Arturo Bernstein

Real name: Bernstein, Arturo Herman
Nicknames: El Alemán
Bandoneonist, composer and leader
(17 November 1882 - 20 September 1935)
Place of birth:
Petrópolis (Rio de Janeiro) Brazil
Juan Silbido

e was born in the city of Petropolis (Brazil), on November 17, 1882. His father Adolf Bernstein and his mother Augusta Cosbab were born in Germany.

It has resulted impossible for us to find data of his early steps in music. What we know is that he played piano, violin, guitar and bandoneon -he was one of the early players of that instrument- without any previous formal training.

Around 1903, he made his debut at the Cafe Royal, located at the neighborhood of La Boca (Suárez and Necochea), with a group he put together for the occasion.

On August 26, 1907, he married Miss Katherine Mary Rayn, an English woman, 21 years old. Their home was blessed with four daughters, but they all are dead now.

Later El Alemán got a job at Bagley, but a situation derived from a union conflict caused his dismissal. Some time later he worked as lithographer.

The most famous venues in which he played were: Café La Marina (Suárez and Necochea), Café El Caburé (Entre Ríos and Cochabamba), Café El Parque (Lavalle and Talcahuano), Café T.V.O. and Café La Morocha (Corrientes and Carril, southwest corner).

By that period he recorded for the label Atlanta, accompanied by his brother Luis Bernstein (guitar), Vicente Pepe (violin) and Ventosa Pita (flute).

In 1915 he performed at the social centers: Unione e Benevolenza, Fratellanza, Cavour and at the renowned Gato Negro. He later appeared at the Tabarín cabaret, Palais de Glace and at the aristocratic Plaza Hotel.

In 1920 the barroom Victoria, in the capital of Córdoba, was visited by the quartet whose members were: Arturo Bernstein and Ciriaco Ortiz (bandoneons), Tito Roccatagliata (violin) and Juan Carlos Cobián (piano). On that same stage many qualified players of our popular music received the audience's acclaim.

Following there is an expressive commentary by Carlos de la Púa:

«Bernstein, however, started playing excerpts of classical music and opera successfully; later he included tango, a genre in which he would stand out as one of its idols. At that time musicians played "by ear", but El Alemán stuck to the written music. About that we may cite a funny episode: there was a hot argument about who had been the players that performed at a café at Barracas. Was it Bernstein, or El Tano? Ernesto Ponzio had been listening to it and he meddled with this assured statement: "If the guys played with a piece of paper in front of them, it was the Alemán's group, if they played their repertory in the open air, it was the Tano's".»

At Bernstein's domicile, on Herrera Street, he placed his well-known academy. Many students went there from 8 AM to 10 PM, for the cheap price of $ 10 a month. Names such as: Carlos Marcucci, El Pelado Federico Scorticati, Pereyra, Navarro and Olmedo, among others, attended it. That academy moved to a place located two blocks far from Lanús railway station (4368 Del Valle Iberlucea Street). Only a month it stayed at that location because as there was no students' attendance he had to give up his purpose.

Bernstein had a good-tempered generous mood, he fully transferred his knowledge unworried by the material aspect of his task. Consequently, he noticeably grew short of his not-at-all easy financial resources. We should say that to satisfy his ambition the expressive phrasing of the bandoneon he cradled with his reliable hands was enough.

It seems that in 1935 his last show took place on LS6 (Radio Del Pueblo). The group was led -no less than- by Enrique Saborido, accompanied, among others, by veteran players: Maximiliano and Moresio (guitars), El Tano Vicente Pecci (flute), Vicente Pepe (violin) and Arturo Bernstein (bandoneon). According to “La morocha”'s composer, his purpose to create a tango revival was shared by those who accompanied him when tango was unfortunately spinning more than a teetotum.

El Alemán died of a brain hemorrhage on September 20, 1935, at his domicile on 1216 Herrera Street, near the corner with Olavarría.

Nearly a month later, on October 15, a homage was organized to collect some money for his relatives. It was made at the cinema theater Güemes (972 Montes de Oca Ave.). The price of the tickets was $1. The following artists contributed with their appearance: Francisco Canaro, Osvaldo Fresedo, Edgardo Donato, Marcos Ramírez, Carlos Marcucci, Petronila and Candelario, Ernesto Famá, Andrés Falgás, Oscar Ugarte, Teófilo Ibáñez, Juan José de Soiza Reilly, Fanny Loy, Bolazo and Cúneo, Pochita, Fedora Cabral, Ciriaco Ortiz, Los Méndez and Daniel Alvarez.

Bernstein, as composer, has not left a great number of works, with the following titles we think we are mentioning his total output: tangos: “Rama caída”, “La gaita”, “La carambola”, “No hay partido sin revancha”, “Mala suerte”, “¡Celos!...” and “Pangaré”; waltz: “Amor ideal” and the pasodoble: “Plus Ultra”.

Published in the book: Evocación del Tango, by Juan Silbido, Buenos Aires, 1964.