Don Pepe Tango
León Benarós

Don Pepe - Ernesto Drangosch and his tango “Don Pepe”

t is curious, encouraging and even challeging that notable music maestros, like the foreigners Leopoldo Corretjer or Eugenio de Alarcón, and outstanding local musicians, like Carlos López Buchardo (composer of “Pare el tranguay, mayoral”), had dared to compose and even publish tangos (always, certainly, without lyrics) when the sometimes contemptuously called «tanguito» was a forbidden thing coming from the outskirts or, even worse, from whorehouses.

DrangoschThese tangos —some of them composed by women, what made it even more audacious— were, in general, dedicated to some important individuals to pay homage to them. Such is our case, the tango “Don Pepe” by Ernesto Drangosch, dedicated to «Dr. José Luro» and published with the indication «tango criollo for piano», specifying that it was «Op. 13 nº 1», and, at the foot of the page of the edition, the publisher name and address: Edición Drangosch y Beines. Bartolomé Mitre 1032. Buenos Aires.

Who was Ernesto Drangosch? A notable pianist and, in his childhood, a wonder boy. He was teacher of, among others, Sebastián Piana. The book Música y músicos de Latinoamérica (Music and Musicians of Latin America) by Otto Mayer Serra in the biography of this musician says the following:

«Drangosch, Ernesto. Argentine pianist and composer. Born on January 22, 1882 in Buenos Aires. Died on June 26, 1925 in the same city.

«He started playing piano at a very young age (with maestros Hemeyer and Collín); he appeared in public as a wonder boy. At age thirteen he published his first composition, “Hoja de álbum”, for piano. As from 1894 he studied with Julián Aguirre and Alberto Williams at the Conservatorio de Música de Buenos Aires until he moved to Berlin to further his studies with maestros Barth, Bruch and Joachim.

«On his comeback to the Argentine capital he won the Gran Premio Europa, an award that allowed him to return to Berlin (1903) and to complete his studies with maestros Ansorge and Humperdinck. At the same time he played several piano recitals in Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Munich and other cities: he achieved a great acclaim as piano soloist in several symphonic concertos. When he came back to his fatherland he devoted himself to his concert player career and music teaching; he had a post in the piano department at the Conservatorio de Música de Buenos Aires.

«Among his activities it is worthwhile to highlight a season of twelve concerts he played, with high level programs, for the public of the province of Buenos Aires in 1906 which contributed to strengthen his prestige as virtuoso of his instrument. Two years later he founded the music conservatory which bears his name, and, he started his career as orchestra conductor, either in Argentina as well as in other South American countries. Among his compositions it is worthwhile to mention: “Variations”, “Concert etudes”, “Two Spanish Sonatas”, “Bagatelles and impressions for piano”, “Concerto in E flat for piano and orchestra” (not premiered), the symphonic poem “The satyr and the nimph”, “La Obertura criolla” (in which the composer combined a waltz theme with another of tango), the orchestral series of “Dream of a ball”, the opera Carnival, the operetta “La gruta de los milagros” (The miracle grotto, not premiered) and several songs.»

It is regretful to mention that several of these compositions were, at least by the time the book was published (1947), presumably not premiered.

We remember having seen once a photography of Drangosch with a wide forehead and thick curly hair. In his Enciclopedia of Argentine Music, Rodolfo Arizaga highly praises this notable pianist: «An exceptional pianist —says he— in his youth he carried out a short but surprising career in Europe where he succeeded in appearing along with José Joachim, Ferruccio, Busoni and Eugene D’Albert. On his comeback to our country he played the 32 Beethoven’s sonatas at the Asociación Wagneriana in 1906. It was an unprecedented musical event in Buenos Aires (...)

«Due to his sensitivity and temper he was a sharp and intelligent interpreter of the German classical and romantic repertoire. This trend is evidenced in his oeuvre as composer that reveals the academic and formal solidness typical of that stream. When the Conservatorio Nacional de Música y Arte Escénico was founded, Carlos López Buchardo invited this notable pianist to join the staff of educators.»

As for the person to whom the tango “Don Pepe”, mentioned above, was dedicated, the sheet music copy shows us some clues. It is doctor José Luro. The useful Gran enciclopedia argentina by Diego A. de Santillán, informs us: «José Pedro Luro: jurist, industrial, died on September 20, 1912. His name is linked to the development of Mar del Plata. He negotiated with the Dardo Rocha’s government the building of the railway to connect the city recently founded. He had art and literary interests and, sometimes, was involved in political activities but he preferred initiatives of commercial and industrial nature».

Those «artistic interests» were, surely, what made Ernesto Drangosch dedicate the tango to whom, according to the usual practice of the time, he called “Don Pepe”, and that we think must have been prior to 1912, year when the person honored died.