|Full civil name||Juan D'Arienzo|
|Nickname||“El grillo”, “El ñato”, “El Rey del Compás”|
|Date of birth||1900/12/14 in Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Date of death||1976/01/14 in Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Role(s)|| • Composer|
• Orchestra director
Juan D’Arienzo (Buenos Aires, December 14th, 1900 – Buenos Aires, January 14th, 1976) was an Argentinian violinist, composer and, above all, leader and orchestra director. He had a long, successful career and is now considered to be one of the most emblematic figures of Argentine tango.
- 1 Career
- 2 Style
- 3 D’Arienzo as composer
- 4 Discography
- 5 Media
- 6 Anecdotes and interesting facts
- 7 References
- 8 Sources
- 9 Weblinks
Juan D'Arienzo was the first child born of Amalia Améndota and Alberto D'Arienzo, both Italians who had come to Buenos Aires as part of the massive migratory waves that, during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, arrived at the port of Buenos Aires. Don Alberto’s hopes that his son would devote himself to the study of Law were soon to be defeated, as a young Juan showed a strong inclination towards music, encouraged by the family on his mother’s side. So was it that he began his studies at the Conservatorio Mascagni and quite soon got his first paying job playing the violin, as part of an orchestra of children at the Zoological Garden, that played on Sunday afternoons. With the same group they also appeared at the Apolo theatre . He would later perform as violinist at the Avenida Theatre, and other locations with different groups, often in the company of his friend Ángel D'Agostino.
For a while, the popularity of jazz pushed D’Arienzo away from tango. Towards the year 1921 , like many musicians of his time, D’Arienzo began to work at movie theatres, providing music for silent films. “Select Lavalle” and “Real Cine” were two prominent cinemas where he performed. It was during his times as violinist of a jazz band that, due to the particular sounds he would make with his instrument, he received the nickname “El grillo” (“The Cricket”), which would accompany him still for many years.
The Paramount Orchestra
His entering the “Orquesta Paramount” marked the definitive turn for D'Arienzo towards tango. And towards success. Brought together by the business man in charge of theatre, as was customary back then, throughout the years, the configuration of the cinema Paramount’s orchestra changed as it normally happens; the addition of the remarkable bandoneon player Anselmo Aieta in 1925, however, was key. From then on, the group went on to perform at other venues, such as the movie theatre “Hindú”, and soon changed its name, first to “Los Ases del Tango” (The Aces of Tango), and later on to “Aieta y sus Ases” (Aieta and his Aces). The popularity of the group would only increase.
First steps as orchestra leader
In 1928, D’Arienzo took his first step as director of his own group, alongside the pianist Carlos Howard. The orchestra was integrated by a number of musicians who, according to tango historian and researcher Carlos Puente, had great experience in different styles and were “good readers”, i.e. very well trained in sight-reading, which made them very versatile and also efficient. Ciriaco Ortiz, Nicolás Primiani, Vicente Gorrese, Luis Visca y Luis Cuervo, were some of the ones to integrate the orchestra at this early stage of “Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica“.
It was in 1929 that the D'Arienzo-Visca came to be, co-founded with Luis Visca, pianist in one of the configurations of Aieta y sus Ases. His and D’Arienzo’s was a fortunate combination, as they were both said to have similar temperaments and to share an enormous passion for tango. The direction of the ochestra’s style and performances was showing a preference for nightclubs and cabarets, places where tango began to take shelter. They would perform at the “Hindú” Cinema, Radio Libertad, “Florida”, as well as the “Chantecler”, the most emblematic, high-profile cabaret of the time.
In 1934, due to health problems, perhaps as a consequence of his father’s death, Visca stepped aside, leaving D'Arienzo on his own.
Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica
The year 1935 became a landmark: D'Arienzo “cased” the violin to devote himself to directing. The years to come would be filled with success, and the figure of Juan D'Arienzo would reach an almost mythological status.
