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Osvaldo Pugliese

Birth Name: Osvaldo Pedro Pugliese
Artistry: piano player, director, composer
Lived: 2 December 1905 - 25 July 1995

Osvaldo Pugliese

Osvaldo Pugliese is regarded as the pioneer of syncopation and counterpoint, and of having magnificent interpretative musical skills. His is the choice of music as the evening darkens, when the dancers wish for slowness and intimacy.

Born to Music

Osvaldo Pugliese is born in 1905 within the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Crespo to parents Aurelia Terragno and Adolfo Pugliese, an Italian immigrant family. His full birth-name is Osvaldo Pedro Pugliese. From infancy, he is immediately surrounded with the beautiful sound of music that undoubtedly made him the great musician: his father was a amateur tango flutist in various conjuntos (groups - mainly quartets) of the Old Guard, and two of his brothers Vicente Salvador and Alberto Roque were violinists.

Adolfo starts teaching Osvaldo the violin as a young child. His proficiency in music earns him a prestigious place in the Odeon Conservatory, where he receives training, amongst various teachers, by the maestros Antonio D'Agostino, Rubione Scaramuzza and Pedro Vicente. He shows an inclination for the piano, and this would become his primary instrument throughout his life.

Aged 15 Pugliese forms a trio with the bandoneonist Domingo Faillac and the violinist Alfredo Ferrito, and debuts professionally at the local cafe with the nickname Café de La Chancha (the "Filthy Cafe"). In fact, La Chancha was the nickname of a fat guitar player who used to drink at a bar near by - he was stabbed to death one day during Carnaval, and the cafe was named after him.

Coming of Age

The year is now 1921 and Osvaldo Pugliese turns 16. He makes the move to Buenos Aires seeking - as all musicians do - success, fame and fortune. As it happens, he meets Francisca Bernardo Cruz also known by her stage name Paquita Bernardo, who is the first professional female bandoneonist in Argentina. She forms her first band, a sextet called the Paquita Orchestra which includes our Osvaldo Pugliese on piano, as well as Alcides Palavecino and Elvino Vardaro on violins, Miguel Loduca on flute and Arturo Bernardo on drums. They debut that year in a bar called Domínguez, and go on to perform in various other locations including La Paloma, La Glorieta, La Terraza, Café de Peracca, Café Venturita, Café San Bernardo, Café St. George and El Nacional de Villa Crespo.

Osvaldo Pugliese
Paquita Bernardo aka Francisca Bernardo Cruz

Pugliese leaves the Paquita Orchestra after three years and joins the Enrique Pollet quartet in 1924, aged 19, which has in it Enrique Pollet on the bandoneón, Emilio Marchiano and Bernardo Perrone on violins, and of course Osvaldo Pugliese on the piano. It is during this time that he writes one of his beautiful pieces called Recuerdo, his most famous composition. This piece is considered by many to be the origin of stylized instrumental tango.

Recuerdo by Osvaldo Pugliese (as played in 1989)

In an interesting by-note, Recuerdo in Spanish means memory. The name of the song came about because Osvaldo had fond memory of his cousins, who used to go to the La Chancha cafe, listening to him play the tango. When years later they asked him the name of that tango, he said that it did not have a name; but that he will call it Recuerdo to dedicate it to the memory of hanging out with his cousins.

Two years after that he becomes the pianist in the Orchestra of the renowned bandoneonist Pedro Maffia, which also has in it Elvino Vardaro. Though this group only does moderately well, it marks the beginning of Osvaldo's rise to maestro status. It is worth noting that this group follows the De Caro school of music, characterized by slower and languid phrasing which influences the playing of every major bandoneonist thereafter. Pugliese' work would continue in this style henceforth for his entire career.

Orquesta de Pedro Maffia
Osvaldo Pugliese in the Orquesta de Pedro Maffia

In 1929 aged 24, Pugliese parts with Orquesta de Pedro Maffia and joins violinist Elvino Vardaro to form their own sextet - called the Sexteto Tipico Vardaro-Pugliese - which lasts on and off for 2 years. The group includes various musicians critical to the formation of Argentine tango which, other than Pugliese and Valdaro, has violinist Alfredo Gobbi, bandoneónists Ciriaco Ortiz and Anibal Troilo, and Luis Adesso on the bass.

The sextet - considered extremely influential by musical historians - is again characterized by the De Caro style. It is received by the crowds with great acclaim, though they never record.

