Orquesta Típica Osvaldo Pugliese
dramatic, subtle, enchanting, passionate,
- La Yumba
- Roberto Chanel (1943- 1948), sensible, with a nasally voice
- Osvaldo Ruggiero- Emilio Balcarce
Tango is a tree that will always bear fruit, because it grows and thrives on fertile soil: the soul of the people. (Osvaldo Pugliese).
His music inspires and confuses. It is among the richest and most varied within Tango Argentino. In Argentina, some revered San Pugliese, who was known for his benevolence and gentleness, like a saint. Pugliese and his musicians had a decisive influence on the development of tango for decades and were the only major orchestra to experience the new tango boom since the 1980s.
A Pugliese tanda played at the right time is the highlight of a milonga for many dancers. Let's take a look at this extraordinary person and his music.
Before Pugliese founded his own famous Orquesta Típica in 1939, we find him as a pianist with Pedro Maffia, Pedro Laurenz (1934) and Miguel Caló (1936). Together with progressive musicians like Elvino Vardaro, Alfredo Gobbi or Ciriaco Ortiz, he tried several times to found orchestras.
But there were too few opportunities to earn money, and so the formations soon disbanded. In the economically difficult years after 1930, many musicians survived only with difficulty and often under exploitative conditions. Musicians had to work seven days a week from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning, usually only interrupted by a meal break.
In 1920-1922, a strike among farm workers cost 1500 lives. However, Pugliese's political views were shaped by the military coup of 1930, which ushered in the decada infamia.
But Pugliese became active. He believed in the power of the collective and of acting together in solidarity. Therefore, he founded a musicians' union, organised strikes and achieved improvements.
From now on, he was an agitator. Work was even harder to find. Osvaldo was a consistent person who always stood by his convictions. And so it is not surprising that he joined the Communist Party in 1936, on the occasion of the Spanish Civil War.
In the same year he married his first wife Mariá Concepción Florio. His daughter Beba Pugliese, who was also closely associated with him musically throughout his life, is still active today as a tango musician.
After four failed attempts to start with his own orchestra (1936, 1937, 2x1938), it finally worked out in 1939. Only five days before he was released from political prison. The debut was in August 1939 at the Café Nacional, then known as La Catedral del Tango.
The band played daily from 1pm to 7pm. Engagements followed in the Bar Germinal as well as in Pugliese's home barrio Villa Crespo.
In general, the band was quite popular among young people from the working class. These gangs (=barras) paraded through the city on the flatbeds of trucks in workers' Sunday dress (=zoot suit). Rioting with other barras was not out of the question.
One of the barras consisted of Afro-Argentine women, to whom Pugliese dedicated the emplematic Tango Negracha.
Nationwide fame finally came with a slot on Radio el Mundo.
The singers of this first phase were first Amadeo Mandarino, who moved to Troilo in 1941, then August Gauthier. He moved on to José García at the end of 1943.
Working as a collective
Pugliese was a communist, and so he organised his orchestras as a collective.
Payment was based on a points system. Awards were given for performances, of course, but also for composition, arrangement and length of stay. Points were deducted for unpunctuality, for example. This ensured quality and innovation and appealed to outstanding musicians who remained loyal to the orchestra for decades.
For example, at times Osvaldo Ruggiero, the most important bandoneon player, earned more than the maestro himself because of his numerous compositions and arrangements.
The work on the music was also done collectively. New pieces were arranged together, the soloists contributed their own ideas. All this welded the band together, so that it survived even times of political persecution.
...together against the dictatorship
The maestro himself was repeatedly imprisoned for months because of his communist orientation and was repeatedly banned from performing and recording by the authoritarian, right-wing military juntas.
If Osvaldo himself was not allowed to perform, a rose on the piano always reminded him of his absence; other musicians in the band occasionally took over the piano part.
Often enough, the whole band had to flee from the police or were taken into police custody for the exact time of the performance as harassment.
One evening, an organiser negotiated with the police and managed to get them to wait until the next tango was over. The musicians then played La Cumparsita until the police left.
The military dictator Peron had subjected all radio stations to state control until 1948. As a communist, Pugliese was banned from performing and from all radio stations until 1953, with interruptions.
