Juan Larenza

Real name: Larenza, Juan
Pianist and composer
(8 July 1911 - 17 February 1980)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Lito Bayardo

nspired and prolific composer, he was born in Buenos Aires City. I was fortunate enough to share with this pianist several hits like, for example, the zamba “Mama vieja” that we wrote in 1943. Today it is a classic of its genre. He was born a few yards from San Juan and Boedo and was the youngest of the siblings of an Italian family. His brother Marcelo was a bandoneon player and he also dared to play that instrument secretly.

On his fourteenth birthday his parents surprised him with the gift of a piano. Even though a cousin of his volunteered to teach him his early exercises he was an intuitive musician and had no need of teachings. He was self-taught and also in composing to such an extent that two years later he released his tango “Risa de mujer”. It was recorded by Roberto Firpo on February 23, 1928 with Teófilo Ibáñez on the vocal refrain.

Like so many other musicians when he was a boy he worked by playing the background music for silent movies. That year he joined several groups beginning in the one led by the “fueyero” José Rebolini, composer of the waltz “Una lágrima [b]”.

In 1932 he joined the orchestra led by Alberto Gambino with which he appeared on Radio Belgrano and toured several American countries from Chile to Mexico including Colombia. He learnt other music rhythms and displayed his ability by playing Colombian pasillos and Peruvian waltzes.

He was in Colombia in 1935 when Gardel arrived with his guitarists. As the latter had to appear in wide spaces like the Olimpia movie theater and the Gran Plaza de Toros (Large Bullring) he was hired to play piano along with his accompanists Barbieri, Riverol and Aguilar. He accompanied Gardel until the performance of the evening June 23, a Sunday, on the Bogotá radio. On Monday, June 24, he left to Cali to go on with his tour. Juan told me that the only thing he was able to do was traveling to Medellín to visit the hospital where he found, gravely injured, José María Aguilar and José Plaja (who used to teach English to Gardel and was also his secretary). He stayed with them until their relatives arrived. He was so shocked with the events that he annulled some contracts and decided to return to Buenos Aires.

Here he again was member of the Gambino’s orchestra. It was on LR1 Radio El Mundo where I came to know him. For some years he accompanied the vocal duo I formed with Alfredo Lucero Palacios after Manuel Sucher’s departure. Thereafter he was member of the SADAIC board.

With the guitarists Menéndez and Robledo he accompanied a large number of vocalists in their radio appearances. One of them was Sabina Olmos when she began to sing a tango songbook instead of a folk music repertoire.

Among his many compositions we can mention some he co-wrote with the lyricist Lito Bayardo: the tangos “Noche de fiesta”, “Nuestras vidas”, “Adiós vidalita” and “El paseandero” recorded by Alberto Castillo. The waltz “Flores del alma”, the milongas “Milonga querida”, “Aquí estoy”, “Cartas de amor [b]”, and, among others, the songs: “Coplas de medianoche” and “Gaucho cantor”. With Marsilio Robles he composed the tango “Así es Ninón” and the milonga “Cimarrón de ausencia”. With Cátulo Castillo: “Para que la quiero tanto” and “Están sonando las ocho”. Other numbers are: “El cordobés”, “Mi locura”, “Capicúa”, “El laburante”, “Cerrazón”, “Decile que la perdono”, “De ayer” and “Guapeando”.

Excerpted from the book: 50 años con la canción argentina (Fifty Years With The Argentine Song) by Lito Bayardo.