The sextet decide to tour across Argentina, however success is not to be... one tour is such a failure that Pugliese and Vardaro have to sell possessions to a pawn broker to buy return tickets back to Buenos Aires.

Elvino Vardaro and Osvaldo Pugliese
Elvino Vardaro and Osvaldo Pugliese

During the next years, Pugliese plays at cafes and silent movie houses, where in fact during the late 1920s and early 30s the tango ruled. He also joins with various other groups, including violinist Alfredo Gobbi and the bandoneonist Aníbal Troilo. He also forms duets: first with Alfredo Gobbi, then recombines once again with Elvino Vardaro whereupon they perform on Radio Argentina. Bandoneonist Pedro Laurenz decides to form an orchestra, and looks to Pugliese as the pianist. Some time later he plays for the bandoneonist Miguel Calo.

It is well known that Osvaldo's dream - like many musicians of that time - was to direct his own successful orchestra. In 1936, aged 31, that dream is fulfilled: he creates a sextet as part of a collaboration with Alfredo Calabró, Juan Abelardo Fernandez, bandoneonist Marcos Madrigal, Pedro Juan Rolando Curzel, violinist Potenza and Aniceto Rossi on the bass. The group debuts at the Germinal Cafe (on Corrientes Street in Buenos Aires), and plays for two years - though without much impression.

Success at last

In 1939, aged 34, Pugliese forms his Orquesta Típica Pugliese, and debuts at the cafe El Nacional on 11 August 1939. This time the impression is unbelievable: they are considered maestros! This orchestra, with various changes of musicians, held together until the end of his life and certainly is considered one of the best tango orchestras in the world.

Orchestra Pugliese
Orquesta Típica Pugliese

The Orquesta Típica Pugliese go from success to success, and start recording in July 15 1943, when El Farol and Rodeo are put to disc. It is worth noting the eloquence in which elportaldeltango describes this orchestra:
His contribution to tango was a way of playing that joins a perfect dancing adaptability and a complex-structured harmonic conception. The rhythmic accentuation of his orchestra lies on a superposition of sonic layers which form a subtle and polyrhythmic mechanism, in which different instrumental sections move in a variety of styles and effects. And from this, apparently anarchic, rhythmic disposition, the different themes are expressively translated into the peculiar way of saying the soloists of the orchestra had. It is necessary to remark the director’s personality in the piano conducting function; and, during the best years of the orchestra’s career, first bandoneonist Osvaldo Ruggiero, first violinist Enrique Camerano and contrabass player Aniceto Rossi, the vertebral column of instrumental tango artistic expression. Undoubtedly, Osvaldo Pugliese’s orchestra is the highest stylistic point in a fundamental concept of instrumental tango, which is possibly the most artistically brilliant and was born with De Caro. Pugliese’s orchestra is the evolutional synthesis of the best instrumental tango; it could be said that it is the exact limit of the fifty-year-transformation process. To trespass the limits of that fair and renewing equilibrium, implies opening the risky and controversial issue of deviations, distortions and the supposed lack of authenticity of what should be understood by tango.

The Orquesta Típica Pugliese has at its core the De Caro school of thought and enjoys very specific style to it; no drums, highly syncopated, bandoneón solos, holding notes slightly longer than expected for dramatic effect (rubato), alternating slow and fast tempos (slargando or slentando). One of the salient features of Pugliese's style is expressed by a word he himself invented: "yumba" which - when quoted "yum-ba, yum-ba" - denotes that the first and third beats should be stressed and the second and fourth beats should be played softly with a bass piano note.

The Orquesta Típica Pugliese would over the decades evolve, with only the director and pianist stable as Osvaldo Pugliese:

