Néstor Pinsón

uring one of my frequent chats with Osvaldo Requena, Agri’s name sprang up and he told me: «Agri was an outstanding interpreter with his instrument. There was Elvino Vardaro’s time, later Enrique Francini’s, and thereafter Agri’s time». And he went on: «Please highlight the word interpreter! Because his art was interpretation. The art of composing only came in his latter years. As a bandleader his work was correct. And d’you know something? I don’t know if he studied for more than two days. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but not much. He was a remarkable intuitive player. He played with a low quality violin but his was a first level sound. He stood up facing the written music, he did not boast having a good memory —some players don’t need the chart after a first reading— and there his other capability appeared. Without going far from what was written he showed his artistry and he was so good at it that Piazzolla, who of course noticed it, did not complain about it at all. Because he was making a contribution... Ah! If today some important violinist tells you that he does not like him, don’t pay attention to him. It’s a question of rivalry between peers.

Nowadays with a nonet I’m recording fourteen numbers that will be published in Japan. Japanese entrepreneurs produced this recording; let’s see if it is released in our country. All the compositions are mine and the first is a homage I pay to Antonio. I entitled it “Agridulce” (Soursweet, but in fact meaning Sweet Agri). It’s a piece that features two violins, so I made his son Pablo play with Fernando Suárez Paz».

In Horacio Ferrer’s Libro del tango, we find some information about his beginnings. His music teacher in Rosario, his hometown, was Dermidio Guastavino. At age fifteen he made his professional debut in the province of Córdoba as member of a quartet. Later, in Rosario, he joined the orchestras led by Julián Chera, Lincoln Garrot and José Sala and he also played in another quartet: Los Poetas del Tango, with Antonio Ríos, José Puerta and Omar Murtagh. He as well led a string quintet: the Quinteto de Arcos Torres-Agri.

It was Nito Farace, violinist of the Aníbal Troilo Orchestra for decades, who recommended him to Astor Piazzolla. The latter accepted him and the debut took place in April 1962 with the Quinteto Nuevo Tango. Thereafter he continued in the Nuevo Octeto (1963). At the same time, he played as sideman for some stints in the orchestras headed by Osvaldo Fresedo, Horacio Salgán, Mariano Mores, Alberto Caracciolo and Roberto Pansera. In 1968 he was the lead violin in the little opera María de Buenos Aires written by Piazzolla and Ferrer and in several LPs. He continued with Astor in the Conjunto 9 recording for Victor.

He appeared in Rome, in the United States, He appeared in Rome, in the United States, at the Olympia of Paris, in Caracas, in Brazil, in Uruguay and also in our Teatro Colón. In 1976 he formed his own string ensemble (violins, violas, cellos and double bass).

In the 90s he recorded as featured guest soloist with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; in the United States he accompanied the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma on his tour introducing his CD Yo-Yo Ma Soul of Tango, entirely dedicated to the music of Piazzolla and, furthermore, he appeared in Paris alongside the virtuoso flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía.

Ferrer accurately defines him: «A strong similitude in style, sensitivity and interpretive mood with Elvino Vardaro influenced his unmistakable personality at the beginning. He stood out because of his peculiar manner of playing and expressing a phrase, in a deep, rich way that ponders and expresses each note played. Examples of his work are “Retrato de Alfredo Gobbi”, “Ciudad triste”, “Los mareados”, “Éxtasis”, “Romance del diablo”, “Milonga del ángel”, “Otoño porteño”».

He put together his own quintet, based in Paris, co-led with Juan José Mosalini and in which he teamed up with his son Pablo as a duo. And he was co-founder of the Horacio Salgán’s Nuevo Quinteto Real along with Ubaldo De Lío, Leopoldo Federico (later replaced by Néstor Marconi) and Omar Murtagh (later, Oscar Giunta).

In the obituary of the Clarín newspaper, published the day after his death, Irene Amuchástegui says: «... he had become a clear example of an extended contrast: on European tours he engaged an interest that our local public seemed to be far from. Nearly a self-taught artist, he was for the largest part of his career alongside Piazzolla, and he only split with him when he chose to be a member of the staff orchestra of the Teatro Colón. Years later he recalled: “Astor strongly criticized me because I was changing him for an obscure place in the Colón. He said I was longing for the certainty of a paid retirement. And he was right. I never stood out playing Mozart or Vivaldi. If I succeeded in recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra it’s because of tango”».

Also in an article published when he died, Julio Nudler wrote for the Página/12 newspaper: «His story is different to the ones of the other tango violinists because he did not join any of the consecrated orchestras. His longest tenure which started in 1962 was with Piazzolla».

And he contined: «The good connoisseurs will only need a few music notes to recognize Agri, especially due to the quality of his sweet sound that placed him in the stella of the mythical Vardaro, the first great violin in tango, but furthermore, because of his wide variety of technical resources that recall the virtuoso lineage started by Raúl Kaplún and which reached its summit with Francini. The connoisseurs enjoy the profound taste of tango that he achieved hitting the violin with his bow. And in case they had seen him playing on one occasion, they imagined his challenging posture, his chest sticking out and his legs spread to be firmly standing on the dais».

A phrase he said describes his modesty: «The violin chose me. Because of that I’m a musician. Besides, as Yupanqui says «there are people who dazzle and there are others who illuminate». I don’t want to dazzle...».

About his oeuvre as composer we can mention his numbers “Carambón” and “S P de nada” which are included in his compact disc entitled Antonio Agri-Tango Sinfónico. It was recorded some months before his death. Also with a tango flavor and along with José Carli, “Kokoró Kará”, that in Japanese means “From the inside”, recorded in Paris in 1996 by the Quinteto Mosalini-Agri. Other of his works: “S P de nada dos”, “Sueño en gris”, “Con su permiso”, “Agripito”, “Concierto para violín”, “Nada queda ya”.

One early morning he died in Buenos Aires. He had an incurable cancer. His remains were buried at the private cemetery Gloriam in Burzaco, province of Buenos Aires.