Hernán Volpe

e was a naturalized Argentine citizen, information that appears in his application form as member of SADAIC. We guess that he was born in Italy but we do not know the precise place of birth and the year he arrived in Buenos Aires.

It is impossible to avoid associating him with Osvaldo Pugliese and his orchestra because he was a collaborator in the early days of those incipient preliminary stages of that venture carried out by bohemians and dreamers of the tango environment by the late 1930s, but also by natural-born artists, trustworthy and founders of styles and forms for the whole life of the genre. We place don Enrique Camerano —El Gitano—, lead violin of the Pugliese orchestra between August 11, 1939 and the mid- 1958, among them.

Pugliese on the piano, Osvaldo Ruggiero on bandoneon, Aniceto Rossi on double bass and Camerano on violin created the yumba style or Pugliese’s style. It is a special way of keeping time and, each one of them contributed his own from his instrument and through his own inventiveness, providing a definitive identity to the style of the orchestra. It is much more than a simple whim in stressing the first and third beat of the bar, playing a weaker second beat and scarcely suggesting the fourth beat. Much more! Wonderful staccatos and rubatos, invented on the spur of the moment while playing, impossible to be written, counter lines between the strings and the bandoneons or between the leading piano and the violins or fueyes (bandoneons) and, always, that pure essence of tango stylized, planned and orchestrated within a team with multiple ideas, striving for one only objective: musical aesthetics.

Camerano was a fundamental part of all that for 19 years. He appeared as soloist in all the recordings. The first recordings were “El rodeo” and “Farol” on July 15, 1943 and his last two, for Odeon records, were “Las tres banderas” and “Acquaforte” on July 23, 1958. Thereafter he decided to quit show business at age 50 due to personal reasons. He settled in the seashore area of the province of Buenos Aires, in Villa Gesell, and devoted himself to the sale of woolen clothes. He surely had very much to offer but, also, that attitude gave room to new generations and so we were able to discover, for example, Oscar Herrero, who was promoted to lead violinist to fill his place.

He played in over two hundred recordings in which we can ponder the values of this especially inspired violinist. Maybe he was not a virtuoso so technically trained as Elvino Vardaro, Enrique Francini or Simón Bajour but he possessed an inborn artistry with a notable personality and a refinement of sound very pleasant to the ear. He brought a way of playing of his own based on the Decarean roots, but not imitative at all; he founded his own school. I have read some day in some tango book that Simón Bajour had said that Camerano played with gypsy reminiscences. Maybe it was there the key to his sound so special. I think that Bajour meant the way of sliding notes by moving the same finger on the string when changing the note which produces a very special sound, a sort of portamento, technically speaking. That resource became part of the style of the orchestra that, in the 1970s, Mauricio Marcelli, of academic classical training, tried to change a little. I have also read somewhere that somebody had said that Camerano was born to play in the Pugliese orchestra. And I think it is so, like other violinists have identified themselves with other style making us think that, in fact, they were born to play with a particular leader: Roberto Guisado with Carlos Di Sarli, David Díaz with Aníbal Troilo, Antonio Agri with Astor Piazzolla, Víctor Felice with Horacio Salgán, Enrique Francini with Miguel Caló, etc.

The violinist Ramiro Gallo, outstanding musician of the new tango generations —fervent admirer of Camerano—, gives us these enriching concepts: «If there is something why we shall look for and justify his memory it will be because of his legacy: his recordings, his sound, his style and the indelible mark he left on the musicians and the public with his masterful, unique violin playing. Then, let us pay attention to that sound and let us try to understand its substance, what it is made of, what technical elements served as vehicle for those emotions so deep and so particularly expressed.

«Firstly, we shall say he completely left aside virtuosity understood as pyrotechnics. His personality is more inclined towards what it is profound, and stays away from what it is ephemeral. His vehicle for this is his thick, full tone. We, musicians, would say: a fat sound. We, violinists, would say that he plays with enough pressure but never smothering the instrument. It is big but never strident, always warm. In the high notes he has no difficulty in producing the same deep timbre. From the point of view of sound, it is the ideal one of any violinist: it sounds with the best qualities throughout the whole range. To these features he adds a precise vibrato. That is to say, it never sounds too fast and nervous, and is not slow, either. We can say that it is the exact and correct one for his kind of sound. A more strident sound would admit and, maybe, demand a more nervous vibrato. Without fear of falling into exaggeration, we can now talk of perfection when mentioning these two qualities combined. Tone and vibrato are the two elements with which one can express a personality.

«However, there is still one more peculiar detail: his way of emphasizing the notes one by one. This is achieved by means of a softly intermittent, not uniform, pressure of the bow on the strings. This spacing of notes does not take place abruptly but with a permanent resonance. The right hand fingers press down and move upward stressing each sound. It is almost like speaking while splitting the words into syllables, but in a natural not mechanical way, where each note has its moment of existence, its own emphasis.

