Horacio Ferrer

Horacio Arturo Ferrer Ezcurra was born in Montevideo on June 2, 1933. His father, Horacio Ferrer Pérez, was Uruguayan and a history teacher. And his mother, Alicia Ezcurra Franccini, was Argentine, great-grandniece of Juan Manuel de Rosas. His mother and maternal grandfather were fans of poetry and had personally known Rubén Darío, Amado Nervo and Federico García Lorca. She learned to recite poetry from his mother, who in turn had learned from Alfonsina Storni. This poetic recitation applied to the songs he composed will be one of his great innovations in the culture of the River Plate.


He studied Architecture at the University of the Republic for eight years, although he did not finish said degree. But he would obtain a good job at that university, being appointed its secretary, which, together with his work as a journalist for the newspaper El Día de Montevideo, guaranteed him economic stability.


In the 1950s, when he was just over twenty years old, he was one of the producers of the program Selección de Tangos, on Montevideo radio, in order to defend the new tango trends and the group “El Club de la Guardia Nueva”. to organize recitals, in Montevideo, of the musicians who were revolutionizing tango, such as Aníbal Troilo, Horacio Salgán and Ástor Piazzolla, who was then leader of the famous “Octeto Buenos Aires”. From then on, Ferrer directed tango radio programs on Sodre, the official Uruguayan radio network.


At the same time he founded and directed the magazine “Tangueando”, illustrated and written by him. At the end of the 1950s, he was part of a small tango orchestra as a bandoneon player and published his first book: “El Tango: su historia y evolution”, in 1959.


In 1961 the Circular Theater of Montevideo premiered his work (in collaboration with Hugo Mazza) “El Tango del alba”, which was inspired by the life of Ángel Villoldo, creator of the tango El Choclo, premiered in 1903. In 1964 he published “Discepolín, poet of the man of Corrientes and Esmeralda” and in 1965, “Sound history of tango”.


In 1967, at the age of 34, he published his first book of poems: “Romancero canyengue”. Ferrer's poetry was innovative and striking. He used invented words and unusual phrases. The book was very well received both in Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Troilo, Piazzola, Mario Benedetti, Cátulo Castillo, Homero Espósito, praised the work. Several literary critics maintained that the book marked the birth of a new language in tango.


In that book he included the tango "La Última Grela", just as Aníbal Troilo had suggested to him and with the intention that he would set it to music. But finally it was not Troilo but Ástor Piazzolla who did it and paid attention to his poetry. It is at that moment that Ferrer decides to move to Buenos Aires. In an interview he said that after the book appeared, Piazzolla went to look for him and told him: “If you don't come to work with me you are an idiot.”


At the end of 1967 he was already living in Buenos Aires, in a house located at Lavalle 1447, fifth A, in the Tribunales neighborhood, which was the historic house of the Ezcurra family to which his mother belonged, one block from the avenue Corrientes, heart of the Buenos Aires entertainment world.


He immediately began the work with Piazzola that would make him famous. Piazzola had been looking for a poet with whom he could create poetic-musical works. Ferrer says: Piazzolla collaborated with several, including Borges, but it was not what he wanted, so he looked for me and told me: "I want you to work with me because my music is the same as your verses."


The result was the creation of the operita (opera-tango) “María de Buenos Aires”, premiered in 1968 at the Sala Planeta in Buenos Aires, with Héctor de Rosas and Amelita Baltar as singers, and Ferrer himself in the role of El Leprechaun, reciting.

The work was a sensation. Over the years, it became the most staged dramatic work in Argentine theater in its entire history, being presented in 75 cities in 25 countries. Ferrer, in 1996, went on a world tour with the opera, directed by Gidon Kremer, with the voices of Julia Zenko and Jairo, later replaced by Raúl Lavié.


Already during the presentations of María de Buenos Aires, Piazzolla and Ferrer began to compose tango songs with a completely renewed aesthetic. Among them, in 1969, they composed "Chiquilín de Bachín", based on a children's waltz composed by Piazzola and to which Ferrer contributed lyrics inspired by the street children who sold flowers in the restaurants in the theater area of Corrientes Avenue, where the artists went after the performances. In this case, the famous Bachín still life, already demolished, which was located on Sarmiento Street, almost on the corner of Montevideo.

