Norberto Chab

D'Agostino - Ángel D’Agostino’s confessions

have been a precocious porteño. I was born on Moreno Street between Virrey Cevallos and Solís on May 25, 1900. In my family we were all musicians whether due to study or liking. As at home there was a piano before I was six I decided I had to study. In a short time I had command of the keyboard and soon thereafter I was regarded as a child prodigy and since then I have been playing before audiences.

I was already in contact with tango musicians. It was not because I preferred that music since my training had been mainly classical but because many of them —like Manuel Aróztegui or Alfredo Bevilacqua, among others—, came to my home because they were friends of some uncles of mine.

As for Bevilacqua I recall that by 1908 he played a tango which later in the year of the Centennial he named “Independencia”. But I was also in touch with musicians that came from abroad because the conservatory where I studied —which was run by a Neapolitan, friend of my grandparents’— was frequented by all the foreign musicians that arrived in our country.

Since age ten I have played in the luxurious houses of well-to-do families. One year later —I was attending high school— I started a season of infantile theater with Ernesto Bianchi and Juan D'Arienzo as partners. In 1912 I put together an orchestra. It was a time of strikes by the students so I took advantage of it for taking up music and quitting school. I continued playing for rich families: in 1914 I was the pianist for Saturnino Unzué, for example. By that time a jazzman named Eduardo Armani called me to play with him at a German beer house.

I liked tango. You don’t have to forget that I have been listening to it at home since I was a kid. It was 1915 and Roberto Firpo lived next door to Armani so I was acquainted with him and with other musicians. Then I appeared at many venues. But I also began to appear at theater plays. It was in the company led by Fernando Díaz de Mendoza and María Guerrero (they built the Teatro Cervantes which later bequeathed to the city) and in different plays when I accompanied great figures of the period like Gloria Guzmán or Roberto Casaux.

When I was 18 I appeared at venues like the Jockey Club, the Empire, the Florida and at the Apolo I played with the best cellist of the world: Ennio Bolognini. With the latter I had the luck of cherishing a great friendship. I remember that when World War I was over we played together “La Marseillaise” from the balcony of his house. Later we followed different paths. One year later I had my debut at the Teatro Esmeralda (later named Maipo). On March 15, 1920 I formed my first orchestra as an adult. We played tango and jazz because with only one thing you were unable to live.

That aggregation made its debut at the Teatro Nacional with the Arata-Simari-Franco company. We played García Velloso’s number Armenonville. Later I played at the Palais de Glace. There I included Agesilao Ferrazzano, the best tango violinist I ever heard, in the orchestra. With him, years later, we shared the leadership of the group. Of course my jazz had a peculiarity. What we played was a show with music. We used to stage parodies and we had fun by playing, something that was not very common. But tango, instead, was another way of playing. So great was our success that in 1921, while at the Royal Pigalle and at the Teatro Ópera, I was offered a contract to go to Paris. I rejected it because I wanted to stay here.

I was the first one in putting together an orchestra to back silent movie in the evenings. It was in 1925 at the Paramount movie theater. From that time other musicians like Julio De Caro sprang up. That same year at the L´Aiglón a boy just arrived from Córdoba made his debut with me. His name was Ciriaco Ortiz. In 1928 I formed my orchestra along with the violinist Alfredo Mazzeo. The following year I had my debut on Radio Prieto. In that radio program I weekly invited a music figure to play his instrument. There was where Francisco Fiorentino and Aníbal Troilo met.

Vázquez, an impresario that was married to Paulina Singerman, introduced me to Ángel Vargas. Vargas was a lathe operator in a meat processing plant and I presented him in 1932 at the Cine Florida. There we appeared along with Libertad Lamarque and Casimiro Aín. Later we appeared in several venues. We also played on radios and at theaters. In 1936 I signed with El Chantecler, the cabaret of highest level in Buenos Aires. My tenure was until 1940 when I was hired to play at the carnival balls at the Cine Broadway. Also I was hired by Pablo Osvaldo Valle for Radio El Mundo. By the end of the year I cut my first record for the Victor house and then the Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas team started.

In 1943 I was proud of being awarded as best orchestra leader in the best tango radio show of all times: Ronda de Ases. The prize consisted of 1.750 pesos. An outstanding figure for that time. The team lasted up to 1946. Later I was gradually quitting. I used to reunite a group and disband it soon. I did it several times. I did that just to be alone and undisturbed. Even though music brought to me big satisfactions, there are things —like being recognized in the street— that I don’t like.

Excerpted from “Tango, un siglo de historia: 1880-1980”, page 204.