«Once I asked Emilio Balcarce if this unique touch had had an antecedent in some previous violinist, someone who at least had outlined its way. Emilio categorically answered me that no one had, that it was the result of an overwhelming personality that needed to express each note with his own fire.

«Finally, we shall say that in his solos he has an always logical way of displaying the contents and with a great sense of form. He does not deliver all the energy from the beginning but he regulates it to discharge it at the precise moment when the phrase has reached the climax. We can hear a previous analysis and an envisaged, meditated and successful performance.

«He deserves an extra word as section leader taking into consideration that the strings of the orchestra always sounded with his personal seal. That is to say that his way of feeling was transmitted to all the string players. They adopted the same sense of sound, timbre and form and it became the distinctive seal of the Pugliese’s style as a whole which even survived after Camerano quit the orchestra.

«My friend Dario Viri, an Italian violinist and violist, and a passionate tango player, told me recently that he had played the Camerano’s recordings for his classical music peers in Italy. These people, with scarce or no information about the genre, has been always moved and amazed by this violinist they do not know and whom they unanimously admire. The fact is that Camerano’s music goes beyond the boundaries of tango itself. He is a complete violinist and a tremendous artist that has translated the deepest human emotions into sounds in a clear and definitive way.»

Raúl Garello tells me: «I was not a friend of Camerano’s but I saw him playing with Pugliese in my hometown, Chacabuco, when I was 14 or 15 years old. I close my eyes and it seems to me I see them. I remember exactly where each musician was placed. He was a creative violinist and he drove the string section to sublime extremes. By that time we were all amazed with the Pugliese style. Those rubatos!».

Néstor Marconi says: «I had the chance of working very often with Enrique Francini, a violinist quite different to Camerano from the academic conception of the instrument. But thanks to the admiration he had for him, I was able to discover and appreciate him. He was the purest essence of tango and the purest essence of the Pugliese style.»

When listening to the recordings in most of them there is either a featured solo or a cadenza if they are tangos with vocals. According to the orchestral treatment and the structure of the arrangement, especially in the instrumentals, his performance is highlighted and we find, for example, “Chiqué” (two takes recorded on the same day) and an anthological solo. Pugliese kept that tango in his repertoire with the same chart until the final day of the orchestra. Other tangos in which we can hear how the Camerano’s violin is showcased are: “Orgullo criollo”, “Mi lamento”, “De floreo”, “Nochero soy”, “Fuimos”, “Si sos brujo”, “La yumba” (in its two recordings of 1946 and 1952, the latter has more drive and is more brilliant) and “La rayuela”. It is worthwhile listening attentively, for example, to the tango “Te aconsejo que me olvides”, with Juan Carlos Cobos on vocals, recorded on May 13, 1954. It was arranged by the violinist Julio Carrasco. Here Camerano is showcased with a masterful subtlety because in the second section of the vocal part he plays a bridge with a few notes and he plays alone for two bars when the singer enters. Here he made the difference, that one that tells apart a musician or a good musician from an artist. Fortunately, it was recorded and available for everybody.

When Camerano split with the orchestra, Pugliese was forced to fill the vacant place of the soloist and promoted Oscar Herrero –a great violinist, but with other quite different abilities-. Then a violoncello was included in the orchestra to strengthen the bass notes in the strings. This is evidenced in the recording of the tango “Unión Cívica” in November 1958. This addition produced a good result and was definitively included in the orchestra, firstly with Adriano Fanelli and later with Quique Lannoo. (By the same time Aníbal Troilo also included this instrument but Osvaldo Fresedo and Astor Piazzolla had been using it some time before).

Víctor Lavallén told me that he joined the Pugliese orchestra in January 1959 and that he did not meet Camerano personally: «He had left some months before and then Herrero was already the lead violin. But they were trying to keep the previous way and so Ruggiero had written for Herrero several solos and licks that Camerano used to play. At the beginning he was copied but later Cacho Herrero was imposing his personality. Anyhow, either Ruggiero or Camerano were Pugliese.»

As composer we shall mention two tangos: “No quiero perderte” with lyrics signed by Alberto Morán who also recorded it with Pugliese on March 17, 1954 which was his last appearance on record with the orchestra, and “Marianela”, with words by Manuel Barros, but it was not recorded.

Thanks to we try to rescue this outstanding and influential musician from oblivion and recognize him by outlining a revival of his career highlighting some technical aspects. Like many others, with a very low profile, almost unknown for most people; but a surname that stirs up admiration among musicians with the mere mention of it. Ah… Enrique Camerano! One of the greatest names!

Special contribution by maestro Ramiro Gallo.