Máximo Barbieri

Real name: Barbieri, Máximo
Guitarist and composer
(18 November 1914 - 3 July 1999)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

t home, when I was a kid, the only radio station we used to hear was LR1 Radio El Mundo de Buenos Aires. And this latter phrase was repeated many times throughout the day by the radio speakers. We knew their names and the art staff, the actors’ and even some technicians’ (like Tignanelli or the sound effects in charge of Guido Gorgatti who later became an actor).

They were so familiar that through the decades we still remember them. The same happened with the musicians of the staff orchestra and, for a long time, the guitarists that accompanied the singers. Even though we did not pay attention to them, the continuous repetition of their names made them be in our memory forever. The speaker used to announce a certain singer and the guitarists Máximo Barbieri, Domingo Laine, etc.

For some years Barbieri, a self-taught player, studied music with the teacher Kilmer Heller at the Conservatorio Williams of the city of Quilmes. Not taking into account his appearances at some local club or at different domestic festivals, his professional career began in 1935 when on the legendary LS3 Radio Mayo (located on Callao 1526) he accompanied Enrique Carbel who later became a vocalist of Juan D'Arienzo.

He was always busy by that time even though the number of singers was huge and everyday a new one appeared. It was a time when tango was like a flood. Steady jobs were important to survive, anything else helped to improve the financial condition. So in 1940, together with other peers, he became staff guitarist for LR3 Radio Belgrano.

Some articles of later years mention that he also worked on LR4 Radio Splendid. This is quite possible because this radio station was located in the same building of Radio Mayo. In 1943 he joined the popular orchestra led by Feliciano Brunelli. And in 1949 he began a nine-year tenure on Radio El Mundo. Some people exaggeratedly say that he stayed for twenty years on the radio station located on Maipú 555.

Among the many singers he used to back up, we can name: Charlo, Azucena Maizani, Agustín Irusta, Néstor Feria, Alberto Marino, Edmundo Rivero.

In 1958 Carlos Figari put together a quartet that included Barbieri to appear at several programs on TV Channel 7. Thereafter his guitar group used to accompany the singer Enrique Dumas.

In 1967 he recorded 4 tracks for the Microfón label along with Domingo Laine, Avelino Casao and Perci. He also released a cassette with 12 numbers. This release had a special feature: six of the numbers on one side were overdubbed by him to achieve a fuller sound for showcasing the soloist. They were: “Chiqué”, “Pa' los que sueñan” —a tango of his—, “Canaro en París”, the waltz “Idilio trunco”, “No atropeyen” —also his own— and “Recuerdo”. On the other side he recorded with Domingo Laine, Juan Carlos Gorrías, Pérsico and the bass player Norberto Samonta: “Nueve de julio”, “Pa' la colonia” —a tango he composed—, “El viejo vals”, “Con dos bemoles” —tango co-written with Roberto Grela—, the ranchera “A media rienda” and the zamba “Mujer [b]”, also one of his compositions.

Other titles of his were: the milonga “De vuelta y media”, his most well-known and spread piece; “Caballo de noria”; “Cielo triste”; “Barriada de mis amores”.

Barbieri was a musician that also worked in other music genres. Even though most of his jobs were in the tango field, as time went by he searched for new paths in folk music and also in classical music.

When nobody was expecting new compositions or, even less, recordings of him, in 1993 an album was published with two pieces by Abel Fleury: “El desvelao” (gato) and “Te vas milonga”, one by Agustín Irusta, his famous zamba “Rosario de Santa Fe” and the following numbers of his own: “Ay corazón” (zamba), “De afuera” (huella), “Sobre la marcha” (tango), “Hoy vivo entre tinieblas” (waltz) and “Puerta afuera” (chacarera doble).

He led his own string group and, at the same time, he was deeply fond of criollismo which he evidenced through several books of poems. Some of them are: Mis memorias (1975), De vuelta y media (1978) —as homage paid to the milonga he wrote—, Entre tizones (1983), Quemando sueños (1988) and, finally, while parting like a swan that foresees his death: Chirlos: versos camperos, ciudadanos, lunfardos y humorísticos.

At age eight-four, his wife’s death —something he was unable to bear— and also a cancer might have made him think: «And now what?» or something of the sort. So he took his gun and shot himself. He was unable to live any longer.

Evidently, in a span of so many years his oeuvre was not aired in the way it deserved but he, surely, found joy while conceiving his music and his books. Because of that we think it is quite fair to remember him by means of these lines in Todo Tango.