However, the number of recordings from the period are impressively intense, such as Patetico, Negracha (1947), Malandraca or Canaro en Paris (1949). The band only managed to perform in part, sometimes only without their leader and pianist San Pugliese.
In 1955, Pugliese finally was six months in prison as a political prisoner. He kept his fingers fit by doing dry runs on the table. His wife provided for him daily. She herself was supported by the neighbourhood. San Pugliese was a revered man.
The first tango the band recorded after his release is programmatically titled Emancipación (1955) and these beautiful beats seem to trickle quiet jubilation through every phrase, culminating in the intense Variación.
The five-day, extremely humiliating internment on a prison ship in 1957 so weakened Pugliese that Osvaldo Manzi and later Ernesto Romero became part of the band as second pianists.
The political conditions were volatile: In 1959 on the one hand he had to hide from police for a few months, on the other hand, he appeared on television for the first time at the beginning of May.
In the 70s, Pugliese was also banned from TV for a few years. Only from 1980 on, when the tango was only a marginal phenomenon, was Pugliese allowed to perform again without restrictions.
The first years
Although the orchestra started in 1939, it was not until 1943 that a recording contract was signed. Michael Lavocah traces the genesis towards the Pugliese sound in these four seemingly undocumented years on the basis of preserved radio recordings. Subsequently, the 74 recordings made up to 1947 document the steady development.
The repertoire and structure of the tangos initially followed the tradition of Julio De Caro, but were more softly and less edgy.
The core of the repertoire was formed by tangos of the De Caro school such as Mala Junta (1943), Tierra querida, El arranque, Amurado (1944), El monito, Tiny (1945) and Boedo (1948).
With La yumba (1946), Negracha (1948) and Malandraca (1949), the orchestra went its own way.
From now on, the onomatopoeic yum-ba was Pugliese's trademark.
The orchestra plays the first and third beats (Yum) extremely heavy, broad and powerful with a brute arrastre (=intonation swelling just before the beat), while the second and fourth beats (Ba) respond with a lighter rumble lurking deep in the bass. This is the force of the big city, the pounding of a machine, the pulsation of the streets and factories.
The mature style
Pugliese developed this style further and further. After 1950, the music became denser and more intense. Harsh, attacking, sweet, quiet and melodic intertwine more harmoniously.
In De floreo (1950), the alternation, the change between tension, drama, even aggression with soft, airy passages becomes more subtle, the harmonies are more complex.
Pastoral with intense variaçion leaves more space for melodies and small solos, the whole class of Jorge Vidal shines in Puente alsina (1951).
Alberto Morán's hits include Cobardía (1950), Pasional or even finer, Barro (1951). Highlights for dancers are La tupungatina (1952) and Chiqué (1953).
Polyrhythmic and polyphonic structures
Pugliese and his musicians layered sound groups and rhythm patterns on top of and into each other and increasingly overcame the typical construction principle of tango.
Since the mid-fifties, they have created radiant, luminous, rich tangos that are still easy to dance to, some of them overplayed, such as the instrumentals Nuevo de Julio, Gallo ciego, Emancipación,
But the orchestra also transforms Piazzolla's Verano porteno (1966) or Zum (1973, grandiose) into danceable pieces.
From 1939 to 1958, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Enrique Camerano and Ancieto Rossi, together with Pugliese, formed the hard core of the troupe.
Pugliese's piano playing reflected his nature: He never wanted to shine on the stage with his abilities, he gave his musicians plenty of space - but everything he played was essential.
As a small, delicate person, he touched people with his sensitive playing, but he could also persistently hammer the deep yum-ba chords into the piano with impressive brute force, which are so crucial for the massive, pounding parts.
Osvaldo, a self-taught bandoneon virtuoso, was only 17 when he joined the orchestra in 1939. His style contributed significantly to the development of the Pugliese sound.
In the mid-1940s, people spoke of the Orchestra of the Two Osvaldos. Many compositions and arrangements go back to him. Together with Jorge Caldara, he led the fila de banondeón musically, energetically and sometimes wildly flinging his long hair.
His style lived on dynamics, surprise, alternating between the sweet and the rough. He switched effortlessly between right and left hand.
