Julián Ortiz

orn into a family of musicians, when he was only four he showed his inclination for the instrument which led his family to give him the early music lessons that he later furthered in his hometown with teachers such as José and Humberto Benito.

His great devotion led him to study hard and soon he became a fervent admirer of, among others, Debussy, Ravel and Chopin. At a very young age he started his career as concert piano player and appeared at the Hotel Majestic. By that time the famous (Polish pianist) Alexander Brailowsky heard him and specially congratulated him. But also there was tango and he was interested in Francisco De Caro and all the group led by Julio De Caro to such an extent that he together with the violinist Antonio Casanova formed an orchestra that made its debut on the local radio station LT3 evidencing a purely Decarean style.

In 1937 he was discovered by Roberto Zerrillo who included him in his great orchestra with two pianists. The other pianist was Juan Carlos Howard. When he arrived in Buenos Aires he began to live in the famous boarding house on 321 Salta Street which sheltered tango players that dreamed of a good future and because of that arrived in the Capital city from different places. About his life in the boarding house, his wife Luisa said: «Emilio used to tell me many things about the bohemian boarding house La Alegría that I even imagined as if I had experienced it myself» (1985). There he shared a room with another pianist from Rosario, Enrique Munné and they rented two pianos for twenty pesos in Casa Lottermoser. They devoted themselves to further their studies and also to team up as a two-piano duet.

But Rosario summoned them through the art director of the LT8 radio station which needed them to play concerts. They only played for a season and soon came back to the great city. Emilio then joined the orchestra led by the arranger and leader Mario Maurano who also wrote music for movies, especially nearly all the ones that starred by Libertad Lamarque. By that time he also played in the orchestra fronted by Nicolás Vaccaro at the Teatro Dancing Novelty and in it he teamed up with the pianist Carlos Parodi.

When maestro Osvaldo Fresedo knew about the piano capacity of this gifted musician, summoned him to substitute for Lalo Scalise in 1942. Tango people know very well that Fresedo was always a Barbato admirer to such an extent that he allowed him —with a smiling approval— to insert those «showers of pearly notes» which he used to play with mastery and a polished technique in the piano charts.

In 1946, after he had decided to continue his higher studies as concert player, he visited the distinguished professor Esperanza Lothringer, who after listening to his playing, admitted she had never heard a pianist that played Debussy better.

In 1948 he embellished night programs on LR1 Radio El Mundo with piano solos of international popular music accompanied on electric guitar by José Amatriain, on bass by José Sciarretta and on percussion by Carlos Gómez, a well-known jazzman known as “Cachito”. These appearances later continued on Radio Splendid and on Belgrano also. Even though we do not know if there were later public appearances made by him, this talented, complete musician never quit piano playing and devoted himself to classical music and his favorite composers, including tango.

Director’s Note:
This article, without mentioning the author, was published in the special edition of the sheet music of the tango “Pensión de la calle Salta” (SADAIC, 1988). That release, besides the sheet music of the tango-homage, presented a brief portrayal of several musicians that lived there. But as texts are written by someone, we found out that this was written by Julián Ortiz just like the other portrayals that appear in the mentioned publication.

Osvaldo Requena, a great admirer of his, told us: «He was a great pianist that, with Fresedo, defined the style of an orchestra. In the United States there was an important successful pianist named Carmen Cavallaro but I think that that kind of style had been already played by Barbato time before. All those little legato notes he played were an invention of his. When he was with Fresedo and he stopped playing, the orchestra, according to my ear, was turned off and switched to be supported by the violin section».

Fresedo recorded several numbers he composed: “Adiós, adiós corazón” (October 1942) co-written with Félix Lipesker and lyrics by Lito Bayardo, with Oscar Serpa on vocals; “Este viejo corazón” (April 1943), also with Lipesker and lyrics by José María Contursi, Serpa on vocals; “Nana” (June 1944) with Félix Lipesker and lyrics by Cátulo Castillo, sung by Serpa; “Mi piano” (December 1944), words by Lito Bayardo and Serpa on vocals; “Libre” (November 1945), lyrics by Homero Expósito and Oscar Serpa, vocals; “Ya no volverán [b]” and “Loco torbellino”, with lyrics by Homero Expósito; “Pobre Fanfán”, co-written with Elvino Vardaro and words by Cátulo Castillo. Also, among so many others, a mountain song: “Clareando”, maybe the less known, but undoubtedly, is the most beautiful, subtle number he has conceived.