Year Bandoneón Violin Viola Bass Cello Vocals
1939 (debut) Enrique Alessio, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Albert Armengol Camerano Enrique, Julio Carrasco, Jaime Tursky Aniceto Rossi Amadeo Mandarino
1939 Enrique Alessio, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Roberto Quiroga Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Jaime Tursky, Antonio Roscini Aniceto Rossi Amadeo Mandarino
1943 Enrique Alessio, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Stephen Gilardi Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Jaime Tursky, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Amadeo Mandarino, Roberto Chanel
1944 Jorge Caldara, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Oscar Castagnaro, Esteban Enrique Gilardi Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Jaime Tursky, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Roberto Chanel
1945 Jorge Caldara, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Oscar Castagnaro, Esteban Enrique Gilardi Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Jaime Tursky, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Roberto Chanel, Alberto Morán
1949 Jorge Caldara, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Oscar Castagnaro, Esteban Enrique Gilardi Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Jaime Tursky, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Roberto Chanel, Alberto Morán, Jorge Vidal
1950 Jorge Caldara, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Oscar Castagnaro, Esteban Enrique Gilardi Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Jaime Tursky, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Roberto Chanel, Alberto Morán
1955 Osvaldo Ruggiero, Roberto Peppe, Esteban Enrique Gilardi, Mario Demarco Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Emilio Balcarce, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Jorge Maciel, Miguel Montero
1959 Osvaldo Ruggiero, Roberto Peppe, Esteban Enrique Gilardi, Mario Demarco Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Emilio Balcarce, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Jorge Maciel, Miguel Montero, Ricardo Medina
1959 Osvaldo Ruggiero, Roberto Peppe, Esteban Enrique Gilardi, Mario Demarco Enrique Camerano, Julio Carrasco, Emilio Balcarce, Oscar Luis Herrero Aniceto Rossi Jorge Maciel, Miguel Montero, Carlos Guido
1960 Osvaldo Ruggiero, Víctor Lavallén, Julián Plaza, Arthur Rock Julio Carrasco, Emilio Balcarce, Oscar Luis Herrero Norberto Bernasconi Aniceto Rossi Belusi Alfredo, Jorge Maciel
1963 Osvaldo Ruggiero, Víctor Lavallén, Julián Plaza, Arthur Rock Julio Carrasco, Emilio Balcarce, Oscar Luis Herrero Norberto Bernasconi Aniceto Rossi Jorge Maciel, Abel Córdoba
1968 Osvaldo Ruggiero, Víctor Lavallén, Julián Plaza, Arthur Rock Raul Dominguez, Emilio Balcarce, Oscar Luis Herrero Alcides Rossi (son of Aniceto) Jorge Maciel, Abel Córdoba
In October 1968, Osvaldo Pugliese temporarily stopped due to an ailment. At this time, six of his orchestra members decided to create their own Sexteto Tango: Osvaldo Ruggiero, Víctor Lavallén, Julián Plaza, Emilio Balcarce, Oscar Luis Herrero, Alcides Rossi (as well shortly thereafter Jorge Maciel). It was described in a newspaper article as having taken 112 years out of Pugliese, as combined that was the number of years they had been in the orchestra! Pugliese created a new orchestra, considered as professional as before.

Orchestra Pugliese
Sexteto Tango

1968 Arturo Penon, Daniel Binelli, Alejandro Prevignano, Roberto Álvarez Osvaldo Monterde, Raúl Domínguez, Hermes Peressini Jacinto Merei Brain Amilcar Tolosa Silvio Pucci Abel Córdoba
1985 (Teatro Colon) Roberto Álvarez, Alejandro Prevignano, Fabio Lapinta Osvaldo Monterde, Fernando Rodríguez, Diego Lerendegui, Gabriel Rivas Jacinto Merei Brain Amilcar Tolosa Abel Córdoba, Adrian Guida
1989 (Amsterdam) Roberto Álvarez, Alejandro Prevignano, Fabio Lapinta, Héctor del Curto Fernando Rodríguez, Diego Lerendegui, Gabriel Rivas Jacinto Merei Brain Amilcar Tolosa Patricio Villarejo Abel Córdoba, Adrian Guida
1995 (La Casa del Tango - month before his death) Alejandro Prevignano, Walter Castro, Fabio Lapinta Diego Lerendegui, Gabriel Rivas, Marcelo Prieto Jacinto Merei Brain Juan Ángel Bonura

In 1943 he made his first recordings with Odeon, Stentor and Phillips, while traveling the world; and in the decades that would follow the formation of his orchestra, Pugliese would compose many tangos. His best are considered Recuerdo (see above), La Yumba (1946), Negracha (1948) and Malandraca (1949).

