Osvaldo Pugliese, (Buenos Aires, 2nd of December 1905, 25th July 1995), has been one of the greatest Tango musician of all time. Because of his innovative and avant-garde style, and the richness and intensity of his music, also non-Tango lovers appreciate him. He became popular outside of the Tango scene for his compositions after 1955, when musicians stopped composing music only for the dancers.
Osvaldo Pugliese: the beginnings
His father was an amateur flautist and taught him the basic, then Osvaldo Pugliese started playing violin as his two older brothers. But he soon realised that his true passion and inspiration was the piano. He studied in local music schools and when he was only 15 years old made his professional debut in Café de la Cancha. During his first years as musician, Pugliese played with different orchestras and quartets, among the others Roberto Firpo and Pedro Maffia’s ones, two very famous Tango orchestras of the Guardia Nueva.
Osvaldo Pugliese and his orchestras:
Together with violinist Elvino Vardaro, he left Pedro Maffia’s Orchestra to form his first ensemble. They played in Café Nacional and they also went on tour across Argentina, though unfortunately there are no recording left of their music and performances. Afterward, Pugliese formed and ensemble with violinist Alfredo Gobbi (whose style later on, when he formed his own orchestra, is similar to Pugliese’s one). In this small orchestra at the bandoneon there was the very young Aníbal Troilo, one of the best bandoneonist in the history of Tango and the director of one of the main Tango orchestra of the Golden age. Later on, Pugliese also played together with Pedro Laurenz and Miguel Caló’s orchestras. After this first period of apprenticeship, Pugliese finally started to drive toward his own conception of music, Tango and life.
The communist concept of cooperative and the rise of Osvaldo Pugliese
He became pianist, director, and arranger of his own orchestra, and from a café in Villa Crespo, they went on to play for the most important radio of that period, El Mundo, whose listeners were mostly communists. Pugliese was a convinced communist, and although he never mixed his political idea with his role as a musician, he applied some of the communism’s concepts to his own orchestra. He run it as a cooperative, dividing in equal shares any cash they earned.
His loyal musicians and the first recordings
His loyal musicians, who stayed with him for a long time, were: Aniceto Rossi (double bass), Osvaldo Ruggero (bandoneon, who played with Pugliese until 1968) and Enrique Camerano (violin). Eventually Osvaldo Pugliese’s Orchestra recorded his first disc. In 1943, with Roberto Chanel as a singer, starts the Pugliese’s sound that every tanguero knows, and a journey that will lead the Argentinian musician to become a worldwide star.
The Osvaldo Pugliese Milonguero: Chanel and Moran 1943-1947
Although nowadays most people know Pugliese’s orchestra for the music composed after 1957, and many professional dancers choose it for their performances, the old milongueros remember Pugliese (with Chanel) as the one who brought new ideas to the Tango of the golden era, giving them the indispensable compass, together with nuances and dramatic pauses. During this first period, both instrumental tunes and the ones with the singer were perfect Tangos to dance also in a crowded milonga. As Pugliese himself said, he composed for the people, and although his music is very sophisticated, especially in this first phase every milonguero can get straight into each tune and dream with it.
Two different singers for Osvaldo Pugliese
If on one side Chanel has been the singer who made it all possible, with his nasal voice and his guardia vieja style, Alberto Moran started to add drama and sensuality to Pugliese’s Tangos. It is well known that he was very handsome and women went crazy for him every time he sang.
Best Tangos of the Pugliese Milonguero
- Mala junta 1943, Instrumental
- Recuerdo, 1944, Instrumental
- Tierra querida, 1944, Instrumental
- El Tango es una historia, 1944, Chanel
- Amurado, 1944, instrumental
- Rondando tu esquina, 1945, Chanel
- El abrojito, 1945, Alberto Moran
- Mentira, 1945, Alberto Moran
Pugliese after Chanel: Alberto Moran and Maciel
Although many say that Pugliese music is more sophisticated and prefer to dance to it with a special partner, because of the complexity of his structure, it is not until later, after 1955-60, that his music changed into one more adapt for choreographic performances or scenic steps, requiring a special connection with a specific partner. Until then, the beat in Pugliese music is always very clear, and even the first time you listen to a tune, you can predict what comes next. During this second phase there is indeed an evolution from the milonguero period, but all his tangos remain very adapt for a milonga and for ordinary milongueros, especially the ones with singer Alberto Moran.
Pugliese with Maciel
It is true though that Pugliese added more drama to the sound of his tangos, and, most of all, more pauses and change of intensity. Especially since Jorge Maciel became the singer, this was more evident. It is also true that this music might not be ideal in a crowded milonga, as his dramatic sound, though accompanying the still present compass, makes you want to walk longer steps or open the embrace. The instruments start more and more to interact with each other, rather than playing always together, and in each musical phrase a new instrument is the main character.
Some of the best Pugliese’s tangos until 1957:
- Malandraca, 1949, instrumental
- De Floreo, 1949, instrumental
- Pasional, 1951, Moran
- La tupugantina, 1952, instrumental
- La yumba, 1952, instrumental
- Esta noche de luna, 1955, Maciel
- Cascabelito, 1955, Maciel
- Remembranza, 1956, Maciel
- Nochero soy, 1956, Instrumental
- Pata ancha, 1957, instrumental
The modern Pugliese, during the decline of Tango dance
It is difficult to set an exact date when this new phase started, as in every change they do not happen suddenly: the musicians try and test new sounds and new way of playing and gradually change their style. 1955 is an important date in Argentinian history, as there was a coup that saw a military government taking power, replacing president Perón. As Perón was a man of people, he loved Tango and many musician were actually involved in political activity. The new regime did not ban Tango, but many measures that they imposed on people affected it. There were curfews and for some time the dictatorship prohibited public political gathering, making it difficult for people to keep dancing tangos in public places. This, and new sounds coming from USA (such as rock and roll) determined the decline of Tango dancing.
The Pugliese that all professional dancers love
In this situation Tango orchestras continued to compose tangos, although as the milongas were gradually disappearing, they started to record music for listening, rather than dancing. This is why we can choose this date also to mark the change in Pugliese’s music, and from 1957 his Tangos clearly changed their structure. It is rare to hear in a milonga a Tango by Pugliese later than 1957, with few exceptions. Approximately from this year, Pugliese’s tunes started to change, and the always present compass, that all milongueros love so much, is less marked, making the music less predictable, though more intense and sophisticated. This is the reason why professional dancers love this type of Pugliese: whether they improvise or prepare a choreography, performing the right steps in the right moments can bring sublime moments of artistic performance.
Some of the best modern Pugliese’s tangos
- El Panuelito, 1958, Jorge Maciel
- Gallo ciego, 1958, Instrumental
- La mariposa, 1966, Instrumental
- A Evaristo Carriego, 1969, Instrumental
- El Andariego, 1972, Instrumental
Pugliese’s Valses and milongas
Pugliese concentrated most of his artistic vein in composing Tangos, and there aren’t many valses and milongas in his repertoire. As he wasn’t a rhythmic composer, his valses and milongas, though beautiful pieces of music, do not appeal much the average milonguero, with some exception as the fabulous vals Desde el Alma.
Three best milongas:
- Milonga de mi Tierra, 1943, Jorge Rubino,
- Tortazos, 1944, Roberto Chanel
- Anda’ que te cure Lola, 1947, Roberto Chanel
Three best Valses:
- Tu casa ya no esta, 1944, Roberto Chanel
- Ilusion Marina, 1947, Alberto Moran
- Desde el alma, 1979, Instrumental