Horacio Pettorossi

Real name: Gemignani Pettorossi, Horacio
Nicknames: El Marqués
Guitarist, composer and leader
(21 October 1896 - 25 December 1960)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Rubén Pesce

e was an excellent guitarist that as such placed his qualities as composer in a second level because of the acclaim of his appearances. Such is the case of “Fea” that with lyrics by Alfredo Navarrine was firstly recorded by Ignacio Corsini in 1924 and by Carlos Gardel in the following year. Also with lyrics by Navarrine he composed “Galleguita” and “Torcacita”. They were recorded by Corsini in 1923 and 1924 and by Gardel one year later.

But prior to the above three he had already composed only instrumentals: “Pico de oro [b]”, a tango milonga dedicated to the nice duo Gardel-Razzano, Editorial Breyer; “El correntino”, tango milonga dedicated to the renowned jockey and composer Mr. Daniel Cardoso; also “La Ñatita”, dedicated to the noteworthy composer Vicente Fernández and recorded by the group led by José Arturo Severino in 1919.

At age five he started to play guitar and when he finished grade school he devoted himself only to study that instrument. He worked for the well-known firm Avelino Cabezas and at the post office in order to help his family budget and also to be able to devote to what he liked without remorse.

His peer José Ricardo included him in a group of twenty guitars to back a scene of the pericón (a national dance) in the play Juan Moreira reprised in 1915 by the Elías Alippi-José González Castillo company. At the finale, “Fiesta criolla”, Gardel-Razzano and also Francisco Martino sang. By that time he was acquainted with Gardel.

The following year he joined the José Podestá’s theater company. Then he accompanied the leading singer: Ignacio Corsini. He also backed up the duo known as Las Chilenas (Carmen Moreno and Ernestina Ramírez) who later changed their names and became Las Porteñas.

Some time later he formed the folk group Los de la Leyenda with the female singer Emilia Alba and the singers Monsalvé Corrao and Juan Raggi. They made a short tour and when he came back he put together, for a short time, the Alba-Pettorossi sextet.

Thereafter he formed Los de la Raza with Emilia García, Mario Melfi, Bachicha, the Navarrine brothers and others. They embarked to Europe. In 1923 they had their debut in Madrid at the Prince theater. They toured Spain and returned after a six-month tour.

As they were enthusiastic for traveling abroad they were hired by the famous Sarrasani Circus and, in October 1925, they sailed for Germany. There was a breach of contract and then some came back but others remained in Europe. Pettorossi with Raggi and the female singer Sara Watle traveled to France to appear at the Palermo night club.

Tango was in vogue in Paris. It was the time when at the same time Manuel Pizarro and his brothers, Genaro Espósito, Celestino Ferrer, Eduardo Bianco and Bachicha had a venue where to play. The latter two teamed up to form an orchestra in which Pettorossi was the guitarist.

Later he toured several cities and put together a group with Argentines and Europeans under his leadership. They spread tango in Rumania, Greece, Turkey and Italy. In the latter country he recorded a new tango, “Otoño”, to which Celedonio Flores later added lyrics. He also appeared in Eastern countries.

After a six-year absence he returned to his country. Here he appeared at theaters and on the radio. He played on the Excelsior radio station. Thereafter he again traveled, this time straight to Greece. There he composed his beautiful waltz “Noches de Atenas” for which he also wrote the lyrics. Another tango of that period is “Llueve”.

From Greece he went to Paris. There he met again with Gardel. He collaborated with him as guitarist and composer, he appeared in the movies Melodía de Arrabal and Espérame. In an interview Gardel declared: «As for the songs of the movies, I improvised them with my friend Pettorossi in the set». In December 1932 they returned together on the Giulio Cesare steamship.

In January the following year he joined the quitar quartet that backed up the singer that also included Guillermo Barbieri, Domingo Vivas and Ángel Riverol. He played in sixty recordings and in different appearances of El Zorzal.

He composed “Angustias”, a number inspired on a Colombian air, that later was changed into “Llora corazón”. Also “Acquaforte” with words by Juan Carlos Marambio Catán, composed in Italy and censored because of the anarchist lyrics —so it was pigeonholed then—. They managed to settle the mess but they had to explain that it was an Argentine tango.

They went on together, he and Gardel, traveled to Barcelona and on their comeback to Paris they were accompanied by the agent Armando Defino and his wife and the musician Alberto Castellanos. The latter and Petto (a short form used by his mates) rehearsed the new numbers in Paris. By the end of 1933 they went to New York in an attempt to appear on radio and in future movies. The regulations that protected the local musicians prevented them from appearing as they had planned and Horacio was fed up and came back to Buenos Aires.

In the two radio airings that Gardel made for Argentina —in March and August 1934— the accompanists are the other three boys. Pettorossi did not stop working and, when by the end of that year Gardel called him for his next Latin American tour he said no because of his engagements but he suggested José María Aguilar as his substitute. Gardel agreed and in that way Petto saved his life by not being in the accident of Medellín.

As accompanist or with his own orchestra he appeared along with the female singer Angélica Quiroga and other vocalists. He was hired by Radio Prieto. Soon thereafter he put an end to his travels around the world and settled with is old mother in the city of Mar del Plata until the day he died.

Other numbers that belong to him are: “Esclavas blancas”, “Lo han visto con otra”, “Mi primer gol” —with lyrics by Alfredo Fattorini and musical collaboration by Miguel Bonano—, “Silencio”, “La mujer olvidada” —a number that regarded as the continuation of “Silencio”—, “Gringo” —with lyrics by Manuel Meaños—, “Invierno” —with words by Enrique Cadícamo—, “Los años pasan” —in collaboration with Mario Melfi—, “Tuya” and “No volveré a amar” (waltz) and “Yo soy la tristeza” (tango) —both with words by Mario Battistella—. The above are just only some of his compositions.

(Editor’s Note: According to Rubén Pesce, a serious researcher highly regarded as a scholar in the history of tango, the father of the composer and guitarist was Félix Pettorossi who died when his son was a child and his mother was Juana Gemignani. Instead, another notable researcher, Orlando Del Greco, says exactly the opposite in his book Carlos Gardel y los Autores de sus Canciones (Carlos Gardel and the authors of his songs). He says that Gemignani was his father’s last name and Pettorossi his mother’s.)

From the book La Historia del Tango. Editorial Corregidor Volume 9, Page 1535.