There’s a very Hispanic feel to the Prom on Tuesday July 23rd. The Portuguese pianist Artur Pizarro (who records for Naxos) is playing the gorgeous ‘Nights in the Garden of Spain’ by de Falla whose dances from the ‘Three Cornered Hat Ballet’ are also being performed. The Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez will be singing two Donizetti arias including ‘Ah! Mes amis’, which was one of Pavarotti’s showpieces. But he will also be singing some popular Latin American songs by, amongst others, Carlos Gardel.
Gardel was born in France in 1890, his mother bringing him to Argentina when he was 27 months old. He became an enormously popular tango singer during the inter-war years. His death in an airplane crash in 1935 at the height of his career created an image of a tragic hero in his native Argentina. For many music fans, Gardel embodies the soul of the tango, a musical form and dance which evolved in the barrios of Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century.
Apparently Gardel had a baritone voice of ‘unerring musicality and dramatic phrasing’, creating miniature masterpieces among the hundreds of three-minute tangos which he recorded during his lifetime.
Together with his long-term collaborator, lyricist Alfredo Le Pera, Gardel also wrote several classic tangos. One or more of these will no doubt be performed at the Prom.
Gardel began his career singing in bars and at private parties and in 1911 sung with Francisco Martino, and later with José Razzano(which would last until 1925), singing a wide repertory. Gardel appeared in all the Latin American countries as well as Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and New York. He sold 70,000 records in the first three months of a 1928 visit to Paris. As his popularity grew, he made a number of films for Paramount in France and the U.S., which were essentially vehicles for his singing and matinée-idol looks.
Gardel is still revered from Buenos Aires to Tokyo, where people say that “he sings better every day.” His fans still like to place a lit cigarette in the fingers of the life-sized statue which adorns his tomb. One of Gardel’s favorite phrases, ‘Veinte años no es nada’ (Twenty years is nothing) became a famous saying across Latin America.
Barry Wordsworth will be conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra at this Prom. It should be very well worth listening to.