Maria Susana Azzi, a very well known Argentine anthropologist, publishes in her book ``Antropología del Tango. Los Protagonistas'', Ediciones de Olavarría, 1991, her interview with Alejandro Barletta in his home in Adrogué.
The tango is product of the inmigration. The rhythmic influence of Andaluce and black. The melody is Italian.
The German inmigrants settled mainly in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, the
tango was already played with violin, guitar, brass instruments, and there
the bandoneon could mix in... The sound of the instrument pleased and
could be inserted in the core of the popular orchestra.
Later the piano, the violoncello and the viola were added. The tango orchestras
at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present, where fairly
modest, like popular music in general. Later instrumentalists, orchestrists
and arrangers gave the tango an other quality until the modern tango, which
has nothing to do with popular music but is close to light music and in certain
moments a touch of chamber music: they are studied compositions with
harmony, counterpoint and orchestration. The tango at the beginning of the
century had a lot of people and folks, the modern tango does not has any
folks, it's a laboratory matter for certain minorities. The phenomenon of
the modern tango is accepted in Europe.
Piazzolla has impulsed the modern tango. Here (in Argentina)
he is for the elite, in other
countries there are more young people he has taken off the rock. He worked
a lot with the jazz-tango, he remained many years in New York. In Japan the
primo genius tango is of interest, more than modern tango. When the Japanese
ask for tango, they wait for a Canaro style, neither the Fresedo style
which was more complex with some percussion instruments. He used xylophone,
violoncello, viola, yet closer to the chamber orchestra, somewhat like
Mariano Mores which is tango with a touch of symphonic orchestra.
After the beginning of the century the tango is not accepted without
bandoneon. The bandoneon is the sound of the tango. There is no flamenco
without guitar. The flamenco guitar was called ``Spanish guitar''. Today
the guitar is played all over the world, but it continues to be
a ``Spanish guitar''. Today there are played all types of music with the
guitar, they have added the electricity, the electric guitar was introduced
in the rock and is the base of the rock bands. An instrument has many
possibilities. The bandoneon was refuged in the tango. What I made was
to take it off, that they admit the bandoneon to be one more instrument
to make every type of music, including the classic one... it's still in
discussion, there remains a prejudgement about the instrument.
They are accepting
it now, in Buenos Aires I received the Konex Price,
a diploma for merit.
There where granted one hundred Konex prices to musicians considered to be
the most important of Argentina's musical history. They put me inside
the classical music with my bandoneon, they have accepted it officially,
for at least by the jury. I wrote and gave concerts for bandoneon. I
contributed as composer to the literature for the instrument, I made a
new technique for the instrument and incorporated it to the classical
music. I made a work unknown before in the musical world. Here (in Argentina)
it is still
not recognized. I made a work. The bandoneon is now a classical instrument,
you can make music... It's similar to the way the guitar went.
Today there are made many things with the instrument, the orchestration
and the use have changed. At the beginning of the century the bandoneon
was very primary, both hands where nearly not used. The left hand
was left nearly dead and, let's say, the finger board of the right hand
almost two octaves, or one and a half. The rest of the tones remained
unused. Sometimes you bought an instrument and you saw that the high
and the low tones of the left hand where never played. That was the great
defect of those bandoneonists. It was a primary technique useful to
play something and accompany: the ``marte'' which means that ``chan-chan''
in the slang of bandoneonists - that ``chan-chan'' was made with the left
hand, one octave of the keyboard only. They did not use the rest. That means
that they used only two and a
half of the general range of five and a half octave...
it was unknown that it is possible to make polyphony with the
bandoneon. This instrument is eminently polyphonic. I play Bach on
bandoneon. I play the three keyboards of the organ without having three
keyboards. I couple two keyboards to the left hand and one to the right.
That's the bandoneon. It was so decayed and low! The three voices are
polyphony. It's the clarity which does not come out with the organ.
It's an instrument which sounds. It's what the instrument really can give -
one more inside the history of instruments. It was limited to the
popular orchestra with the exception of some small variations upon
a theme realized with the right hand and sometimes a small drawing with
the left - it was completely unbenefited. When I started with my concerts
in Buenos Aires; what? you can play Bach? It's possible to play Chopin?
I took plenty of attraction.
After that I made what I was interested in. The instrument is a bellow
organ: a reed organ, aerophone how musicologists say. With the reverberation
found in cathedrals, the instrument is heard with the technique I use.
The truth is, that I use the technique of an violinist or an violoncellist:
working. Working the bellow, opening and closing. The modern popular
bandoneonists, even Piazzolla, always played on opening and the valve making
noise, which means that those people play very bad, even that so famous -
Piazzolla. They find the music for what they are doing, tango and nothing else.
