the world, "A media luz", which together with "La Cumparsita", "El Choclo" and "Caminito" would be the most played songs in The River Plata.     The song was later recorded by Firpo, Ganaro and Gardel.

At the age of 30, in 1927, he put together an orchestra with the name Donato-Zerrillo, its members Hector Maria Artola, Juan Turturiello and Hector Gentile on bandoneons; on violins, Donato and Zerrillo and Armando Julio Piovani, on piano Osvaldo Donato and his other brother, Ascanio on cello and A. Bancala on double bass.   They played together for three years.

A new band was formed in 1930.   It is said this new band had a phrasing wrapped up in wider dynamics, where the showcasing of bandoneons and Donato's frequent interventions as soloist was evidenced and noted by his famous "pizzicati".   Gone was Zerrillo.  The members were now Juan Turtunelio, Vicnet Vilardi and Miguel Bonano on bandoneons;  Edgardo Donato, Armando Julio Piovani and Pascual Humberto Martinez on violins; Osvaldo Donato on piano, Ascnio Donato on cello and Jose Campesi on bass.  

He recorded over 130 songs on the Brunswick label.   In December 1932, he switched to Victor and recorded "El Huracan".   He worked with the Victor label until he retired, releasing over 400 recordings.   Donato and his orchestra are tango bulwarks and composed over two hundred numbers.

External Links
Edgardo Donato on totango.net

Edgardo Donato album / cds
Coleccion 78 R.P.M.  1933-1941
Coleccion 78 R.P.M.  1938-1942


Osvaldo Fresedo (May 5, 1897 - Nov 18, 1984)

Osvaldo Fresedo, nicknamed El pibe de La Paternal (the kid from La Paternal) was an Argentine songwriter and director of a tango orchestra.  He had a very long career in tango, from 1925 to 1980.

He was born in a middle class neighborhood, but early on his family moved to a working class neighborhood, and is where he began his interest in tango.   He learned to play the bandoneon as a teenager and joined several of the most famous orchestras of the Guardia Vieja era  (The Old Guard).  

In the 1920s, Fresedo, around the age of 26, formed his first orchestra, with his own trademark style displaying true elegance, bringing a high level of musicianly technique and thus was able to bring about the more refined musical style that characterized what later became known as tango of the Guardia Nuevo (The New Guard).    Olsvaldo worked tirelessly, as a result of demand for his recordings and their wide acceptance among the public, which caused him to divide his orchestra into four groups and place each in a different nightclub.  Between 1925 and 1928, Fresedo recorded about 600 pieces for the Odeon label.

In the early 1930s, leaving Odeon, and starting a new orchestra, he began his second era as maestro, with a new orchestra style, and, above all, with the vocal participation of Robert Ray, perhaps the most well known of Fresedo's singers.  The Fresedo-Ray recordings are among the most memorable in the history of tango:  "Vida Mia", "Como una princesa", and "Isla de Capri". 

In the 1940's, Fresedo continued to record new material,  seeking to adapt to the new styles of a new generation of composers like Anibal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Miguel Calo, Rcardo Tanturi, however never seemed to catch the magic of his earlier years.    Despite the years of continual changes in music styles, Fresedo continued to lead orchestras until his retirement in 1980.

External Links
Osvaldo Fresedo on totango.net


Carlos Di Sarli (Jan 7, 1903 - Jan 12, 1960)

Carlos Di Sarli was an Argentine tango musician, orchestra leader, composer and pianist.  Before starting his own tango orchestra, he played in Osvaldo Fresedo's ochestra.   Di Sarli was different from the other composers, unlike the traditional orchestras of Firpo and Canaro, nor was he a follower of the renewal orchestra leaders.   He had a style, a musical profile all his own.    His music was smooth, clean-sounding, powerfully arranged.   The bandoneons were seldom if ever showcased. The violins and the piano were the leading force in Di Sarli's orchestras. 

He was a talented pianist, who conducted his orchestra from his instrument.   In his orchestral scheme there were not instrumental solos, the bandoneon section sang at times the melody, but it had an essentially rhythmic and danceable role.   Only the violin was showcased in an extremely delicate way, on a brief solo or on a counter melody.    And Carlos' piano, leading the way with an embellished bass line, became his trademark.