Among its ranks, Juan D'Arienzo’s orchestra counted a great number of outstanding musicians who, many say, were an important part of the explanation of the group’s prosperity. One way or the other, it is impossible to deny the quality of, just to give an example, Rodolfo Biagi, who played the piano in the orchestra from the end of 1935, until mid 1938. According to Puente, Biagi’s unmistakeable style was developed during his time in D’Arienzo’s orchestra. He was also in charge of arranging, which he did with the assistance of, for example, orchestra members Mancuso, Moro, De la Roca. Juan Polito succeeded him at the piano, and eventually came Fluvio Salamanca’s turn. Alberto Echagüe and Armando Laborde were some of the best known voices to sing with the orchestra. Also, it is known that even Aníbal Troilo would perform with D'Arienzo on occasion, and also Carlos Di Sarli collaborated with him once for a period of 45 days. Many of the members of his orchestra eventually went their own ways, forming their own groups. Their time under the direction of D'Arienzo, however, would normally shine through, and their own styles were quite often considered a continuation of that of D'Arienzo.
For 28 years, the orchestra performed at the Chantecler, which became the orchestra and its director’s favourite stage, as well as a symbol of the dance of tango during the 1940’s. The milonga “La puñalada” and, of course, “La cumparsita” were and still are among the orchestra’s greatest hits. A record that contained both tracks became a success that was unusual for its time, selling almost two million copies.
According to D’Arienzo himself, tango was built on three pillars: “rhythm, effects and nuances.” The great potency of its music, characterized among other elements by the determined and very precise staccatos, its eminently rhythmical style made D’Arienzo’s orchestra a favourite among dancers. It was said that he renewed the feeling for the dance, and, to a further extreme, that he saved tango from its decadence. D’Arienzo himself won the public’s affections and became a true idol. It can still be seen today on priceless videos that have survived, how involved and emotional his directing was, with how much passion he transmitted his energy to his musicians.
The “D’Arienzo Style”, which Horacio Ferrer in El libro del tango describes as having:
A strong rhythm, uniformly accentuating the four beats in each bar, filled with nervous pianistic passages on the empty spaces left by the melody; violin solos, preferably played on the lower register of the instrument, and bandoneon variations, all extremely fast and on the base of a repertoire of instrumental compositions, generally old (…)
This was quite a novelty in its time, perhaps precisely because he is considered to have returned, in his own way, to the original feeling of the Guardia Vieja, or rather, to have brought the feeling of the old days of the tango to his present. In his own words,
I feel tango like that, the old way, and since it wasn’t me who invented it, I don’t think I have the right to make changes that will make its appearance completely different […] I went to look for it to its own source, and brought it with me by the hand.
However, Luis Adolfo Sierra in his book Historia de la orquesta típica presents an interesting argument. He states that the popularity of D’Arienzo and his musical style, together with the fact that most other orchestras of the time began to imitate it, produced in fact “an almost regressive stagnation in the instrumental conceptions of a well-conceived renovating concept.” As much as Sierra afirms D’Arienzo never abandoned the musical essence of tango and clearly values D’Arienzo’s value and contribution to tango in other sections of his book, he firmly suggests that, though not exactly his style, which he defines as “sound-wise aggressive”, rather its popularity, acted in detriment of “authenticity of rhythm and harmonic structure (...), blurring an interesting and beautiful sound complex of effects and resources of exquisite musicality”, which needed close to ten years to get back to the point where it could continue its evolution.
D’Arienzo as composer
Juan D’Arienzo is the author of 43 works. All of them but five were recorded. In alphabetical order, the recorded pieces are:
- Ay! Mimosa
- Bailate un tango
- Bandera baja
- Bien pulenta
- Callejas solo
- Cartón junao
- Con alma de tango;
- Cruz Maidana
- Dos guitas
- El raje
- El vino triste
- Eso sí que no y que no
- Hoy me vas a escuchar
- La sonrisa de mamá
- La doce
- Lenguas de fuego
- Lo mismo que ayer
- Nada más (alt. name for “Callejas solo”)
- Necesito tu cariño
- No nos veremos nunca
- Por qué, mi Dios
- Santa madrecita
- Si la llegaran a ver
- Sin balurdo
- Tomá estas monedas
- Y suma y sigue
- Ya lo ves
The following are compositions he never recorded: Amigo Evaristo; Apache; Borrá y apuntá de nuevo; Brumas; En la boca, no.
With his orchestra, D’Arienzo also performed the works of Carlos Lázzari, Juan Polito, Fluvio Salamanca, Enrique Alessio, Héctor Varela, Eladio Blanco, Ernesto Franco, Jorge Dragone, Cayetano Puglisi, Pablo Hechin, Luis Visca, Rodolfo Biagi, Juancito Díaz, Alberto Echagüe, Aldo Junnissi, Armando Laborde, Victorio Virgilito, Aquiles Aguilar, Clemente Ortiz, Mario Landi, Ciriaco Ortiz, among others (many were members of the orchestra themselves at some point).
