Néstor Pinsón

elfino was a schooled musician, who added to his creative talent a deep knowledge of piano mastery, of harmony and counterpoint. He had the level of a concert player. Pioneer of tango romanza, when he composed, together with Juan Carlos Cobián, Sans souci, whose essential features consisted in being a melodic tango, of lyric flight and refined musicality.

As a coincidence, at the same time, Pascual Contursi introduced the lyrics with a plot to tango, with the verses of “Mi noche triste (Lita)” which associated to Gardel's creative voice gave birth to tango canción, that is noted for a lyric that tells us a story, with a beginning, a development and an ending, generally dramatic.

But it is interesting to make clear that Contursi added verses of ad-lib inspiration to known instrumental tangos. That is to say that his creation was subsequent to music, he did not do it in communion with the composer.

Enrique Delfino is who, in the year 1920 created the musical pattern for tango canción. He reduced the structure in the instrumental tangos —that had as a rule three sections, to two sections— and agreed with the lyricist and playwright Samuel Linnig to write “Milonguita (Esthercita)” that, according to my point of view, would be strictly speaking the first tango canción.

This tango, possibly one of his fundamental works, was premiered at the old teatro Opera on May 12, 1920, on occasion of the one-act farce Delikatessen by Samuel Linnig and Alberto Weisbach, and the actress María Esther Podestá was its first interpreter.

Those who knew him used to say that the piano was an appendage of Delfino's hands. He despised the rhythmic conventionalism of tango milonga written on sheet music with the typical accompaniment of habanera. «Tango is not played like that, it has to be written as it really sounds.»

He complained of having been copied and so he told the musician and musical critic Pompeyo Camps: «Take my tango “Araca la cana”, put it to the test and write its melody doubling the note values.» Camps did it and from his piano sprang up the notes and the melody of Mariano Mores's tango “Adiós pampa mía”.

He was ironical about Juan D'Arienzo's and Rodolfo Biagi's styles, and he respectfully praised Osvaldo Fresedo's way and accepted Horacio Salgán and Astor Piazzolla, among the young.

He was born in Buenos Aires by the turn of the century and his early childhood was spent on the aisles of the Politeama Theater, at the corner of Corrientes Avenue and Paraná Street. There his parents were the owners of the theater tearoom. When they realized that the boy had abilities for music they sent him to a musical institute in the city of Torino, Italy.

On his comeback, having a strong inclination to nightlife and bohemia, he fled to Montevideo where he stayed for three years.

He started to compose and play there, working for a living under the nickname Delfy. He was humorist, fantasy piano player, he made the audience laugh and sing.

Back in Buenos Aires, he joined the Cuarteto de Maestros with Osvaldo Fresedo, Tito Roccatagliata and Agesilao Ferrazzano.

In 1920, he is one of the members of the Orquesta Típica Select also lined up by Fresedo and Rocatagliatta, especially hired to record tangos in the United States for the Victor label.

As well he performed on radio, committed to disc piano solos on Nacional and Victor records, and accompanied figures such as Sofía Bozán, Azucena Maizani and other outstanding artists of the period in recording sessions.

He revered Verdi and Wagner, but his preferred musician was Puccini. Such was his admiration for this composer that the characters of the opera La Bohème revive in the lyrics of his tango Griseta, that he wrote together with José González Castillo.

Delfino's creative trend is followed by other major musicians of the quality of Juan Carlos Cobián, the brothers Julio De Caro and Francisco De Caro, Osvaldo Fresedo and Joaquín Mora.

He composed over two hundred tangos, wrote music for the movies, for numerous theater plays and toured several European countries, performing as a clownish player and humorist.

When at an opportunity he was asked how he made possible the coexistence of the joy of his public appearances with the sentiment and seriousness of his compositions, he replied: «My tangos are like me, kind of porteño, kind of romantic, kind of nostalgic. The musical humorist is an artistic ability I have, which gave me a certain recognition and made me very happy.»

Among his most important tangos, true classics of the genre, are: “Re fa si”, “Milonguita”, “Haragán”, “La copa del olvido”, “Bélgica”, “Araca corazón”, “Aquel tapado de armiño”, “Palermo”, “Padrino pelao”, “Otario que andás penando”, “Ventanita florida”, “Lucecitas de mi pueblo”, “Recuerdos de bohemia”, “Santa milonguita”, “Claudinette”, “Padre nuestro” and “Al pie de la Santa Cruz”. There was a time when everybody in Buenos Aires sang his melodies, which were interpreted by the principal orchestras and were sang by the best vocalists.

The interpretation of “Milonguita (Esthercita)”, with Hugo Del Carril's voice is touching, and what should we say of the rendition of “Griseta” by Ignacio Corsini, where he sang the whole refrain with a falsetto voice.

If something evidences the magnitude of his work, it's enough to say that Gardel recorded 26 of his numbers, among which we highlight: “Aquel tapado de armiño”, “Araca, la cana”, “Dicen que dicen”, “Estampilla”, “Padre nuestro”, “Palermo” and “El rey del cabaret”.

He was a lovable person, a gentleman, but above all things, an exceptional musician that filled a wide space in the Argentine music.