Julio Nudler

oisés Nijensohn was an outstanding student of yeshiva (Talmudic studies) in Latvia. Because of that Ana Simuni's parents regarded him as a good match for her daughter. They were the owners of a baker's shop and they paid his trip to Kishenev, in Besarabia, so that he could marry their daughter. Money and religious knowledge fit very well. From that wedlock Colman was born, the latter, in turn, chose as his wife a far removed cousin, Clara Pogrebinsky. Despite his good financial position, Colman began to be a militant member of the socialist party. Because of that he was persecuted and had to emigrate with all his family.

Already in Buenos Aires, where they arrived just before 1900, they opened a baker's shop, associated for some time with the Canales. Old and ill, Moisés died in 1913. Three years later Colman was badly wounded when somebody tried to kill him. The family has two versions about that. According to one of them, somewhat fantastic, a henchman was sent from Saint Petersburg in order to murder him for political reasons. According to the other, the bullet that made him a paralytic was shot by a worker, apparently an anarchist, that he had dismissed. By that time, Miguel, Colman's youngest child, born on December 1, 1911, was four years old.

At the Nijensohns' place there was a piano. Three of his six children played it: Ambrosio and Matías (both physicians), Rodolfo (one of the first bus drivers of line 1), Natalio (drafstman and later visitador médico), Rosa and Miguel. The latter, even though he was the youngest, surpassed all his brothers and sisters. His future was expected to be a career in the classical music field. As a matter of fact, his musical instruction was extremely serious: he studied piano with Vicente Scaramuzza and harmony with Gilardo Gilardi.

But Miguel preferred to join the Roberto Firpo Orchestra, with which he went on a tour of South America when he was only fourteen. Nobody would say no. His father had died and Clara, a sort of Jewish princess, and her children had exhausted the family fortune in a few years.

In 1927, Miguel joined a trio with Aníbal Troilo, then only 13, and the violinist Domingo Zapia at the café Río de la Plata in the neighborhood of Caballito. When he was 17, Miguel was called to join the sextet led by the violinist Roberto Dimas. Since 1935 he joined Los Poetas del Tango, a quintet lined-up with the bandoneonists Héctor Artola and Francisco Fiorentino and the violinists Antonio Rodio and Miguel Bonano.

Around that time he made his debut as leader of his own group that he put together to play at the boite Lucerna on 567 Suipacha Street run by the violinist José Nieso. There he backed the singer Antonio Rodríguez Lesende with whom he premiered “Nostalgias”, a tango piece written by Juan Carlos Cobián and Enrique Cadícamo.

A very important step in Nijensohn's career was when he joined the Miguel Caló Orchestra in 1936 in which he was pianist as well as arranger. The latter task was shared with Argentino Galván. Three years later Héctor Stamponi replaced him until 1940 when Osmar Maderna joined the orchestra as pianist. The latter was responsible of the sound that should be the trademark of the orchestra forever.

When in 1945 the composer of “Escalas en azul” left, Caló decided to call Nijensohn back. The latter had to adjust his arrangements to Maderna's style, so Caló made him listen the recordings of that period. Miguel gave no chance of a rest to his pencil: during tours he took advantage of the long trips on train to write the orchestra scores.

In 1939, he married Raquel. He had come to know her at a ball. She was the daughter of Gregorio Ilivitzky who run a furniture shop in La Paternal. His parents gave birth to twelve children: five boys that died of different ailments and seven girls that survived.

For Raquel that his first child would die a week after his birth did not turn out, then, an event so unexpected. The second child was Eduardo. Born in 1942, he not only lived but also years later became a neuro-radiologist and a good tango singer. Later Alicia was born. The furniture seller did not like a musician as son-in-law, but he had accepted it because he at least was a Jew. Raquel, instead, was fascinated by the glamour of Miguel's artistic life, even though she did not accept the dark side of it: his absences, his night life, his late hours that made difficult his chance to be with his children. But Miguel never got along very well with other ventures. His element was music to which he was deeply devoted, so much so that he was the main arranger of Miguel Caló's orchestra.