At the early age of 16, in 1919, he assembled his first orchestra to play at a tearoom in his home town, Bahia Blanca, which began a long and lasting artistic career for Carlos.  In 1923 he was playing in Buenos Aires and shortly thereafter he met violinist, Jose Pecora, who introduced him to Osvaldo Fresedo.  Carlos performed in Fresedo's orchestra, who became a strong influence on Carlos.

In late 1927, he formed his own sextet with Jose Pecora and David Abramsky on violins, Cesar Ginzo and Tito Lando on bandoneons and Adolfo Kraus on string bass.  He signed his first contract with RCA-Victor and cut 48 musical numbers.  In the mid 1930's he left his orchestra to go to Rosario and join a small group with the bandoneonist Juan Cambareri.  

Only in late 1938, did he begin to organize again his orchestra.  Carlos leading with his piano; on violins, Roberto Guisado, Angel Goicoechea and Aldofo Perez; on bandoneons, Roberto Gianitelli, Domingo Sanches and Roberto Mititieri; and Domingo Capurro on double bass; the singer was Ignaciao Murillo who was later replaced by Roberto Rufino.

The team of Di Sarli and Roberto Rufino constitutes a gold page of tango, a period of glory.   The rendition of "Tristeza Marina" is an example of the remarkable talent of Di Sarli.    Again, his music was smooth, clean-sounding, powerfully arranged.   He recorded 27 albums.   He also recorded many numbers more than once, often with different singers.

Di Sarli was known as "El Senor del Tango"  (Lord of the Tango).

External Links
Di Sarli on totango.net

Di Sarli  music cds
Sus primera exitos  Vol 1
Sus primera exitos  Vol 2
Sus primera exitos  Vol 3
Instrumental    Vol 1
Instrumental    Vol 2
Di Sarli y Orquestra Tipica


Ricardo Tanturi (Jan 27, 1905 - Jan 24, 1973)

Ricardo Tanturi, nicknamed "El cabellero del tango".   His orchestra achieved great success through partnerships with great singers, especially two, Alberto Castillo and then Enrique Campos.  His purely instrumental recordings were few in number.  His music was known to be catchy and rhythmic and became a favorite of tango dancer's.

Tanturi was born in Buenos Aires, barrio Barracas, one of the poorest areas of the city.  He began playing the violin, however his brother, Antonio Tanturi, a co-director of Orchestra Tipica Tanturi-Petrone, convinced him to take piano lessons with him.  
Tanturi, at the age of 19, in 1924 he began his artistic career playing the piano at clubs, festivals and with his brother.   He also was able to study medicine and graduate with good marks.

In 1933, at the age of 28 he formed his first tango orchestra and named it "Los indios" after a polo team.  Tanturi's orchestra reached the first major success in 1939 with the charasmatic signer, Alberto Castillo, who seduced the audience with an original voice, exaggerated gestures and neat hair style.  The partnership lasted until 1943 and resulted in 37 recordings, before Castillo went onto a solo career.  

Castillo's successor, the Uruguayan Enrique Campos, unlike Castillo, sang with a natural simplicity that highlighted the orchestra's self confidence with it's precise and plain interpretrations.   The 51 recordings made by Tanturi-Campos belongs to this period of tango treasures.

External Links
Ricardo Tanturi on totango.net

Ricardo Tanturi music cds
Tangos de mi ciudad
Una emocion

Rodolfo Biagi (March 14, 1906 - September 24, 1969)

Rodolfo Biagi, nicknamed "Mano Brujas" (Spellbinding Hands) was an Argentine Tango tango musician, born in the barrio San Telmo of Buenos Aires.  He had wanted to learn how to play the violin after grade school, however soon found out that his true vocations was the piano.   At the age of 13, and without his parents consent, he made his debut as a pianist to play the background music for silent movies at the local cinema.    He was discovered by chance, when Juan Maglio (Pacho) had been to the cinema and was delighted to hear such a wonderful pianist.   Pacho invited Biagi, who was only 15 at the time, to play with him and later joined the orchestra of Miguel Orlando, the bandoneonist at the caberet "Maipu Pigali".

