Bandoneonist, leader and arranger
(30 April 1903 - 8 July 1982)
e was born in the city of San José (República Oriental del Uruguay), "my dear town" as he used to say, on April 30, 1903. Before he was ten he started his music studies, he had lessons on piano and piccolo, an instrument he had bought. In 1918 he was as well organist. He played at weddings and funerals at the church and he, besides piano, also studied bandoneon with a half-keyboard instrument, a task that he carried out without teacher.
In his youth he joined a small orchestra with Manuel García Servetto and other friends. In 1920 he appeared in several occasions as pianist and came to know Juan Baüer (Firpito), who encouraged him to settle in Montevideo.
In 1921 he moved to Montevideo to study law. But, the first thing that Artola did was to meet tango musicians working at night venues. He met Arolas and, on some occasions, he replaced the pianist of his group. He clearly recalled that his first performance was Jovés's tango "Una más".
He reunited again with Juan Baüer and they put together a trio with Roberto Zerrillo on violin, sometimes the drummer Lambertucci was added. This trio continued with its successful appearances for over a year.
In March 1925 he debuted in Carlos Warren's orchestra, in which Edgardo Donato played as well. In 1927 Artola was member of the team Donato-Zerrillo, which used to appear at the theater accompanying Iris Marga, who sang "A media luz".
Under the recommendation of the singer Juan Carlos Cohan, he was summoned by Eduardo Bianco to join his orchestra in Paris. Bianco sent Agesilao Ferrazzano to Montevideo with a contract and the instruction to persuade him to travel with him soon. Without thinking it twice, Artola accepted and sailed towards Europe. He arrived on December 24, 1927.
When he arrived in Paris, after he evaluated the technical proficiency of the European bandoneon players, Artola expressed: «I was embarrassed and started to study like mad...»
He played in the Bianco-Bachicha Orchestra, alongside Fioravanti Di Cicco, also an Uruguayan like him and the Argentines Ferrazzano, Mario Melfi, Miguel Tanga, Horacio Pettorossi, José Schumaker, completing the outfit with French musicians. In 1928 they traveled to Spain and stayed for a long season in Barcelona.
The leaders split and Artola remained with Eduardo Bianco. After a time he split with him and traveled to Valencia where he found the Irusta-Fugazot-Demare trio at their highest peak. He joined the orchestra headed by Lucio Demare with the duet of singers, Irusta and Fugazot. The bandoneon line was played by Artola with Pedro Polito; they were highly successful.
In Madrid he split with the trio to devote himself to study harmony and counterpoint with Spanish teachers. By then he performed in a Spanish orchestra named "Los Galíndez". In 1930 he returned to Paris and joined the orchestra led by Juan Bautista Deambroggio "Bachicha" that played at the "Montparnasse" cabaret. Alfredo and Ricardo Malerba were members of that aggregation.
In 1931 they traveled to Germany touring several cities. When they arrived in Hamburg he met "Los ases argentinos del tango" and to the disappointment of "Bachicha" he joined this outfit, a large line-up in which Francisco Fiorentino was the vocalist.
In 1932 and 1933, Artola plays in Paris as member of the French orchestra "Allonge". Then he had news about the serious problems of health of his aunt, the one that had brought him up, so he decided to return to Montevideo.
On October 4, 1934 the magazine "Cancionera" announced the contract signed by Artola to accompany the well-known female singer Libertad Lamarque, together with the pianist Alfredo Malerba and the violinist Antonio Rodio. That labor of accompaniment lasted until 1937.
Artola and Rodio split with the accompaniment group to Libertad Lamarque, and joined Miguel Nijensohn (pianist), Miguel Bonano (bandoneon player) and Francisco Fiorentino to form the outfit "Los poetas del tango". Soon afterwards he switched to the Francisco Canaro Orchestra, replacing Federico Scorticatti.
In the 1938 season he played with Rafael Canaro's orchestra in Paris until 1940 when the difficulties originated by the war made him quickly return to Buenos Aires. Back there, he was member of the orchestra put together by Roberto Maida to appear at the "Ocean" cabaret with arrangements by Argentino Galván and lined-up by excellent musicians such as: Héctor Stamponi, Emilio Barbato, Antonio Ríos, Julio Ahumada, Tití Rossi, Enrique Francini, among others.
Later, Artola switched to the Radio "El Mundo" orchestra. Parallely he devotes himself to thorough music studies. As well he writes orchestrations for different groups and instrumental accompaniments for vocalists.
In 1949 he quit his place as bandoneon player in the Radio "El Mundo" Orchestra, devoting himself to orchestra conduction at that broadcasting and at Radio "Belgrano". He wrote arrangements for many vocalists, among them, Oscar Alonso, for whom he always had a predilection.
He left the recorded testimony of his Argentine symphonic orchestra, made in the early 50s, the wonderful arrangement for the only disc of Elvino Vardaro's orchestra in 1953 and in 1964, a piece with a tango mood called "Plegaria para un drama de tango". In Europe, between 1931 and 1932 he recorded some records with the singer Luis Scalón which today are unavailable, and in Buenos Aires in 1956 he conducted an orchestra in a Di Sarli-like style in which the singer Carlos Yanel performed.
In 1967 he retired from the musical activity, but still there was a transcendental event to come. On November 8, 1968 at the San Juan Bosco parochial church he premiered "Como el incienso", the first composition in the tango genre for church, music by Héctor María Artola and lyrics by Roque de Paola.
We cannot omit mentioning some of the successful tangos that Artola contributed to our dear popular music. "Desconsuelo", "Marcas", "Tango y copas" and "Equipaje" with Carlos Bahr, "Falsedad" and "Serenidad" with Alfredo Navarrine, "En un rincón" with Homero Manzi.
This is the prodigious career of whom we consider -probably there are details missing- the most outstanding figure in the history of tango in Uruguay. We do not need to add anything, this is plain justice.
In the late 70s, Héctor María Artola definitively returned to his beloved town of San José. Seriously ill he was taken to Buenos Aires, where he died on July 8, 1982. Later his remains were repatriated and buried in the San José cemetery.
The tango lovers of Uruguay are indebted to Héctor María Artola. Meanwhile, he lives in the admiration of those who appreciate his values and in the hearts of those who were his great friends.