It’s a little known fact that D’Arienzo was author to a “shimmy” called “Tu boquita” (Your little mouth), dedicated to his friend Martín Gregorini.
Note on discography
As much as D’Arienzo is most known to have recorded for the label RCA Victor, given that he was related, on his mother side, to the owners of the record label Electra, it soon became possible for him to make his first recordings, regardless of the fact that his orchestra was young and its success was only beginning to take flight. So was it that D’Arienzo’s orchestra built an initial discography of about 50 recorded songs, in some of which it accompanied the estribillistas Carlos Dante and Francisco Fiorentino, who were also at an early point in their careers. Some recordings also featured the actress and singer Raquel Notar. D'Arienzo with his orchestra has left over 1007. He worked with the record label Electra in 1928, and recorded 42 songs. The rest of the recordings were made through the label RCA Victor, to which D'Arienzo was associated for over 40 years.
Recordings with Lidio Fasoli on the piano
There are 10 recordings. Click expand to view all. Sort results with the little arrows.
|Title||Singer||Record date||Genre||Label||Disco No||Matrix No||Side||Disc type|
|R000001||Penas de amor||Instrumental||12 August 1935||Vals||RCA Victor||37812||BAVE 86930||A|
|R000003||Tinta verde||Instrumental||12 August 1935||Tango||RCA Victor||37812||BAVE 86931||B|
|R000417||Desde el alma||Instrumental||2 July 1935||Vals||RCA Victor||37785||BAVE 86874-1||A|
|R000418||Hotel Victoria||Instrumental||2 July 1935||Tango||RCA Victor||37785||BAVE 86875||B|
|R000419||Re Fa Si||Instrumental||3 October 1935||Vals||RCA Victor||37825||BAVE 86948||A|
|R000420||Francia||Instrumental||3 October 1935||Vals||RCA Victor||37825||BAVE 86949-1||B|
|R000421||De pura cepa||Instrumental||18 November 1935||Milonga||RCA Victor||37844||BAVE 93022||B|
|R000422||Sábado inglés||Instrumental||19 November 1935||Tango||RCA Victor||37844||BAVE 93023||A|
|R000423||Joaquina||Instrumental||12 December 1935||Tango||RCA Victor||37849||BAVE 93040-1||A|
|R000424||Pabellón de las rosas||Instrumental||12 December 1935||Vals||Victor||37849||BAVE 93041-1||B|
Recordings with Rodolfo Biagi on the piano
There are 64 recordings. Click expand to view all. Sort results with the little arrows.
Recordings with Juan Polito on the piano
There are 20 recordings. Click expand to view all. Sort results with the little arrows.
Recordings from 1940
There are 2 recordings. Click expand to view all. Sort results with the little arrows.
|Title||Singer||Record date||Genre||Label||Disco No||Matrix No||Side||Disc type|
|R000572||Amarroto||Alberto Echagüe||12 September 1951||Tango||RCA Victor||68-0188||94367-1||A||Shellac|
|R000791||Claudinette||Héctor Mauré||12 August 1942||Tango||RCA Victor||39689||69864-1||A||Shellac|
There are 97 recordings. Click expand to view all. Sort results with the little arrows.
Considering the place of importance the radio occupied at the time, for an ochestra to play at a popular station could be crucial. In particular, the D’Arienzo’s incorporation to the staff of Radio El Mundo proved a key step on his way to a massive success. The official debut took place on January 1st, 1937, and success was immediate.
It wasn’t uncommon for the time, for famous musicians to make appearances on the big screen. Juan D'Arienzo appeared in the films “Tango” (1933), “Melodías porteñas” (1937), “Yo quiero ser bataclana” (1941), “Otra cosa es con guitarra” (1949), “Alma de bohemia” (1949), and “Al compás de tu mentira” (1950). Occasionally, the performances on film took place alongside other well-known names, such as Tita Merello, Luis Sandrini and Niní Marshall, as well as Juan de Dios Filiberto, Osvaldo Fresedo, Pedro Maffia and Edgardo Donato’s orchestras, among others.
