Néstor Pinsón

t the frequent talks that I have with tango musicians I always find the same answer when I mention the name of Elvino Vardaro, there was no other violin player like him, he is unmistakable. Someone said: «Of short flight, but round; full, suggestive.»

Luis Adolfo Sierra made the following description of his style: «With perfect intonation, he completely mastered his instrument and the resources of playing; with a deep knowledge of all the secrets of the violin mechanism. He always showcased an impeccable dexterity when handling the bow and a facility with the left hand which allowed him to reach the highest notes naturally. He embellished his phrasings with the addition of subtle turns and grace notes of precise execution. He had an unmistakable vibrato and romantic lyricism in all his interpretations. Remarkable personality to the point that his unmistakable sound made, unintentionally, always his performance outstanding at any of the so many violin sections he joined. In spite of the fact that he never intended a personal showcasing, his presence was always evidenced. Even though, in essence, he was a product of the Decarean school, his violin style was totally different from Julio De Caro’s.»

He was born in the city of Buenos Aires on June 18, 1905, but not in July as some authors say. His father, a fan of opera music, gave him the name of the protagonist of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera La Sonnambula (The sleepwalker), count Elvino.

At four he began his music studies, a year before he had had an accident and had lost the first phalanx of his right hand thumb.

He studied music with Fioravanti Brugni, later he polished his technique with the Belgian concert player George Baré, but his teacher was, until the end of his life, the violinist Doro Gorgatti, who one day told him: «What a pity that you play tango, you could play the violin very well!»".

When he was 14 he made his debut at La Argentina saloon, located on 361 Rodríguez Peña Street. The program announced: «Violin recital by the child Elvino Vardaro. July 10, 1919 at 9 PM o’clock. Mendelssohn’s Concerto at the first part. Second part, others: Bach, Tchaicovsky, etc. Admittance two pesos.»

Forced to get some money for his home needs he had to play at the cinema theaters accompanying silent movies. There he came to know Rodolfo Biagi and, later, Luis Visca, who used to accompany him on piano.

One evening in 1922, the leader himself, Juan Maglio (Pacho), went to the cinema to ask him to join his orchestra.

After playing at various saloons and after a tour of the interior of the country, he spit with Pacho and joined the band of the mythical female bandoneonist Paquita Bernardo, where, it is said, he met Osvaldo Pugliese.

In 1923 he joined the Roberto Firpo orchestra where he came to know who would be his best friend: the violinist Cayetano Puglisi.

In 1926 he is requested by Pedro Maffia to join his sextet, that was lined-up by: Osvaldo Pugliese, Pedro Maffia and Alfredo De Franco, Elvino Vardaro, Emilio Puglisi and Francisco De Lorenzo.

That same year he was hired by the Victor label, where he remained 13 years and played with all the groups organized by the label: the Orquesta Típica Victor, the Orquesta Victor Popular, the Orquesta Típica Porteña, Los Provincianos, as well as the aggregations led by: Juan Guido, Luis Petrucelli, Eduardo Pereyra and Adolfo Carabelli.

He was member of the two line-ups of the Trío Víctor. First, with Eduardo Pereyra on piano and Ciriaco Ortiz on bandoneon and, later with the guitarists Oscar Alemán and the Brazilian Gastón Bueno Lobo.

In 1929, he put together the team Vardaro-Pugliese. In 1933, he organized, at last, his own sextet, but different inconveniences made it impossible to continue. Only a non-commercial disc with a rendition of the tango “Tigre viejo” composed by Salvador Grupillo was recorded. This seminal sextet was composed by: Aníbal Troilo and Jorge Argentino Fernández, on bandoneons, Hugo Baralis, as second violin, Pedro Caracciolo, on double bass and on piano, José Pascual, who was as well the arranger.

They made their debut on April 1 at the Café Germinal. And, in 1935, the last year of the sextet, another bandoneon player was added to the group, Eduardo Marino. The vocalists were: Alfredo Marino, Carlos Lafuente, Guillermo Arbós and Nelly De La Vega.

In 1938, he joined the team Demare-Vardaro, which had the peculiarity of having two pianos. The singer was Juan Carlos Miranda.

In the early forties he led the Brighton Jazz orchestra and recorded a disc with two numbers, one of them, “Violinomanía”, composed by Argentino Galván, was inspired in his virtuosity.

Also by that time he made recordings with the orchestra of Adolfo Pérez (Pocholo) and, in 1942, he joined the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra for several years, alternating his job with the Radio El Mundo orchestra and the Joaquín do Reyes outfit.

In 1944, he appeared in Montevideo with his own orchestra and the vocalists Alberto Montiel and the Uruguayan Héctor Scelza.

In 1950, he returned to the Joaquín do Reyes orchestra and in 1953 Martín Darré, director of the Columbia label, suggested him to put together his own orchestra and make recordings. It was the first time he appeared as leader on a record label (Columbia, red label, # 15010). The tango pieces chosen were Juan Carlos Cobián's “Pico de oro” and Agustín Bardi's “El cuatrero”. The arrangements for the recording were written by Héctor María Artola, and the bandoneonist Antonio Marchese, the pianist César Zagnoli and the bass player Alfredo Sciarretta were among the musicians.

Between 1955 and 1961, he joined the string orchestra and the quintet of Astor Piazzolla, alternating with the Carlos Di Sarli orchestra, during the three last years of the latter.

Near the end of his long career, he settled in Argüello, a locality near the city of Córdoba, playing in the symphonic orchestra of that province until his death.

We can highlight of his work as composer: “Grito del alma”, an instrumental recorded by Pacho in 1926, which when Juan Velich added to it his lyrics, became “Tinieblas”, recorded by Pedro Maffia with Tito Schipa in 1931; “Dominio”, with lyrics by Luis Rubistein, recorded by Mercedes Simone and by the Orquesta Típica Victor; the waltz “Imaginación”, with the collaboration of Oscar Arona and lyrics by Francisco García Jiménez, recorded by Libertad Lamarque, the Alfredo De Angelis orchestra and by Francisco Lomuto with Fernando Díaz on vocals; “Amalia”, a polka recorded by the Cuarteto del Novecientos, which was lined-up with Vardaro, Feliciano Brunelli, Aníbal Troilo and Enrique Bour.

He composed as well: “Mía”, with the collaboration of Oscar Arona and lyrics by Celedonio Flores; “Te llama mi violín”, with lyrics by Cátulo Castillo; “Un beso”; “Y a mí qué me importa”, with Eduardo Moreno; “El repique”; “Miedo”, with the collaboration of Oscar Arona and lyrics by Francisco García Jiménez and “Fray milonga” with lyrics by Francisco García Jiménez.

He died on August 5 1971, even though some paper wrongly published it as August 6.