Pianist, leader and composer
Nickname: Manos Brujas
(14 March 1906 - 24 September 1969)
o succeed in shaping a style and an unmistakable personality, within a very simple musical fashion, to a certain extent means a great achievement. This is the case of Rodolfo Biagi, who was born in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Telmo.
When he finished grammar school, he gave up his studies to devote himself to music, against his parents' opinion, he wanted to study violin and so his parents suggested a deal; they would buy the instrument but he had to enter the Escuela Normal de Profesores "Mariano Acosta". Rodolfo was enrolled at the conservatory of the newspaper "La Prensa", and there he found out that his true vocation was piano playing.
When he was thirteen, and without his parents' consent, he made his debut as pianist to play the musical background for silent movies at a local cinema. On just one of those evenings, Rodolfo had the chance that maestro Juan Maglio (Pacho) had been to the cinema, the latter was astonished by hearing the precocious pianist and then he invited the former to play with him. He was only fifteen.
Later he joined the orchestra of the bandoneonist Miguel Orlando at the cabaret "Maipú Pigall".
One evening in 1930 José Razzano went to see him and suggested him accompanying Carlos Gardel on some recordings. And so it was, on April 1, 1930 he recorded for the Odeon label the tangos "Viejo smoking", "Buenos Aires" and "Aquellas farras", the foxtrot "Yo nací para ti, tu serás para mí" and the waltz "Aromas de El Cairo" with the violinist Antonio Rodio and the guitarists Aguilar, Barbieri and Riverol.
Gardel invited him to a tour of Spain but Biagi did not accept; he then joined the Juan Bautista Guido orchestra, later he was member of the orchestra of Juan Canaro, there he met Juan Carlos Thorry with whom he composed the tango "Indiferencia"
As pianist for Juan Canaro he traveled to Brazil. On his comeback he left Juan Canaro's orchestra and was inactive for a time.
He was a frequent customer at the cabaret "Chantecler", where his friend Juan D'Arienzo played; the pianist of the orchestra was Lidio Fasoli, notorious for his lack of punctuality. One evening D'Arienzo decided to replace him and suggested Biagi to join his orchestra.
In 1935, D'Arienzo, through the young and experienced pianist with his nervous and rhythmic playing, defined forever his unmistakable style. During those nearly three years he was with D'Arienzo, he established a way of playing that later would be followed by Juan Polito and Fulvio Salamanca, the pianists that came after him.
The D'Arienzo orchestra appeared at the cabaret "Chantecler", on LR1 radio El Mundo, at balls made at clubs, on successful tours and played at the Enrique Santos Discépolo's movie "Melodías Porteñas". He recorded with the orchestra 71 numbers.
In 1938, Biagi split with D'Arienzo to put together his own line-up, debuting on September 16, 1938 at the cabaret "Marabú".
Either Biagi's orchestra or D'Arienzo's established the traditional positions of interpretation of tango, appealing to the interest of the public addict to dancing, with repertories especially based on the revival of old pieces adapted to their ways of musical expression.
His show on Radio Belgrano meant for him achieving the nickname "Manos Brujas" (Spellbinding Hands), which was the title of a foxtrot by José María Aguilar that he played at the beginning of each show with his orchestra. His first singer was Teófilo Ibáñez, successful interpreter of the tangos "Gólgota", "La novena" and the milonga "Campo afuera". Later came Andrés Falgás who was a boom with "Queja indiana", "Griseta", "La chacarera" and "Cicatrices".
Subsequently, the singer Jorge Ortiz, probably the most successful in the orchestra, joined them, he later joined Miguel Caló, but soon he came back to Biagi with whom he felt more at ease. His biggest hits were "Yuyo verde", "Indiferencia", "Pájaro ciego", "Misa de once" and "Soledad la de Barracas".
These singers as well joined his orchestra at different periods: Alberto Lago, Alberto Amor and Carlos Acuña. The latter was showcased with the tangos "A la luz del candil", "Lonjazos" and with one of the best renditions of the tango "Uno".
In 1942, he appeared in Chile with an unprecedented success.
In his orchestra also Carlos Saavedra, Carlos Heredia, Carlos Almagro and Hugo Duval sang, the latter remained in his orchestra until its dismembering and he, together with Jorge Ortiz, was one of the two voices most identified with Biagi. As a curious circumstance, we can highlight that in his orchestra no woman ever played.
In the early fifties his orchestra was the first to appear in the then young Argentine television. By that time he was one of the big names of the famous program "Glostora Tango Club" on radio El Mundo.
During his career, Biagi was backed by remarkable musicians. Among the bandoneon players these names were: Alfredo Attadía, Miguel Bonano and Ricardo Pedevilla. As violinists these players stood out: Marcos Larrosa, Claudio González and Oscar de la Fuente, who was his arranger as well.
Even though he was a piano player, he also had a player for that instrument. He was Juan Carlos Giampé, who on Sundays replaced him on the radio so that he was able to go to the horse races.
During 17 years he recorded for the Odeon label, later he switched to Columbia and finally to Music Hall.
His labor as composer, even though it was not wide, was very popular. He composed the instrumental tango "Cruz diablo"; with lyrics by Carlos Bahr: the waltzes "Amor y vals", "Como en un cuento" and the tango "Humillación"; with Francisco Gorrindo, the tangos "Gólgota", "Magdala" and "Por tener un corazón"; together with Homero Manzi, the milongas "Campo afuera" and "Por la güella"; in collaboration with Rodolfo Sciammarella, the tango "Dejá el mundo como está"; with Carlos Marín "Oh, mama mía" (tango); with Juan Carlos Thorry,the tango "Indiferencia".
On television he appeared on many occasions and was star of the program "Casino Philips", on Channel 13.
The last time Biagi performed before his public was on August 2, 1969 at the Hurlingham Club. Forty-one days later, on September 24, he died unexpectedly because of an extreme drop of his blood pressure. Let us remember him with more "smiles than tears", reminiscing his big hit "Lágrimas y sonrisas" (Tears and smiles), a beautiful waltz by Pascual de Gullo.