As television began to occupy a bigger place in the culture, several shows appeared, that were dedicated to the tango music, which by the sixties was already feeling the threat of time and change. D’Arienzo and his orchestra participated in the shows “Palais de Glace” (1959), “Aquí Armenonville” (1960), “Show de CAP”(1962), and “Del Pueblo” (1972).
Anecdotes and interesting facts
- The legend tells that as a young boy, Juan D'Arienzo walked past a store that sold furniture and musical instruments and heard the sound of a piano. He went in and so met a boy his age, also a student of music who would go into the store to practice every time there was a piano for sale. That was the beginning of his friendship with Ángel D’Agostino.
- At the age of sixteen, D'Arienzo played the violin alongside the pianist Eduardo Bonessi. It’s interesting to note that Bonessi taught singing, and one of his students was Carlos Gardel.
- The loss of his good friend Carlos Gardel caused great grief to D'Arienzo, who, in turn, vowed never to travel by airplane. He kept his promise, to the extent that when they were invited to play in Japan, almost all of his orchestra traveled: all but him.
- The start of Echagüe in D’Arienzo’s orchestra wasn’t easy. For some reason, his voice didn’t convince the directors of RCA Victor. For that reason, for the first recording of “Paciencia”, already one of D’Arienzo’s hits, Victor hired the singer Enrique Carbel. Echagüe wouldn’t record it himself until 1951. A similar thing happened at Radio El Mundo, where Echagüe was introduced little by little, until his success with the audience made him also appealing for the radio producers.
- The story goes that around the year 40, at the peak of success, the musicians decided to ask D’Arienzo for a raise. The director declined the petition presented to him by Juan Polito, chosen ambassador by his fellow musicians. Once, twice, three times did D’Arienzo refuse the request, and so was it that they all left him and formed their own orchestra: the Polito-Echagüe. This caused great unease among the audience, articles were printed in newspapers and magazines stating the end of the D’Arienzo had arrived. However, showing once more what he was capable of, in only 15 days he formed a whole new orchestra, with Héctor Varela on bandoneón, Fulvio Salamanca on piano and Cayetano Puglisi on violin, as his stars. The story is well known: D’Arienzo continued to be a hit.
- D'Arienzo attributed himself the creation of the slang term plomo (lit. “lead”), to designate a hard-to-stand, impertinent, annoying individual. Whether or not the word with such meaning is of “D'Arienzan” origin, the fact is it became quite popular and, although it might sound old-fashioned, its use persists in the modern version of Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires and other regions of the country. José Gobello, one of the best-known experts in lunfardo, incorporated the term to his dictionary.
- El libro del tango, Buenos Aires, Galerna, 1977, p.363.
- Los grandes del tango, Editorial Tango, Capital Federal. Año 1, N°1. Nov. 1990, p.17.
- Interview with Carlos Puente. November 2014, whole interview online on tangotunes.com
- Los grandes del tango, p.26.
- Link to youtube video?
- marcación rítmica dura, acentuando uniformemente los cuatro tiempos de cada compás y mechada con nerviosos rellenos pianísticos en los claros de la melodía; solos de violín preferentemente ejecutados en la tesitura grave del instrumento y variaciones de bandoneón extremadamente rápidos y sobre a base de un repertorio de composiciones instrumentales generalmente antiguas, valses criollos y páginas cantables del momento.” El libro del tango, p. 364.
- Yo siento el tango así, a la manera antigua, y como no fui yo quien lo inventó, no me creo con derecho a hacerle cambios que diferencien totalmente su fisonomía. […] Lo fui a buscar a su propia fuente y de la mano lo traje conmigo." En Los grandes del tango, p.31.
- Historia de la orquesta típica. Evolución instrumental del tango, Buenos Aires, Corregidor, 1985, p. 138.
- Idem. “Sonoramente agresivo“
- Idem. “(...) autenticidad rítmica y estructura armónica (...) desdibujando notoriamente todo un interesante y bello complejo sonoro de efectos y recursos de exquisita musicalidad.“
- Some sources indicate a more precise figure, such as 42 recordings, according to Los grandes del tango, p. 30.
- Interview with Carlos Puente. November 2014, whole interview online on tangotunes.com
- Los grandes del tango, p. 24.
- Talk with Carlos Puente about Juan D’Arienzo, TangoTunes, interview on tangotunes.com (March 2015)