Ricardo García Blaya

very tango lover has a personal vision towards the artists' values, and that is all right, our taste and personal experiences define us in the choice of ones or others.

Certainly, when we talk about tango as song, there is an unanimous agreement in the incomparable figure of Carlos Gardel, something that does not happen when the opinion is about orchestras or the rest of the musicians or singers.

The case of Eduardo Arolas, is another exception, his extraordinary talent as composer, places him one a rank above the rest, what is a merit even greater if we take into account that in his time the major tango creators appeared. Let us remember musicians of the category of Agustín Bardi, Vicente Greco, Arturo De Bassi, Juan Carlos Cobián, Roberto Firpo, among so many others.

So Gardel and Arolas are, in my opinion, the basement of modern tango, the former, born French and porteño (Argentine from Buenos Aires) by adoption, the latter, Argentine with French parents.

Gifted with an incredible melodic creativity, he stepped into the musical environment as a modest player of guitar, his first instrument, introduced by his friend Ricardo González, (Muchila).

But the bandoneon will be responsible for his consecration and the faithful witness of his genius and his tormented life.

A few years were enough for him to compose more than a hundred pieces of excellent quality, where he evidenced a modern and complex structure, full of possibilities for arrangements and variations.

The melodies are not less, they convey melancholy, romanticism and, in some, there is an overwhelming dramatism, but they are all made of an infinite beauty, inherent property of the modernist spirit of the author.

Paraphrasing the dear researcher Héctor Ernié, we are considering«“a phenomenon with capital letters», who only lived 32 years.

All his work is a tribute to excellence, “El Marne”, “La cachila”, “Comme il faut”, “La guitarrita”, “Lágrimas”, “Maipo”, “Retintín”, “Viborita”, “Catamarca” and “Derecho viejo”; the latter, an impressive boom.

His first tune “Una noche de garufa” (1909) was conceived intuitively, by ear, repeated by rote, because he did not sight-read music and even less write it on a music staff. It was Francisco Canaro who first helped him to commit it to paper, by writing the violin part, later Carlos Hernani Macchi wrote the part corresponding to the piano.

At this early period which culminated in 1912, he composed various tangos among which “Nariz” and “El rey de los bordoneos” outstand, the latter as a homage to the guitarist Graciano de Leone.

In 1911 he started musical training at the conservatory led by the maestro José Bombig and after three years he learnt theory, solfegge and harmony.

That same year he assembled his first group with the guitarist Leopoldo Thompson and on violin, Eduardo Ponzio, performing at different cafés in Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

Soon he lined up a trio with the great Agustín Bardi on piano, and the violinist Tito Roccatagliatta and, in 1912, a quartet with the latter and the flutist José Gregorio Astudillo and on nine-stringed guitar, Emilio Fernández.

The following year he was requested by the leader Roberto Firpo to play at the cabaret Armenonville in the neighborhood of Palermo and at other venues, to finally assemble his own orchestra.

Between 1913 and 1916, having already studied solfegge and harmony, his pieces “Delia”, “Derecho viejo”, “La guitarrita” and “Rawson” came out, among others less known. Also the tango “Fuegos artificiales”, a composition made together with Roberto Firpo.

Afterwards, a great number of trips to Uruguay, performing successfully at the Teatro Casino in Montevideo, a city where he settled trying to forget a love drama which would mark him for the rest of his life (see Notes on Arolas and his times).

However, he often came to Buenos Aires to fulfil specific contracts and performances, but he exiled himself again after each stint.

In 1917 as featured bandoneonist he joined the big orchestra resulting from the fusion of Canaro's and Firpo's units, especially assembled for the carnival dancing parties in Rosario.

From 1917 and until his death, he composed his most famous tangos, some of them masterpieces of the cultural heritage of our urban music, I am talking of “La cachila” and “El Marne”.

From that period also are: “Comme il faut”, “Retintín”, “Moñito (Marrón Glacé)”, “Rocca”, “Taquito”, “Lágrimas”, among many others.

In 1920 he embarked towards France and shortly afterwards he came back to Buenos Aires for the last time.

Back in Paris, ill and alcoholic, he died on 29 September 1924, leaving his last work, the only one written in France: “Place Pigall”.

Arolas was avant-garde in composition and also in tango playing. His orchestra was different to others, in 1917, he began to record for the Victor company, where his sound, his shine and a beat of a peculiar shake was evidenced.

Ernié says: «His rhythmic drive at this period is much more elastic, not so rigid and denotes a greater musical flight, a more singable quality, and a bigger sound. It turns out —in comparison with the rest of the orchestras of the time— the most advanced».

Later he mentions the inclusion of instruments not considered by other directors, such as the violoncello, the saxophone or the banjo.

The fact of the poor acknowledgement of Arolas as interpreter owes, essentially, to the bad quality of discographic recordings.

A special paragraph for three of his compositions which were not much broadcasted is necessary.

I am talking in first place of “Viborita”, with an exquisite melody which we can fully appreciate on the recording by the violinist Agesilao Ferrazzano's orchestra in 1927. Secondly, “Lágrimas” where I highlight the rendition by Alberto Mancione's orchestra in 1953, with a delicate arrangement respectful of the original piece.

And, finally, “Qué querés con esa cara (La guitarrita)”, the most perfect example of the influence which our folk music had on our Bohemian urban composer. There are many versions which I like of this tango, but I suggest two: Francisco Canaro's in 1930 and Osvaldo Pugliese's in 1954.

As for his most widely spread and major works, “La cachila” has so many recordings that it would deserve a special chapter, since most orchestras incorporated it to their repertories. Of all them I prefer the maestro Carlos Di Sarli's version, in 1941.

We can say the same about “El Marne”, which besides is the musical theme of our radio programme Siempre el TangoOsvaldo Fresedo's orchestra in 1980— but, undoubtedly, 1952 Aníbal Troilo's rendition and Horacio Salgán's recorded the following year, stand out.

Arolas was a unique genius, who is renewed permanently and who touches us every time we listen to the deep character of his work.