Violinist, orchestra leader and composer Julio De Caro was a prominent figure in tango, so much so that his style is considered the supreme guide to tango interpretation.
De Caro was born on 11 December 1899 in Buenos Aires in the neighbourhood of Balvanera to an Italian family of 12 children. Their father Jose Guiseppe De Caro De Sica was the director of the Conservatory in the Teatro della Scala de Milano and wished for his sons to attend university and receive formal musical instruction. Their father also ran a conservatory in the San Telmo district and it was known as the city’s best source for music, instruments and lessons. Julio would study the piano and his brother Francisco, the violin. However, the boys exchanged instruments and devoted themselves to tango, much to the horror of their family.
In 1915, Julio obtained a spot as second violinist for a performance at the Lorea Theatre. Eduardo Arolas, the “Bandoneon Tiger,” was an artistic godfather to De Caro and included him in his orchestra. De Caro’s 1917 performance at the Palais de Glace elicited a standing ovation that Arolas offered him a permanent position in the orchestra. Under Arolas, he wrote his first tango, “Mon beguin.” The elder De Caro did not care for popular music like tango and eventually forced the 18-year-old De Caro out of the house. Francisco followed, joining Arolas’ group as well.
De Caro would later go on to play with other noted musicians, such as Ricardo Luis Brignolo, the pianist José María Rizzuti, the bandoneon player Osvaldo Fresedo, the pianist Enrique Delfino and the Uruguayan bandoneonist Minotto Di Cicco also known as “Mano brava.”
By 1923, De Caro joined Juan Carlos Cobian’s sextet. Towards the end of that year, when Cobian traveled to the United States, Julio assembled his own sextet and reunited with his brother Francisco. They had a successful New Year’s Eve performance, resulting in lucrative contracts. In 1925, the Julio De Caro Orchestra played for Edward, the Prince of Wales and later that year, American jazz bandleader Paul Whiteman introduced Julio to the Stroh violin. This particular violin had a cornet horn on one end and was invented for radio performances.
The orchestra went on to tour France, performing at Nice’s Palais de la Méditerranée, for Prince Umberto di Savoia, for the Rothschilds’ galas, and for Paramount Studios in the making of “Luces de Buenos Aires” starring Carlos Gardel. In 1936, they presented an “Evolution of Tango” at the Teatro Opera, where Julio and Francisco’s ageing parents made a surprise visit, resulting in a family reconciliation.
De Caro’s tango is considered to have maintained the essence of the tango that originated in the slums and managing to reconcile the folk roots with the pro-European influence. Among his most fundamental compositions are “Boedo,” “Tierra guenda,” “Colombina,” “Copacobana,” “Chiclana,” “El arranque,” “El bajel,” “El monito,” “Guardia vieja,” “La rayuela,” “Loca ilusion,” “Mala junta,” “Mala pinta,” “Mi queja,” “Moulin rouge,” “Orgullo criollo,” “Tierra querida,” “Tiny,” and “Todo corazon.”
The 11th of December is considered the Day of Tango, which happens to be the birthdays of De Caro and Gardel.