Jorge Caldara (1924-1967)
composed Patético (1948), Pastoral (1950) and Pasional (1951) and left the orchestra after 10 years due to political pressure and fear of the dictatorship in 1954. He later led the accompanying orchestra of the Japanese star voice Ranko Fujisawa for a year in Japan, only to continue with his own orchestra in the Pugliese style in 1956. The build-up of tension from to El Guri (1959) to an incomparable variaçion is magnificent.
Enrique Camerano (1939-1958)
violin, was nicknamed El Gitano - the Gypsy.
He had a fantastic tone in all registers. He played softly and melodically, had a wonderful vibrato and such an accomplished bowing technique that he could phrase every single note with its own emphasis.
Emilio Balcarce (1918 - 2011)
Jaime Tursky left the collective in 1947. He was an organiser, speaker, violinist and had been there from the beginning, organising the first performances.
Balcarce replaced him and stayed for over 20 years.
He is not as famous as the well known bandleaders like D'Arienzo, but he shaped the developement of tango over decades in many ways as a violinist, pianist, composer, orchestra leader, arranger and trainer of a new generation of musicians since the turn of the millennium.
After his time as a violinist with Edgardo Donato around 1940, he led the accompanying orchestras of the great soloists of the forties, such as Alberto Castillo and Alberto Marino. He arranged for Troilo, Francini-Pontier, Basso and of course for Pugliese.
He condensed his collected tango knowledge and feeling into outstanding compositions such as La bordona (Pugliese, 1959) or Bien compadre (1949) and since 2000, inspired by Ignacio Verchausky, has passed it on to the young generation of musicians of the current tango wave in two-year courses as director and conductor of the Orquesta Escuela de Tango on the basis of original scores.
Roberto Chanel (1943-1947)
He was long, thin, with a huge nose, which earned him the nickname El Turco (the Arab). He was not very attractive. But he captivated people with his delicate, somewhat nasal singing, which he trained at home with the guitar. He wanted to phrase like his idol Gardel. I personally don't like his voice that much.
Important tangos are Farol, Muchachos comienza la ronda,(1943), Corrientes y Esmeralda (1944), or El mareo (1947, in duo with Morán).
Alberto Morán (1945 - 1954)
when he started in the orchestra in January 1945 at the age of 23, could not only sing beautifully. He was also quite a womaniser. On stage he dramatically experienced all the emotions of the lyrics. women loved him therefor.
His performances gained many new fans. In the following carnival the band had moved from the suburbs to the Club Huracán, one of the biggest football clubs of the city.
In 1954, Morán, not entirely at peace, left San Pugliese, who had demanded a lot, perhaps too much, from his singer. Morán started his solo career. Armando Cupo led the ensemble assembled for this purpose. Of the 46 recordings, the Valses Quema esas cartas and Yo no se que me han echo tus ojos are particularly pleasing.
Jorge Vidal - The second Gardel (1949-1951)
After Gardel's death, many a voice was billed as the second Gardel, Vidal was one of them.
Pugliese's musicians discovered him in a bar where he sang 24/7 accompanied by guitars. His honest, powerful voice beguiled. After two years Vidal left the orchestra. He preferred, like Gardel, singing to guitars which offered more freedom of interpretation and more focus on the singer.
His biggest hit is certainly Puenta Alesina, even more danceable is the vals Tu vieja ventana sung in duet with Moran.
Jorge Maciel (1954-1968)
Pugliese recruited him from Alfredo Gobbi. Maciel is certainly one of the most mature, technically radiant voices, he fits perfectly with the subtle demands of the Pugliese sound and left behind pearls like Remembranza (1956) or Cascabelito (1955).
Miguel Montero (1954 - 1959)
did not have an easy start, but made his breakthrough with Antiguo reloj de cobre (1955).
The whole agony of the tango culture, which was in constant retreat in the 1950s, is condensed in Montero's tango Qué te pasa Buenos Aires? (1956)
In 1959 he continued as a solo singer and until his death in 1973 he was present with the greats of the 1960s such as José Libertella (founder of the Sexteto Mayor), Eduardo Corti (co-founder of the Salamanca Orchestra), Aquiles Roggero, Armando Cupo, Ángel Domínguez, Miguel Caló and Mariano Mores.
