Violinist, arranger, leader and composer
(13 July 1913 - 8 November 1960)
Full name: Argentino Liborio Galván
Galván himself, in an interview on Radio Splendid in 1960, said: "You can play an instrument admirably well even though you don't know music, but if you don't have a deep musical knowledge you cannot make an arrangement."
In Chivilcoy, his hometown, he attended elementary school and began to study violin. His father played guitar "by ear" and was a fairly accomplished payador, he had a great number of friendly musicians and singers that daily visited his home. Before having studied music he surprised the visitors more than once by whistling the violin part of the tune that was being played or by improvising counterlines on a comb wrapped up in silk paper.
In 1931 he decided to put together his first sextet in which also played Raúl, his younger brother. Already at that time he began to evidence his disposition for arranging.
In the mid- 1931 he had an encounter that would turn out very important for his future career. The Vardaro-Pugliese sextet dismembered and another was formed with Osvaldo Pugliese on piano, Alfredo Gobbi and Enrique Cantore on violins, Alfredo De Franco and Carlos Angelotti on bandoneons and José Díaz on double bass. When the new sextet performed in Chivilcoy, two of its musicians, Gobbi and Cantore heard him play the violin and discovered that he has a musical talent in development and then they encouraged him to travel to Buenos Aires.
As composer he already has a waltz in his output: "Madre mía" and the following year he published "Mariposa", a tango with lyrics by Ramón Giachetta, another neighbor of his town. This number was included in the Osvaldo Fresedo's repertory but was never recorded.
In the late 1933 he put together a guitar trio to back his violin solos and soon thereafter he added a singer, Carlos Claudel (Carlos Devenutto), who later in Buenos Aires would sing with José Luis Padula's outfit. For this trio he devised some ideas completely original, very similar to the ones that Charlo would use in his guitar accompaniments.
In 1934 he made brief visits to the Capital and composed a estilo criollo titled "Jubileo a Don Prudencio" dedicated to an old neighbor named Prudencio Moras. In August 1935 he made the last performance with his oufit and decided to try his luck in Buenos Aires. The singer Claudel connected him with José Luis Padula. He appeared briefly in the Alberto De Caro's orchestra, and as well with Enrique Delfino on Radio Splendid. Later he joined several groups, Juan Canaro's, Florindo Sassone's and, in 1937, Miguel Caló's, as lead violin of the section that completed José Paz and Carlos Aiello.
By that time he lived at the bohemian hotel "La alegría" on Salta Street. There he foresaw his future by analyzing himself. He came to two conclusions: the first, that he was not an outstanding player of the instrument, the second, that his real vocation was focused on arranging and orchestration.
Luis Adolfo Sierra explained this time of Galván as follows: «The Caló orchestra had an exceptional period when Galván was in charge of the instrumental arrangements. Among the innovations in interpretation the so-called violinistic virtuosity in tango sprung up. Up to that time the classic way of singing the melodies was in vogue, the best examples were Agesilao Ferrazzano, Cayetano Puglisi, Julio De Caro, Manlio Francia and Elvino Vardaro. But with Raúl Kaplún as lead violin in Caló's orchestra, Galván exploited the notable technical capabilities of the former, by writing solo passages with such difficulties that required the best of his dexterity. Virtuosity on violin whose forerunner was Antonio Rodio and that Kaplún enhanced thanks to Galván was continued with Enrique Mario Francini and Szymsia Bajour.»
The 40s presented a great number of young qualified leaders that joined those already in the milieu. It then becomes necessary, for reasons of competence, the contribution of a professional specialization that makes real the pretensions of evolution. So the figure of the arranger and orchestrator appears. His mission, according to his capability, is to help to harmonize and polish the styles of interpretation of the groups.
Among the forerunners in arranging we can mention: Julio and Francisco De Caro, Julio Perceval, Julio Rosemberg, Alejandro Gutiérrez del Barrio and some more. And also the important contribution of Héctor María Artola for several ensembles.
Galván and Artola carried tango to the music stand definitively. But it is in the orchestra led by Aníbal Troilo where Galván will develop an innovative style with a marked tendency to highlight the strings in the orchestral treatment.
When Troilo made his debut on Radio El Mundo in 1940 he was already backed by Galván and his first work is Fresedo's tango piece: "Pimienta". To enumerate them would be very long but we have to name the work that Troilo regarded as the most important, "Recuerdos de bohemia", a revolution for that time (1945). In it the arranger shows the influence of his preferred musician, Claude Debussy. However in "Selección de tangos de Julio De Caro" (1949)(a medley of tango pieces composed by De Caro) he reaches his highest peak because De Caro is present throughout the work even though their numbers are abridged, modified and newly ordered.
