Ricardo García Blaya

o write the portrayal of Eduardo Rovira is a challenging task. He was a nonconformist musician that deviated from the traditional model striving for new sounds and other aesthetic designs for tango. He was not an obsessive with the stubborn idea of simply transgressing, he was a musician that tried to contribute to the musical evolution to transmit the sounds of a city that shelters the contemporary man.

Nélida Rouchetto thinks that he uses the structure of chamber music and she adds: «He applied a constant in his complex treatments, with tonal and atonal rhythmical superimpositions. He introduced the structured combination of the twelve-tone series for the first time in the genre... In his treatments syncopation does not exist, something that was well used by Astor Piazzolla... For Rovira counterpoint has a major role...»

But beyond the technical aspect, Rovira is a different musician like Piazzolla. But between them there are no elements in common, nor influences of one to the other. They are two searches that split with almost everything previous, but following different roads.

He admired the Decarian avant-garde, Orlando Goñi and his syncopations, but especially Alfredo Gobbi, to whom he paid homage by composing two pieces: “El engobbiao” and “A Don Alfredo Gobbi”.

In his youth he was bandoneonist and, in some cases, arranger of the orchestras he joined. He started in the early 40s with the Francisco Alessio's orchestra, continued with Vicente Fiorentino and later with Antonio Rodio. He was member of the mythical and ephemeral orchestra led by Orlando Goñi. And in the second half of the decade he joined the aggregations led by Miguel Caló, first, and Osmar Maderna, later.

In 1949, he conducted the orchestra of the singer Alberto Castillo and, according to Oscar Del Priore’s recollections, he wrote the original arrangement for “Pobre mi madre querida”.

After a tenure with the Roberto Caló’s outfit he put together an orchestra to perform on Radio Splendid, between 1951 and 1952. He as well played with José Basso and in 1956 with Alfredo Gobbi.

In 1957, he teamed up with the vocalist Alfredo del Río to put together their own orchestra devised in a style respectful of conventional danceable tango. Time later they split but Rovira continued with the musical group, now with the vocalists José Berón —Raúl’s brother— and Jorge Hidalgo. In 1958, he as well worked as lead bandoneon and arranger in the orchestra of the great pianist Osvaldo Manzi. With the latter later he formed a trio that also included the bassist Kicho Díaz and the female vocalist Silvia Del Río.

Two years later he launched his Agrupación de Tango Moderno which he defined as designed for «tango from the waist upwards», in other words, meant for listening not for dancing.

It consisted of only one bandoneon that Rovira played, Osvaldo Manzi on piano, Reynaldo Nichele was the lead violin, accompanied in the section by Ernesto Citón and Héctor Ojeda, Mario Lalli on viola, Enrique Lannoo on violoncello and on double bass, Fernando Romano.

With Atilio Stampone and Nichele they formed a trio that made its debut in November 1965 on the stage of Gotán, a venue where they performed until 1970.

Finally, he moved to the city of La Plata, capital of the Province of Buenos Aires, where he settled. There he wrote the orchestrations for the provincial police band.

Rovira is a prolific creator; he composed around 200 tango pieces and nearly a hundred pieces for chamber music. The following we think are standouts: “A don Alfredo Gobbi”, “A don Pedro Santillán”, “A Evaristo Carriego” (a hit by Osvaldo Pugliese), “Azul y yo”, “Bandomanía”, “Contrapunteando”, “El engobbiao” (a masterpiece in the rendering of Gobbi himself), “El violín de mi ciudad”, “Febril” (for me his outstanding piece), “Majomaju”, “Milonga para Mabel y Peluca”, “Opus 16”, “Pájaro del alma”, “Preludio de la guitarra abandonada”, “Que lo paren”, “Sanateando”, “Sónico” (his other emblematic piece), “Tango en tres”, “Tango para Charrúa”, “Tango para Ernesto” and “Taplala” (La Plata).

In an interview for the daily paper La Prensa made in July 1969 they asked him his opinion about tango: «Tango is an experience, is something that represents the way of living and feeling of each one». Later he was inquired about the new trends: «Most people think that tango is only a dance, something necessarily danceable, when in fact, that is the poorest aspect of tango in the musical field. I'm interested in getting to the essence of tango, to the harmonic progressions, to the variation of its rhythms, to the development of the phrases».

He expressly recognizes Piazzolla and places him as the best musician in the nation, but he adds: «We are different, but reciprocally necessary, even though maybe only in the field of stimulation. I want to improve what he does, like maybe he wants to improve what I do. I wish there were more Piazzollas because competition would get much more from the two of us.»

These concepts define the personality of a musician that risked popularity for an evolutive search in the genre. He made a bet with his musical ideas, without looking sideways, but admitting his roots in De Caro and contributing his talent and his creative audacity to tango.

He died of a heart attack in the street, at a young age, when he was fifty-five, in front of the door of his house in La Plata.