He was just 35 years old, one less than Julio De Caro –but stylistically at the other end of the musical horizon of tango. De Caro was already a star in 1924 when D'Arienzo began his rise to popularity when Pablo Osvaldo Valle took him to the brand new El Mundo radio station. Like almost all the musicians in those days, he started in tango as a boy. He played violin in local venues at a very early age with Angel D'Agostino on piano, the bandoneon player Ernesto Bianchi (Lechuguita) and Ennio Bolognini, Remo and Astor´s brother.
His first known performance goes back to 1919. In that year, he played with the Arata-Simari-Franco theater company when they presented the comic play by Alberto Novión, "El cabaret Montmartre" at the Nacional theater. In an interview in 1949 with Andrés Muñoz,he said “We, D'Agostino and I on the violin, took part in the opening night of Alberto Novión´s sainete "El cabaret Montmartre". At the play a small tango orchestra appeared, led by us, and which accompanied Los Undar's, a famous dancing number formed by the partners la Portuguesa and El Morocho, two stars of tango canyengue”.
Doctor Luis Adolfo Sierra has established, however, that Roberto Firpo's orchestra premiered that show (Firpo, on piano; Cayetano Puglisi, on violin; Pedro Maffia and Juan Bautista Deambroggio, on bandoneons, and Alejandro Michetti, on drums) until September 1 of that year, when it was replaced by that of D'Arienzo-D'Agostino. D'Arienzo remained linked to theater. Always with D'Agostino on piano, he accompanied Evita Franco, who beautifully sang tangos like "Loca", "Entra nomás" or "Pobre milonga". He also played violin in the Frederickson jazz band and assembled a sextet with D'Agostino on piano; the other violin was Mazzeo. On bandoneons were Anselmo Aieta and Ernesto Bianchi, and Juan Puglisi on bass. When D'Agostino left, he was replaced by Luis Visca, who was then composing "Compadrón". 1935 is the key year in D'Arienzo´s career.
This is the year when the D'Arienzo we all remember really appeared. That happened when Rodolfo Biagi joined the orchestra. Biagi was a pianist who had played with Pacho, who had accompanied Gardel on some recordings, and had played with Juan Guido and Juan Canaro. By then, D'Arienzo was performing at the Chantecler.
Biagi´s inclusion meant a change of time signature for D'Arienzo orchestra, which changed the four-eight for the two-four; that is to say, he returned to two-four, the fast frolic beat of the early tangos. When Biagi left him in 1938 to assemble his own orchestra, D'Arienzo had already identified himself with the two-four definitively. Facing the martial rhythm by Canaro, the somewhat street band-like platitude of Francisco Lomuto, and De Caro´s symphonic attempts, D'Arienzo contributed a fresh, juvenile, enlivening air to tango. Tango, which had been an ostentatious, challenging almost gymnastic dance, turned one day, according to Discépolo, into a sad thought which can be danced to. The dance had become subsidiary, displaced by lyrics and the singers, and then by the arrangement.
D'Arienzo gave tango back to the dancers´feet and with that he revived the interst of the young in tango. This nickname "king of beat", given by Príncipe cubano (Angel Sanchez Carreño), an MC at the cabaret Chantecler, turned into the king of the dance, and by getting people to the dance he earned a lot of money. Tango lovers despise D'Arienzo. He is considered as a sort of tango demagogue. But D'Arienzo, as José Luis Macaggi has very well said, made possible that tango renaissance called "la década del cuarenta" (the 40s), a decade which represented The golden Age of Tango. When D'Arienzo achieved success with the new beat, he dazzled the Chantecler dancers and El Mundo radio station broadcast it all over the country. In 1949 D'Arienzo said: “In my view, tango is, above all, rhythm, nerve, strength and character.
Early tango, that of the old stream (guardia vieja), had all that, and we must try not to ever lose it. Because we forgot that, Argentine tango entered into a crisis some years ago. Putting aside modesty, I did all was possible to make it reappear. In my opinion, a good part of the blame for tango decline is on the singers.
There was a time when a tango orchestra was nothing else but a mere pretext for the singer´s performance. The players, including the leader, were no more than accompanists of the popular stars. For me, that can´t be. Tango is essentially music.
In consequence, the orchestra, which plays it, cannot be relegated to the background to spotlight only the singer. The human voice is not, it should not be another thing but an instrument more in the orchestra. To sacrifice everything for the singer´s sake, for the star, is a mistake. I reacted against that mistake which caused the tango crisis and placed the orchestra in the foreground and the singer in his place.
Furthermore, I tried to rescue for tango its masculine strength, which it had been losing. In my interpretations I stamped the rhythm, the nerve, the strength and the character which distinguished it in the music world and which it had been losing for the above reasons. Luckily, that crisis was temporary, and today tango has been re-established, our tango, with the vitality of its best times. My major pride is to have contributed to that renaissance of our popular music.
[Edited quote from the Aquí Está magazine]. In 1975, a month before his death, D'Arienzo noted again: "The foundation of my orchestra is the piano. I regard it as irreplaceable. When my pianist, Polito is ill, I replace him with Jorge Dragone. If something happens to the latter I´m at a loss.
Then the fourth violin appears as an essential element. It must sound like a viola or a cello. I assemble my group with piano, double bass, five violins, five bandoneons and three singers. Less members, never.
I had even used, for some recordings, up to ten violins".[Interview made known by Telam and taken from La Voz del Pueblo, Tres Arroyos, 23 December 1975]. Due to the importance given to piano by the maestro, it is not superfluous to give here the list of his pianists: Alfonso Lacueva, René Cóspito, Vicente Gorrese, Nicolás Vaccaro, Juan Polito, Luis Visca, Carlos Di Sarli, Lidia Fassoli, Cesar Zagnolli, Rodolfo Biaggi, Juan Polito, Fulvio Salamanca, Juan Polito, Normando Lazara (Di Sarli only performed for a month, at the Chantecler, in 1934, replacing Visca) In 1975, when the avant-garde movement was in bloom, D'Arienzo went on saying that "if musicians turned back to the pureness of two-four, the passion for our music would come again and, thanks to the modern media of broadcasting, we would reach world importance".[Interview made known by Telam and taken from La Voz del Pueblo, Tres Arroyos, 23 December 1975]. Originally published in Tango y Lunfardo Nº 132, Year XIV, Chivilcoy, 16 September 1997. Read more on Last.fm.
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