He did something similar with the tangos composed by Bardi and Cobián but they were never recorded because, like "Recuerdos de bohemia", they exceeded the duration of the two sides of a 78 rpm Disc. A frustration he was able to overcome when he put together "Los astros del tango".
Among his main arrangements for Troilo we can mention many numbers sung by Edmundo Rivero. The top testimony is the arrangement of "Sur" of 1948 and before, in 1944, his chart for the waltz "Palomita blanca" for the Alberto Marino-Floreal Ruíz duo. All this does not overshadow "Pichuco"'s figure, on the contrary, it is worthwhile noting that he had accepted the audacious proposals of innovators of the level of Galván, Piazzolla, Spitalnik, Artola, Plaza and others.
It was a time of great activity because he as well worked for the orchestras led by Osvaldo Pugliese ("Adiós Bardi" and "La beba"), Francini-Pontier ("Tigre viejo"), Osvaldo Fresedo ("El día de tu ausencia"), José Basso ("Rosicler").
He also joined several jazz groups, the most important of them was the Brighton Jazz band whose leadership was shared with Elvino Vardaro. They recorded Galván's composition dedicated to Vardaro as a homage and for his showcasing: "Violinomanía".
At this period of great creativity he composed the tango pieces: "El día de tu ausencia" (with Manuel Arcos), "Me están sobrando las penas" (with Basso and Bahr), "Cafetín" and "Esta noche estoy de tangos" (with Homero Expósito) and "Nuestra cita" (with Agustín Delamónica).
In 1948 he appeared on Radio El Mundo conducting a 35-piece orchestra. In the early 50s he composed the soundtracks of some Argentine anodyne movies. He conducted the orchestras to accompany Oscar Alonso, Roberto Maida, Horacio Deval, Carmen Duval, Jorge Vidal, María de la Fuente, Eduardo Adrián, Raúl Berón, Virginia Luque, Roberto Quiroga, Oscar Fuentes and Ranko Fujisawa.
In 1956 he conducted the orchestra for the Ballet Folklórico Argentino led by the dancer Santiago Ayala, aka "El Chúcaro". As well he put into practice an old theory of his, the addition of a female voice singing a line without words, conveniently adapted to enrich the orchestral mass. For this purpose he used the singer Ana María Pons.
In 1953 he encouraged the creation of the Sociedad Argentina de Orquestadores y Arregladores (Argentine Society of Orchestrators and Composers). Musicians wanted their work to be recognized so they were trying to modify the statutes of the Sociedad Argentina de Autores y Compositores (SADAIC). They also wanted the diffusion of the arranger's name on the record labels and on the published editions. The strong resistence of the recording companies and the orchestra leaders frustrated the intent.
In 1958 he formed Los Astros del Tango, a true chamber ensemble which spotlighted the work of the strings. He is the conductor and arranger of the group that was lined-up by: Elvino Vardaro, Enrique Francini, Mario Lalli, José Bragato, Julio Ahumada, Jaime Gosis and Rafael del Bagno. On some renditions the violin is played by Szymsia Bajour and the double bass by Italo Bessa. They made their debut in October on Radio Splendid. They made three recording sessions for Music Hall. Each record was dedicated to two different composers. So they released the tango pieces composed by Bardi, Arolas, Delfino, Aieta, De Caro and Cobián.
In 1960 he released a record to portrait the history of the tango orchestra "La historia de la orquesta típica", with the subtitle: "El tango en su evolución instrumental" (Tango in its instrumental evolution). It begins with "Don Juan" by a trio comprised of guitar, flute and violin and ends with Piazzolla. The principal instrumentalists had the task of imitating the tango greats as a homage, according to Galván.
Some opinions of Galván himself are interesting: «First of all I do not like modern tango, I like simple and plain tango. Instead, I do believe in the modern orchestra. And the latter does not get satisfied by always repeating the same, with monotony and lack of creative impulse, otherwise it looks for new timbres to enrich and modernize tango without destroying its essence.»
Another one: «Either symphonic tango or a symphonic tango orchestra are nonsense, simply because there are no symphonic pieces in the tango field. But I don't deny that there is a subtle change with the passing of time in the musical richness of tango, which comes, in my opinion, from the decisive progress in orchestration.»
In March 1960 he led the Orquesta Gigante del Tango (Giant Tango Orchestra) and appeared at the Cine-Teatro Ópera. In August he began to work in a repertory necessary for a trip to Japan heading a musical embassy. He was planning to include Vardaro, Gosis, Ahumada, del Bagno and the rest would be completed with Japanese musicians. He had already composed a tango tune titled "Sayonara". Radio Belgrano, as bidding him farewell, allowed him to put together a 50-piece orchestra so that he would be able to release that repertory. But nothing of that was possible, on November 8 he died.