In the second half of 1969, Ferrer brought a phrase to Piazzola: "I already know that I'm piantao...". Thus emerged one of the most popular songs in Argentine music, which would also shake the foundations of the River Plate song. The result was a ballad with a waltz rhythm and two recitations tailored to the expressiveness of Amelita Baltar, Piazzola's then wife. The recitation, which had already appeared in “María de Buenos Aires” and which would be repeated in his creations, is one of Ferrer's great innovations to shake up the traditional structure of the River Plate song.


“Balada para un loco” became an immediate popular success and has remained one of the most famous Latin music songs of all time. Thanks to the cultural importance of the song, in 2012, the City Legislature of Buenos Aires established by law 4179 to name the corner of Corrientes and Callao, as "Horacio Ferrer Corner", placing a plaque there that indicates it.


Among the songs written by the Piazzolla-Ferrer duo at that time were "Balada para mi muerte", "Song of the Venusians", "The White Bicycle", "Juanito Laguna Ayuda a Su Madre" and "Fábula para Gardel", recorded on the album Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer in person, released in 1970. In total they composed more than 40 tangos together. ​


In 1970 he wrote the “Book of Tango: Popular Art of Buenos Aires.” The expanded edition of 1980, in three volumes, of more than two thousand pages, is one of the most in-depth studies carried out on tango and a must-see work. Volume 1 is dedicated to the "Chronicle of tango", while volumes 2 and 3 are a dictionary of tango.


In 1976 he decided to move to live in the Alvear Hotel, located at Av. Alvear 1891, in the Recoleta neighborhood, where he will reside from now on. Ferrer has said that he loved the neighborhood in which he lived, for family reasons, because his grandfather is buried in the Recoleta Cemetery and because his mother played in Plaza Francia, but also because of the social and urban characteristics. of the neighborhood.


In 1982 he met the painter Lulú Michelli, who was his partner. They met at the bohemian Bar “La Poesía” located on the corner of Chile 502 (and Bolívar), in the San Telmo neighborhood. One of the tables in the bar remembers the event with an inscription that says: "In this table the plastic artist Lulú Michelli met the poet Horacio Ferrer in a love that still lasts. June 1982".


In 1985 he received the Konex-Diploma Award for Merit, as one of the 5 most important Tango Authors of the decade in Argentina, an award that he received again in 2005.


In 1990, Ferrer finalized his project to create the National Academy of Tango, on June 28, 1990, by Decree 1235/1990 of the National Executive Branch, presiding over it from that moment on. During that period, he promoted several actions: in 1993 the Academy was installed in the Unzué Palace, Avenida de Mayo 833, its entrance is continuous with Café Tortoni (Av. De Mayo 825), in the Montserrat neighborhood. Since then the palace was renamed Palacio Carlos Gardel, which in 2000 he acquired as property thanks to a subsidy from the National State. Inside he organized the Tango Library and in 1995 he opened the Liceo Superior del Tango and dance courses. Since its inauguration, the Academy has founded another 30 academies in different countries to spread and study tango internationally.


In 2003 the Academy inaugurated the World Tango Museum with an entrance at 830 Rivadavia Street of the Carlos Gardel Palace, based on its own idea and architectural project and the historical script based on the book “The Golden Century of Tango”, by Ferrer.


In 2007, after a year of work, he finished composing the opera “The King of Tango in the Kingdom of Dreams,” with Raúl Garello.


Ferrer died at the age of 81 on the afternoon of December 21, 2014 as a result of a heart complication; he was admitted to the Güemes Sanatorium.


He was laid to rest in the "Montevideo" room of the Palace of the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires.


His remains were cremated in the Chacarita Cemetery and his ashes were scattered in the Río de la Plata, between Uruguay, where he was born, and Buenos Aires where he lived his last forty-six years.



Susana Espósito y Luis Leoz (2006). «Entrevista a Horacio Ferrer». Conozca Recoleta.

EGC (14 de febrero de 2007). «Entrevista a Horacio Ferrer: “Los poetas malditos franceses inventaron las letras de tango”». El Litoral. Archivado desde el original el 22 de diciembre de 2014.