Osvaldo Pugliese' La Yumba (as played in the Teatro Colon 1985)

Osvaldo Pugliese' Negracha

Osvaldo Pugliese' Malandraca

A man of distinction

Pugliese was indeed a man of distinction. He was awarded a cultural medal by Cuba; he was named Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by France; Buenos Aires named him a distinguished citizen. The Argentina Society of Authors and Composers and the Tango Collectors Association unveiled a plaque of him on Avenida Corrientes. He also received the title of Honorary Academician of the Academia Nacional del Tango. And in his old neighborhood of Villa Crespo, a railway station was named after him: Malabia - Osvaldo Pugliese.

His ability to be principled and transcend his popularity wad described thus by Rodolfo Mederos:
I think it [Osvaldo's contribution] deserves to be viewed from several angles. In principle, Osvaldo brought his honesty, both musically and ideologically. I mean he does not belong to the class of musicians who are opportunistic. The implications of this was that throughout his life he had tasks that were not easy to complete in times of prohibition, as he was separated from society for having different ideas... He continued to make of his life what he thought needed to be done. Thankfully, that is his contribution from the human point of view: action, conduct. In that sense, to me he is a role model. Today, the feeling I have is that musicians, even those who may have a more robust behavior, absolutely run riot, making any garbage to achieve some frivolous success.

In 1985 - aged 80! - Pugliese celebrated his birthday by playing with his orchestra at the famous Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. There was a full house to applaud the man who who had performed all over the world including Montevideo, the USSR, China and Japan.

After a short illness he died in Buenos Aires on July 25th, 1995 aged 89. La Yumba was played at his funeral. Osvaldo Pugliese´s strength goes on through his daughter Beba, and his granddaughter Carla, both pianists.

Munument to Pugliese
Monument to Osvaldo Pugliese, Villa Crespo, where he was born

The Musician, the communist, and La Cumparsita

It is important to note that Pugliese was not only a musician but also a committed activist. He organized workers strikes and even looked after the welfare of the terribly exploited prostitutes. In 1936 he joined the fledgling Communist Party of Argentina (membership number 108) and became outspoken in his sympathies. This earned him the hostility of those in power, and he was not only persecuted and banned from broadcasting as a means of political censorship, but in fact thrown in jail during the rule of Juan Domingo Perón. Nevertheless his band always continued playing. There emerged a beautiful little thing that when Pugliese was blacklisted, his orchestra would display a red carnation on his empty piano to honor him.

An anecdote was told that Perón had thugs intimidate Pugliese by locking him in a sinking boat, then rescue him at the last minute.

In 1935 he and other musicians found the first union to stand for the rights of artists as at the time they worked without limits on hours, without vacations, and were paid very little, and because - as his daughter tells us - "Dad was a fighter, a man of great capacity for work and a incombatible ideological firmness". Osvaldo Pugliese said:
I set up our labor union in 1935, because we - the popular musicians - had never had one. It was somehow a huge movement, but because of the lack of experience of some people, discussions and divisions started between us. However, I can recall everyone showed combativeness and we've got better wages, weekly rest and the end of workday at 4PM.

Once when Pugliese was playing La Cumparsita, the police entered the club he was performing in, and directed everything to stop as he was banned. The club owners said that they could not be interrupted whilst the orchestra was playing and the dancers was tangoing. On stage, Pugliese was told about this - so started playing La Cumparsita over and over again. The audience just kept on dancing! Eventually the police gave up and left. It was, perhaps, a world record in playing La Cumparsita?

Pugliese identified with the plight of musicians. As such, his orchestra was set up as a cooperative, in which participation was democratic and everyone had an equitable distribution of income.

His Love

His love, apart from music, was his companion of 45 years Lydia Elman.

Lydia Elman
Lydia Elman

After Osvaldo's death, Lydia continued to live in their place - and it is filled with collectibles and honors to the man. She said:
Osvaldo fue la persona que cada argentino querría ser - Osvaldo was the person every Argentinean would have wished to be.
And later:
What happened was that Osvaldo earned the love of people. The person transcended the musician. He had no enemies and many people who did not understand him at the time, began to understand the magnitude of his presence.
In a magnificent interview in Spanish she tells us that Osvaldo Pugliese liked to walk everywhere; and that his major source of inspiration was watching people. She provides amusing anecdotes... That he would get up in the middle of the night to compose, only to realize in the morning he had previously written it before. For Pugliese' 80th birthday, he was invited to the Soviet Union for 21 days, but they ate nothing for the entire time as the food did not agree with them. Of Japan she tells that:
We went to Japan to have had an interview with Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist. Ikeda said to Osvaldo "I met with emperors, kings, philosophers, great personalities from around the world. But I never found as much spiritual affinity with such a person like you." And Pugliese responded: "Ikeda, we must fight together for peace in the world".


