Roberto Selles

Acquaforte - History of its creation

he singer and lyricist Juan Carlos Marambio Catán, telling us about the origin of that precious tango he wrote with the music of Horacio Pettorossi, entitled “Acquaforte”, said that its lyrics came to his mind in Milan, after his appearance in Cairo.

«On my return», said Marambio Catán, «I was lucky to meet Pettorossi, Gardel’s guitarist, and to celebrate that good luck we went to a cabaret (...). Then Pettorossi told me with concealed enthusiasm: 'I have a quite beautiful melody that came to my mind a few days ago,' and without hesitation he began to hum it. I liked it and we agreed that I would write its lyrics.

«Immediately my brain began to work and as I had noticed the scant attention the women who waited on the customers paid to us, I thought that that was due to the fact that we were old or, at least, ageing, and I began to develop something that is the depiction of the scene we witnessed at the cabaret Excelsior in Milan that evening».

The event took place in 1931 and it seems that the melody had, in fact, been composed in 1928. That was not an inconvenience at all; but the situation was that in Mussolini’s Italy the words of a song saying:

A wanton old man who squanders his money
by making Lulú drunk with champagne
today denied a raise to a poor worker
who asked him for one more crust of bread
, would be a real hindrance.

«We had many difficulties in publishing this piece», the author goes on. «Censorship rejected it because it was regarded as an anarchist song […] but a priest, fond of tango, and a friend of Pettorossi’s, dealt with the proceedings for its approval […], they imposed on us the condition that its title must bear the explanation 'Argentine tango,' because they said that what was described in the lyrics did not happen in Italy».

Thanks to Marambio Catán himself we know that the lyrics were soon translated into Italian and premiered by the singer Gino Franzi, in vogue at that time. By that time it also bore a text in French. The original lyrics, meanwhile, were recorded here by Agustín Magaldi, in 1932, and by Carlos Gardel, in 1933.

Finally, Marambio Catán says that at that time, in fact, he was not so old, despite writing «forty years of life enchain me,/ now my hair is gray, and old is my heart». Forty years is not so much – and he was only thirty-six.

Grabaciones de “Acquaforte”:
Agustín Magaldi con acompañamiento de guitarras, Buenos Aires (1932).
Carlos Gardel con las guitarras de Guillermo Barbieri, Horacio Pettorossi, Ángel Domingo Riverol y Julio Vivas, Buenos Aires (22/2/1933).
Orquesta Osvaldo Pugliese con Miguel Montero, Buenos Aires (23/7/1958).
Orquesta Horacio Salgan con Edmundo Rivero, Buenos Aires (1961).
Miguel Montero con Orquesta José Libertella, Buenos Aires (16/8/1963).
Jorge Casal con acompañamiento de orquesta, Buenos Aires (1964).
Jorge Durán con las guitarras de Gorrías, Laine, Morán y Estela, Buenos Aires (1971).
Elvira De Grey's con acompañamiento de Aníbal Arias, Buenos Aires.
Néstor Soler con acompañamiento de guitarras, Buenos Aires.
Sexteto Canyengue con Fabián Russo, Amsterdam (1992).
Trío Los Morochos con Norberto Viñas, Pamplona (1996).
Oscar Chávez con las guitarras de Carlos Porcel, México (1997).
Luis Cardei con bandoneón de Antonio Pisano, Buenos Aires (2000).
Lina Avellaneda con conjunto dirigido por Nicolás Ledesma, Buenos Aires (2002).
Gaby con acompañamiento de conjunto, Buenos Aires (2010).