by Julio Nudler
Poet, lyricist, musician, reciter, broadcaster.
(June 2, 1933)
e arrived at tango with his mad lyrics when tango was unable to produce the fame and popular devotion which it had poured on other creators, who by then were dead or resigned to decline. But anyway he forced his way through, and he even became the lyricist adopted by Astor Piazzolla, the only avant-gardist who did not disdain tango with lyrics. At times he succeeded in connecting those big masses already removed from the genre, and granted to Piazzolla the multitudinous popular repercussion which he had lacked. Anyhow, he never indulged in a direct and flat lyric, a stubbornness for which every artist pays a price. A creator of an unceasing work, acclaimed or rejected, he has been and he is the lyricist most determined to write new verses when all the tango verses seemed to have been already written.
Horacio Ferrer was born at a Montevidean home impregnated with art. Since early childhood he already wrote poems, marionettes plays and, some time later, milongas which he sang, accompanying himself on guitar, for his neighborhood friends in the cellar of a grocery store. An uncle, his mother's brother, living in Buenos Aires on the west margin of the River Plate, where he often traveled with his parents, was who taught him to play tangos on guitar by ear. It was that same uncle who would make him know the Buenos Aires night with all its gallery of Bohemian characters.
His early tangos emerged at the beginning of the 50s, appearing in them the themes and the, at times, surrealist style of his later works. With friends acquainted while studying architecture and the collector Víctor Nario he started a weekly radio program in Uruguay: "Selección de Tangos", from which he intended to defend the resisted avant-garde trends. In 1954 out of that insurgent broadcast would be born "El Club de la Guardia Nueva", which organized concerts with Aníbal Troilo, Horacio Salgán and the Astor Piazzolla's revolucionary Octeto Buenos Aires. He met the latter in 1955, on Astor's comeback from France. That meeting would result of great importance.
Ferrer redacted, illustrated and directed the magazine "Tangueando" for seven years, while his poems and his tangos stayed unpublished. Around that same period, between 1956 and 1959, he studied bandoneon and shared a small orchestra. During the latter year he made public his first book, El Tango. Su historia y evolución, published by Peña Lillo. Through the two Sodre waves, the Uruguayan official radio, he broadcasted until 1967 organic cycles about the evolution of tango. From then on he would lead numerous radio and television programs on both margins of the River Plate.
After quitting his studies on architecture he worked as redactor for the supplements of the Montevidean morning paper "El Día", and after Troilo's request he wrote "La última grela", a tango with which he began his career of consecrated lyricist. The following years abounded in significant events, and among these, the Primer Festival Universitario de Tango, featuring Piazzolla, Julio De Caro, César Zagnoli, Prudencio Aragón and others.
In 1967 he recorded the poems of his "Romancero canyengue" for the Argentine independent label Trova, accompanied by Agustín Carlevaro's guitar. This record made that Piazzolla invited him to write together, what they would intensely do until 1973. So, as a first great blossom, the operita "María de Buenos Aires" sprang up, it was premiered in 1968 at the sala Planeta, in Buenos Aires, Piazzolla with his ten-piece orchestra, the voices of Héctor de Rosas and Amelita Baltar, and Ferrer himself as reciter in the role of El Duende. Trova issued it in two LP's, while the early tangos of the team were appearing, like the already classic "Chiquilín de Bachín" and "Juanito Laguna ayuda a su madre", evidencing a clear social commitment.
Throughout 1969 a series of tangos called baladas sprang out, out of which "Balada para un loco" would result in a resounding boom, the first authentically massive success which Piazzolla enjoyed. Among several works in which Ferrer displays his peculiar imaginary, with a language which absolutely can tell from any other lyricist ("Canción de las venusinas" and "La bicicleta blanca" are examples of that), "Fábula para Gardel" stands out, a touching introduction to the art of the genial singer, with the poetic excuse of a father who tells about him to his child. On its premiere, the poem was recited unsurpassably by Ferrer himself at the Luna Park of Buenos Aires, accompanied by eight bandoneons and a big orchestra conducted by Piazzolla, on a glorious evening. Those productions were shaped on the record "Astor Piazzolla y Horacio Ferrer en persona".
Among an extensive number of works, presentations and prizes in several countries, Ferrer worked in collaboration with important artists of the genre, such as Roberto Grela, Leopoldo Federico, Raúl Garello and Horacio Salgán, with whom he composed the Oratorio Carlos Gardel in 1975. The following year he wrote with already mythical tango figures, such as Julio De Caro ("Loquita mía"), Pedro Laurenz (writing lyrics to "Esquinero"), Armando Pontier ("El hombre que fue ciudad"), Osvaldo Pugliese ("Yo payador me confieso") and Aníbal Troilo ("Tu penúltimo tango").
Besides being a prolific lyricist ("Balada para mi muerte", "El Gordo triste" and "El hombrecito blanco" are examples of his creative power), Ferrer is author, among other works, of "El Libro del Tango, Arte Popular de Buenos Aires", whose first issue dates back to 1970. Especially in its three-volume 1980 edition (Antonio Tersol Editor), with more than two thousand pages, it is the binding reference of any researcher.