In 1964 he won a gigantic casting among 300 other candidates and accompanied Pugliese for 31 years until the last performances in 1995.
The late years
Sick and tired, Pugliese had to retire in 1968. He recommended his best people to struggle through as a sextet in the meantime.
But their success was so great that his long-time companions finally made their own business. Julián Plaza put aside his bandoneon and took over the piano part.
Pugliese then set up a new orchestra with the support of his daughter. And it sounded magnificent again.
The Teatro Colón was and is the temple of the muses in Buenos Aires, a meeting place for the upper class, a venue for high culture, comparable to Carnegie Hall in New York or La Scala in Milan.
So it was of course a final satisfaction for the communist, who had been blocked for decades, that he was allowed to give a concert in the hallowed halls on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Then, joke of history, it had to be postponed for a week because of a strike organised by the trade union.
In any case, the 3,500 tickets were sold within a day, and in the end 5,000 people crowded into the concert hall to celebrate the master. Even today, the images and the music (Youtube) are deeply moving and testify to the greatness and restraint of the man and musician Osvaldo Pugliese.
Music unites, San Osvaldo was convinced of that.
SU and China 1959
In 1959, the orchestra toured for four months through the communist countries USSR (80 cities, up to three shows daily) and China (28 cities) in front of up to 50,000 people (football stadium, Armenia).
The confrontation of the band's communists (Pugliese, Spitalnik) with real socialism caused much discussion within the band.
Japan 1964 and 1979
The Japanese were so enthusiastic in 1964 that the 45 planned shows became 135. In 1979, the orchestra set off on its second tour to Japan with 79 concerts; the waltz enthusiasm of the Japanese led to the legendary arrangement of Desde el Alma. (1979)
Worldwide renaissance of the tango in the 80s and 90s
Due to the political détente in Argentina and the new interest in tango since the 1980s, the orchestra and with it the 80-year-old maestro went on regular tours again.
In 1980, the orchestra toured South America to great acclaim and was greeted directly by the president in Colombia. They were successfull in Cuba (1984), China, Japan (1989), Chile (1990), France (1984), Spain (1985) and the Netherlands, among other places.
Locura tangera (1966)
Pugliese was famous for his modesty. He loved people, but he stood up for his convictions, which of course included his music, with absolute consistency.
His rehearsals were often intense, sometimes he acted sternly, but he was also often very funny. And it was clear to every band member: leaving the orchestra was final, there was no going back.
This was also true for the musicians of Sexteto Tango, who had shared all successes, but also all persecutions with Pugliese for decades.
Pugliese's first wife, Maria Conceptión, died in 1971. Together with her, he had a daughter, Beba, who supported Pugliese in his musical work, especially since the 1970s.
The second great partner was Lydia Elmann, whom Pugliese had known since 1949, and who stood by his side until his death.
Pugliese was a big fan of Truco, an Argentine card game. (More info about truco). Osvaldo gambled again and again with great passion, perseverance and cheeky bluffing.
The composer - Recuerdo
Pugliese for dancers
Pugliese's oeuvre was reflected in almost 700 recordings from five decades. They always offer, but usually also demand, a certain degree of interpretative possibilities from the dancers. Pugliese's repertoire consisted mainly of tangos.
A tanda with the singer Alberto Morán consisting of Ilusión marina (1947), Dos que se aman (1948) or La noche que me esperes (1952) shows that Pugliese can delight his fans with extremely fine, demanding, unusual and lyrical valses.
Desde el alma (1979)
heartbreaking - just like these dancers!
Noelia Hurtado and Carlitos Espinoza - 2018 - Belgrad
Sabrina Masso and Federico Naveira - San Francisco - 2018
The mature sound and the late style
Pugliese's oeuvre is too extensive to even hint at its diversity here.
Yunta de oro
Dante Sanchez & Indira Hiayes - Istanbul 2019
Natalia Cristobal Rivé & Jérémy Braitbart - Paris Octobre 2012
Javier Rodriguez & Fatima Vitale – Sunderland 2015