Tracks created by Pugliese:

A los artistas plásticos
Adiós, Nonino/La Yumba
Cardo Y Malvón
Como flor de yuyo
De mi corral
El encopao
El negro cambamba
Hoy por hoy
Hoy por hoy
Hoy por hoy
Igual que una sombra
La Biandunga
La paponia
La yumba
La Yumba / Adiós Noniño
Mi compañera
Muchachita del amanecer
No juegues a la guerra
Noche de mayo
Pa'l vasco izurieta
Palabras de Osvaldo Pugliese
Para Héctor Larrea
Para los obreros gráficos
Se viene el 2000 =>Se viene el dos mil
Se viene el dos mil
Tokio luminoso
Tu abrazo, hermano
Una vez
Y somos la gente
Yo payador

Albums that Pugliese or his orchestra recorded (various artists compilation are excluded):

40 Obras fundamentales [2CD]
Con sus grandes cantantes
Bailando Tango
Grandes exitos
Serie de oro
Tango History
Una orquesta, un cantor
Dos maestros, dos estilos
Vol. 01. - Osvaldo Pugliese y su orquesta - Años '52 / '53
Vol. 07. - Osvaldo Pugliese y su orquesta - Años '45 / '59
Los ineditos de Osvaldo Pugliese Vol.1
Los ineditos de Osvaldo Pugliese Vol.2
Pugliese en Nagoya (Japón) Año 1989 - En vivo - Vol 1
Pugliese en Nagoya (Japón) Año 1989 - En vivo - Vol 2
Los grandes clasicos del tango | 15 Grandes exitos
40 Grandes exitos [2CD]
La yumba
Osvaldo Pugliese Con Jorge Maciel Vol. 1
Osvaldo Pugliese Con Jorge Maciel Vol. 2
Osvaldo Pugliese Con Miguel Montero Vol. 1
Osvaldo Pugliese Con Roberto Chanel Vol. 1
Osvaldo Pugliese Vol. 1
Osvaldo Pugliese Vol. 2
Osvaldo Pugliese Vol. 3
Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Típica vol.2 1951-1958
El Eslabón Perdido
El Dia De Tu Ausencia Cantan: Roberto Chanel, Alberto Morán
Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Tipica (1949)
Recuerdo 1944-1945
Edicion Aniversario (1905-2005)
En FM Tango
En vivo en el Teatro Colón
Los Nº 1 | Pa' Los Médicos
From Argentina to the world
In the 1940s
2x4 El maestro
Grandes Del Tango 19 - y su orquesta Vol3 [2CD]
Grandes Del Tango 2 Instrumentales [2CD]
Grandes Del Tango 9 Pugliese 2 [2CD]
Finally together Vol.2
Vieja Recoba: Canta Jorge Vidal
Antologia Vol 1
Antologia Vol 2
Antologia Vol 3
Antologia Vol 4
Antologia Vol 5
Antologia Vol 6
El maestro inedito
Maestro del tango
En FM Tango
A los amigos
Cantan Alberto Morán y Roberto Chanel
Cantan Miguel Montero y Jorge Maciel
Instrumentales inolvidables
Instrumentales inolvidables Vol. 2
Instrumentales inolvidables Vol. 3
Sus cantores de los '50 - Vidal, Cobos y Montero
Sus éxitos con Alberto Morán
Sus éxitos con Alberto Morán Vol. 2
Sus éxitos con Roberto Chanel
Tangos que traen recuerdos

After Note

2 December 2005 would have been Osvaldo Pugliese' 100th birthday, had the great man been alive. To celebrate thus, the L'Année Pugliese tribute was held in Buenos Aires in the form of a an open air milonga in Diagonal Norte and Maipú. A number of great orchestras played in tribute.

Osvaldo Pugliese' 100th birthday - Part 1

Osvaldo Pugliese' 100th birthday - Part 2

Such was the man revered! Natalio Etchegaray, co-author of the book Don Osvaldo, and one of Pugliese's friends, had this to say about him:
Osvaldo's complexity lies in his simplicity. His technical skill allows him three overlapping sounds: playing the violins, another is the bandoneón, and the other piano and bass. And in turn the three merge together. This is the Pugliese tango. It is very difficult to imitate.

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