Rosendo Mendizábal

Real name: Mendizábal, Rosendo Cayetano
Nicknames: Anselmo Rosendo (A. Rosendo)
Pianist and composer
(21 April 1868 - 30 June 1913)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
By
Juan Silbido

endizábal was born in Buenos Aires in 1868. His parents were Argentine: Horacio Mendizábal and Petrona Escalada.

His family was at a solid financial position, but when he was only three years old, he and his brother Sergio were orphaned by the death of their father.

During Rosendo's adolescence his financial resources allowed him to study piano at home.

According to what his daughter Carmen told us, he received more than enough assets in the proceeding for settling the family estate: the fabulous amount of $ 300.000, an estate located on Pilar Street(now, Montevideo Street), in front of the 6 de Junio Square (today, Vicente López Square). The unrestrained youth of Rosendo plus his uncontrolled inclination for fun wasted that fortune with an exquisite lack of remorse.

We very often read commentaries about his body features: a gallant brunet with certain arrogance in his features. It triggered our curiosity. The only portrait of his that we have seen, appeared in some publications, was no other thing but a simple drawing.

We began to look after any existing photograph of his; about it, collectors and connoisseurs thought that it was almost a vain effort, because no one had even ever seen it and it was doubtful that it could exist any picture of his in a good state of conservation.

Our research was hard and without rest, but finally, we are glad to bring Rosendo´s portrait to the reader's eyes.

We drew him in full body after a thorough analysis of an old unpublished photograph, the only one of his, kept by his daughters.


On it he is shown when he was 24 years old, and it is worth saying, that his posture and the clothes he was wearing are painted with a light stroke.

He is leaning one of his arms on a small classic fust, his haircut alla Umberto, with delicate face features on a dark skin, and an inevitable sharp-ending moustache. White neckerchief, long jacket, waistcoat with lapels and trousers with a dubious ironing. Such was the brief outline of Rosendo's look, whose presence springs up every time we hear his compositions.

Let us go on talking about his life. The lavishness with which he spent his money finally emptied his pocket. Fortunately, his musical knowledge made possible for him to teach piano at well-to-do homes. In such a way he earned his living for a time.

As for his work performed in venues for dancing, Héctor Bates and Luis Bates in their Historia del tango tell us:

«Among the venues Rosendo frequented we find the Tarana. Let us add the houses run by two women: La vieja Eustaquia and La parda Adelina among other places of his early gigs».

Data concerning the location of the latter is omitted. The Tarana later called J. Hansen, is notorious, it was placed in Palermo (Parque 3 de Febrero).

«Furthermore he was an irreplaceable pianist at the dance room run by the brunette Laura Montserrat (Paraguay Street near the corner of Pueyrredón Ave.). It was frequented by wealthy customers, and among them many turf professionals were found; that explains why a great number of his tangos bear such titles as: “Reina de Saba”, “Don Padilla” and “Polilla”, names that were outstanding in the Palermo and Belgrano horse-racing tracks».

«Rosendo generally played as a soloist, and his income depended on the generosity of the attendants. A violinist and a flutist joined him if the importance of the session made it necessary, the repertoire to be played was read on handwritten lead sheets because tangos at that period were not published». References quoted from the Diccionario teatral del Río de la Plata, by Tito Lívio Foppa.

By 1897, it seems, the sparkling and unforgettable bars of the tango “El Entreriano” ([sic] on the cover of the first edition) were first heard at the previously mentioned dance hall run by the brunette Laura.

A great number of tangos were lost because the early ones were not published. By that time, in case they were committed to paper, they were handwritten. Generally, musicians when there was no sheet music, played by ear. But in the case of a bad player, you do not have to make a great effort to imagine the result.

The oldest covers of Rosendo's tangos were published by Prelat brothers.

All them are laden with witty humor, furthermore they are authentic documents, as far as their dedications are concerned. The composer's relationships parade through them, it appearing friendly connections with judges, bankers, politicians, musicians and even the above mentioned pur sang (pure-blooded horses).

Usually his last name was not printed on them, they could only be identified by his artistic pseudonym: A. Rosendo (Anselmo Rosendo).

Many chapters of his life will remain definitively ignored, since those who knew him have passed away. Including his three sons, one of them called Rosendo that, according to what his sister Carmen told us, was aware of details of his father's life.

Certain information was coincidental about stating the existence of a disciple. That person would be the dark-skinned professor Plácido Simoni Alfaro. We tried to spot him but we only found vague references. Previously based in Palermo, running a musical conservatory located on 5000 Córdoba Avenue. Later, based in the interior of the country. In SADAIC (Sociedad Argentina de Autores y Compositores, Argentine Society of Authors and Composers) we were informed that the pianist Alfaro, although from time to time, used to go there.

In fact, we have lost his track and it frustrated our research wish.

We do not know any recording made by Rosendo Mendizábal in person; collectors whose opinion we trust expressed a similar view.

Rosendo was an affectionate father of seven children: four girls and three boys, the latter are dead.

A painful poverty and a gradual physical decline was the sad panorama that Mendizábal lived in his final stage.

His death certificate whose abstract we go on reading says so: «Yesterday at eight:thirty in the evening on 1713 San Salvador Street Rosendo Mendizábal died of uremia... age: forty-five, musician».

Let us add that this document was drawn up on July 1st, 1913, we consequently infer by associating references given by his daughter: born on April 21, then the year of his birth is no other but 1868.

According to the present nomenclature of the streets, San Salvador corresponds to El Salvador in the neighborhood of Palermo.

While we are writing this biographical sketch, half a century has elapsed since Rosendo Mendizábal's demise.

He was an authentic forerunner of our popular music. As time goes by, the value and quality of his work grow with indelible edges; the following are titles that speak for themselves: “El entrerriano”, “Don José María”, “Don Enrique”, “Don Horacio”, “Don Santiago”, “Viento en popa”, “El torpedero”, “Z Club”, “Tigre Hotel”, “Tres Arroyos”, “Don Padilla”, “Polilla”, “Reina de Saba”, “Final de una garufa”, “México”, “Le petit parisien”, “A la luz de los faroles”, “Alberto”, “Contra flor y el resto”, “Pronto regreso”, “A la larga”, “Los dos leones”, “Matilde”, “Por aquí que no hay espina”, “Rosendo” and “Arrabalera [b]” (milonga).

Published in Evocación del tango, by Juan Silbido, Buenos Aires 1964.