Highly regarded in the tango circles because of his knowledge, renowned figures incapable to write music, such as Rodolfo Sciammarella, whistled to him their tangos so that he would write and harmonize them.

Nijensohn was the musical director of a contest for singers in 1955 at the Luna Park. The winners were Jorge Budini and Mario Bonet. He then put together an orchestra and made them join it. The bandoneon players were Víctor Lavallén, Manuel Daponte, Ángel Álvarez and Eduardo Cortti, later replaced by Osvaldo Montes. Thereafter the latter substituted for Lavallén in the role of lead bandoneon. The violin players were Emilio González, Raúl Domínguez (Finito), Pedro Sapochnik and Milo Dojman.

In 1958, the singer Alberto Hidalgo, (aka El Chino), winner of a contest at the Tango Bar of Flores joined his group. He recorded for Odeon.

Meanwhile Miguel's hazardous amatorial life kept on causing vicissitudes: by that time his lover was a female singer, but her brothers began to blackmail him with telephone calls to his family. Finally, to evade her reproaches, Miguel decided to go away from home but his wife tracked him wherever he went. After that life became impossible for him: Raquel considered herself dishonored and threatened to kill herself.

In 1958, Nijensohn was appointed musical director of Radio del Pueblo when Antonio Maida was the head of the radio station. The following year he formed the so-called Cuarteto de Oro (Gold Quartet) comprised with he himself on piano, Milo Dojman on violin and Mauricio Chulman and Ángel Álvarez on bandoneons. He demanded 10.000 pesos of that time per show, a sum that nobody wanted to pay. So that quartet never played anywhere.

He as well put together a quintet with four bandoneons (Chulman, Daponte, Montes and Álvarez) and piano to play as intermission show at the cinema theater Ópera. Miguel adapted classical pieces for that line-up. The stint lasted only two months.

In 1969, along with the bandoneonist Juan Carlos Bera he formed the A Puro Tango quartet. They recorded a long-playing record.

As composer he made some hits by means of the recordings of Juan D'Arienzo, Miguel Caló, Carlos Di Sarli and other orchestras. Probably his most polished tango was “Un desolado corazón” with lyrics by the announcer Roberto Miró. Di Sarli recorded it with Oscar Serpa in 1954.

In collaboration with the violinist José Nieso and the lyricist José María Suñé he released pieces that reached a certain repercussion: “Yo quiero cantar un tango”, “Viento malo”, “Castigo”, “Sol” and “Decime qué pasó”. With lyrics by Juan Pueblito he wrote “Leyenda del río”. With the violinist Pedro Héctor Pandolfi he composed “Derrotao”, with lyrics by Julio Jorge Nelson, and “Caballo de calesita”, in this case with Carlos Marín. “La vendedora” bore a quite anodyne lyric by Carlos Bahr. Other outstanding pieces of his were “Disco rayado” and “Tango compadrón”.

As he was a person very popular in the tango milieu he always got some interpreter for his creations.

Nijensohn separated from his wife in 1974 after a long rather unhappy cohabitation that for a long time coexisted with the love affair that Miguel had with the wife of rancher whom he, on occasions, introduced as his true wife. Raquel, ambitious and witty, used to earn money in many ways. At a time when she sold advertisements for Tiro Federal (Federal Shooting Poligon) she used to drive with a true arsenal in her car. He felt the permanent pressure of the financial rivalry that Raquel meant for him.

After the breaking up, Miguel and his son Eduardo went to live to Chicago, where he hardly continued his life as musician. In the meantime Raquel underwent serious depressions and urged him to come back. He finally returned in 1979 and they went to settle in Mar del Plata, probably to stay away from the milieu or to start again their life as a couple in a place where they were strangers without history. They lived at a very small apartment where they both, four years later on a winter day, died due to a gas leakage. It was never cleared out if it was an accident or a suicide. Rests of a meal of the night before were found on their table.

Excerpted from the book, Tango Judío. Del Ghetto a la Milonga, Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires 1998.