That technique is not applicable for any serious work. If they would
play Bach they would cut completely the whole work. I brought the instrument
to Argentine composers and asked
to write works for me: Juan José Castro. Caamaño,
he wrote the first concert for bandoneon in 1954. There wasn't any concert
for bandoneon and orchestra in the history of music. The premiere was with
the National Symphony Orchestra, that was the introduction. After that I
wrote several concerts for bandoneon and orchestra, premiered at the Teatro
Colón, and also orders from the Teatro Colón. The way was open for the
erudite music. Then came the composers of different esthetic tastes,
some of avant garde, others more classic: all searched for the sound of the
instrument. I have various works of fairly well known composers of the world,
Joaquín Rodrigo, is one of them. I have a work made, nobody will take me
this... there was nothing before. All was too precarious. Neither the tangos
where written for bandoneon. The bandoneonist themselves where ashamed about
their work. They didn't believe in their own instrument, although they where
eminent bandoneonists: Arolas, Laurenz. All those bandoneonist of former times,
some good, others not, who wrote popular music, recognized that the tangos
they composed for bandoneon where edited for piano. When I started to give
concerts, I said to me: "It can't be, how this instrument hasn't literature? -
Well let's create one and bring it to the composers." That was it. Now the
whole world writes for bandoneon. One had to be absolute pioneer, it was an
instrument for accompaniment, they made some variations for tango music.
Additionally there existed unproportions in the orchestras: six, sometimes
eight bandoneons and four violins. Two bandoneons can overwhelm eight violins.
They used the instrument only with one voice. It didn't sound. They believed
the instrument was quite limited. It has an impressive power. It is dangerous
to record without care, it over drives the microphone. I have it proofed during
many concerts. I gave more than 2500 in cathedrals and big halls all over the
world. I played at the famous "Thomaskirche" of Leipzig, where Bach acted
27 years; it's a temple of music. But having introduced the bandoneon there,
when no German had occurred that ever a bandoneonist would give a concert
in Bach's church... And in Venece I played where
Vivaldi passed nearly his whole
life, gave lessons for pupils, and played. He was a "prete", he was called
"prete rosso" because of his red clothings. Mine is a work which
goes ahead the tango, it's inside Argentine music.
Religious music was never played with the bandoneon. It was used
eminently for popular music. I've searched a lot among old German bandoneonists
who had very precariously written, limited pieces. There existed even a
chair at the Musikhochschule of Berlin, in the Conservatory. The director was
a composer and wrote some works for bandoneon: It was the time of Hitler before
the war. He posted the bandoneon as a popular instrument. He put it in a
In the beginning the bandoneon had an informal keyboard. We continue to play
with that informal keyboard where the disposition for the left hand
or the right hand changes on opening or closing. There are two forms of
one note is an "a" on opening and "b" on closing the same button.
That's a second,
but sometimes it's a quart of difference. The keyboard of the bandoneon is
crazy. The German bandoneonists have changed that keyboard. In 1925 they made
a contest all over Germany and selected two keyboard systems: one was of
Kusserov and an other of an other bandoneonist. The most widely
used was that of
Kusserov, a keyboard called chromatic and which is ordered:
on opening or closing
it's the same tone. It was quite simplified. The keyboard we use is crazy.
But Argentina rejected that, it didn't like it. Additionally, for economic
reasons since Germany had lost the war, the Germans made some modifications
of the bandoneon. The reed plates on which the reeds are fixed are made of
zinc and antimony, an alloy hard to obtain, specially for a determined
seems that it is compressed with 500 tons. This increases the price of the
bandoneon, they couldn't pay that. They used aluminum reed plates instead,
they where far cheaper and far simpler. The sonority changed, it was more
accordion like, but for the use in popular music it didn't mind. Here they
continued to play the informal keyboard with the real reed boards of the
bandoneon. Those which came here where more expensive, it didn't mind, We where
rich, it was the decade of the 10th, 20ies, of the 30ies, we had money
to pay that bandoneons. Than the factory worked nearly exclusively with
that bandoneon for the Rio de la Plata (Argentina and Uruguay). For Germany
our bandoneons with informal keyboard and zinc reed plates don't exist, and
the quality of the instrument declines considerably. We do play the real
bandoneon. "Tango para Bandoneón y Orquesta de Cuerdas": it's a work
I composed in Granada.
Concerning the technique of the bandoneon: here comes a bandoneonist of Basso's orchestra. He comes rigid, with back ache. I let make him relax exercises: The man changes after a week. But they play completely cramped. They damage the instrument. The instrument tunes by itself. Since 16 years I don't tune the instrument, it makes it by itself. Sometimes there jumps a spring. It's marvelous this instrument. But they bring it every 2 months for tuning, because they hit it. But it could last 200 years. In that manner it holds 10 or 15 years. They ruin it.
date of creation: March 4, 1997