As a young pianist he played for several orchestras.   In 1935, his friend Juan D'Arienzo was in need of a pianist for his orchestra and invited Biagi to join the orchestra.  Biagi was now 29 years of age and an experienced pianist.  With his nervous and rhythmic way of playing, he defined in Juan D'Arienzo's orchestra his unmistakable style.   He played for D'Arienzo's orchestra for three years, recording 71 numbers with the orchestra.   Biagi is often given some of the credit for D'Arienzo's rhythmic style, the quicker 2/4 time beat, reflecting the music of the Old Guard, however using more modern arrangements and instrumentation.

At the age of 32, in 1938, Biagi left D'Arienzo to form his own orchestra and was soon given his nickname "Mano Brujas", which was also the title of a fox trot by Jose Maria Aguilar, that he played at the beginning of each show with his orchestra.  There were many singers who joined Biagi's orchestra, however two, Hugo Duval and Jorge Ortiz, were most identified with Biagi's orchestra.

Biagi's orchestra included bandoneon players Alfredo Attadia, Miguel Bonano and Ricardo Pedevilla; violinist were Marcos Larrosa, Claudio Gonzalez and Oscar de la Fuente.    Biagi was not a prolific composer, however notable pieces were "Cruz diablo", "Amor y vals", "Como en un cuento", "Indiferncia", "Humillacion", "Golgota", "Maddala" and "Por tenor un corazon".   Also milongas "Camp afuera" and "Por la guelia".

The orchestra played for 17 years, his last performance on August 2, 1969 at the age of 63.  Forty-one days later he died unexpectedly, on September 24, from an extreme drop in blood pressure. 

External Links
Rodolfo Biagi on totango,net

Biagi music cd
Lus exitos con Andres Falgas y Teofilo Ibanez
Campo Afuera

Juan D'Arienzo (Dec 14, 1900 - Jan 14, 1976)

Juan D'Arienzo was an Argentine tango musician, also known as "El Rey del Compas", King of the Beat.  Departing from other musicians of The Golden Age,  D'Arienzo returned to the quick 2/4 time that characterized the music of the Old Guard, however using more modern arrangements and instrumentation.  He produced hundreds of recordings.   His instrumentals are the classic harder rhythmic tangos with a strong staccato dance rhythm.   He created many great milongas and fast valses.

Juan D'Arienzo started in tango as a young man.   When 19, Juan, playing violin, teamed with D'Agostino on piano and their band played a small part in the premier of a play, Alberto Novion, at the National Theatre as part of the play, when the small tango band appeared.   Roberto Firpo's orchestra, however was the  was the main star during the play, being the music during the entire play.   In September of 1919, D'Arienzo-D'Agostino replaced Firpo's band as the main attraction.    From then on D'Arienzo was linked to the theatre, always with D'Agonstino on piano.

At the age of 35, in 1935 was the key year in D'Arienzo's career when he moved to the faster rhythmic beat of two-four, creating the music that we mentally connect to D'Arienzo's tangos.   Rodolfo Biagi was included, a pianist who had played with Pacho, who had accompanied Gardel on some recordings, who has also played with Juan Guido and with Juan Canaro.  Biagi's addition meant a change of time singnature for D'Arienzo's orchestra, which changed the familiar four-eight beat to the quicker, more lively two-four beat, that was often used by the Old Guard and very early tango groups.    D'Arienzo contributed a fresh, enlivening air to tango.   The "King of the Beat" turned into the King of Dancing.

Juan D'Arienzo, passing in 1976, was buried in the La Charcarita Cemetary in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

External links
Juan D'Arienzo on totango.net

Juan D'Arienzo  Music CDs
Sus primeros exitos vol. 1 (Tango Argentina)
Sus primeros exitos vol. 2 (Tango Argentina)
El Rey del Compas  70 Anos  (El Bandoneon)
Cambalache 1939 - 1952  (El Bandoneon)
La Cumparita 1935 - 1939  (El Bandoneon)
El Tango....Es el Tango  (Tango Argentina)