Ricardo García Blaya

e was the coleader of the Orquesta del Tango de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, together with maestro Raúl Garello. This aggregation was put together in 1980 by the Municipalidad de la ciudad de Buenos Aires (Town Hall).

He is, no doubt, one of the great tango pianists. He grew up musically in the orchestra led by Roberto Firpo.

He was born in Capilla del Señor (Buenos Aires Province) and grew up in the porteño neighborhood of San Cristóbal and his early studies were with maestro Mariano Domínguez. He started as pianist in silent movies, something very usual among musicians of the genre. He studied harmony, composition, counterpoint, fugue and orchestration with maestro Pedro Rubione. He was only fifteen but his relationship with the teacher lasted until 1969, that is to say, forty years.

He joined the Firpo Orchestra between 1932 and 1938, later he joined the Martínez-Ledesma duo as pianist. The latter played Argentine and Latin American folk music.

Between 1938 and 1945, he played at dancehalls with the combo of international music named the Hawaiian Serenaders. With this group he had a five-month tenure in Brazil in 1943. On his comeback he joined the EMI-Odeon record company as employee. His job was organizing music groups for the accompaniments of the artists that worked for this enterprise.

He made many tours throughout the country with all the outfits he joined. In some of them he accompanied the female singer Mercedes Simone.

He as well joined the orchestra led by Alberto Castellanos on Radio El Mundo in the mid- forties.

Between 1946 and 1960, his main activity was teaching, and appeared sporadically as piano soloist or accompanying folk musicians.

As for 1960, he was hired as musical advisor by Radio Municipal de la ciudad de Buenos Aires. That same year he began to carry out the same task for EMI-Odeon until 1983.

Three times he went to Japan with orchestras that he himself put together for each occasion. The behavior of Japanese audiences surprised him: «They listen very attentively and at the end of each piece they rather coldly applaud the performance. But at the end of the show they express all their enthusiasm».

By reading an interview that Salvador Arancio made to him, we were able to check his capability as teacher in the method he uses in his talks and lectures, that he labels as «listening to tangos»: «I bring a cassette with the best tango arrangements I know: De Caro, Salgán, Pichuco, Di Sarli. Then I play something on piano and I also intersperse phrases that, I think, are necessary to complete the explanation. Furthermore I warn people that for listening you have to very calm and free from noise, otherwise, you cannot really hear what you are listening to and what you failed to grasp at the proper time is lost».

In 1978, he appeared along with Enrique Mario Francini, Leopoldo Federico and Atilio Stampone at the cycle Tangos para el mundo, under the auspices of the Municipalidad de Buenos Aires. It was held at the Teatro Presidente Alvear and several foreign musicians were featured: Don Costa, Billy May, Johnny Mandel and Nelson Riddle. It was fifty-five piece orchestra.

In his discography his recordings with Roberto Grela in 1975 and the two discs with piano solos published by Melopea stand out. The first of these two contains a series of recordings made in the sixties in the auditorium of Radio Municipal and the second was recorded in 1991.

Many were the singers that he accompanied as orchestra conductor in their recordings, among them: Héctor Pacheco (1956-1958), Argentino Ledesma (1967-1968), Oscar Alonso (1968), Alberto Marino, Rubén Juárez, Claudio Bergé (1969) and Francisco Llanos (1978) all them for EMI-Odeon. In 1974 he recorded again with Oscar Alonso, this time for RCA-Victor.

He composed many pieces but only a few were committed to disc. His most outstanding piece is “Racconto” with lyrics by Margarita Durán. It was recorded by Aníbal Troilo, Miguel Caló, Osvaldo Pugliese and the Sexteto Mayor. He also composed “Mi estrella azul”, “Al maestro con nostalgia” and “Ayudame Buenos Aires”, with lyrics by Francisco Llanos.

His reflections about the avant-garde movement are very interesting: «The artist creates unconsciously, spontaneously. Pichuco, Carlos Di Sarli, Julio De Caro, Horacio Salgán and even Astor Piazzolla, created their oeuvre and none of them labeled himself as a vanguardist. They achieved that but were unaware of it. They show what they discovered, what they know, what flows naturally from them and nothing more. This is not avant-garde but a testimony of those that are gifted». Finally he expresses that, according to him: «The avant-garde is a label. The important musicians composed their oeuvre because they had a sacred fire inside them».

This gentleman, died still working with ninety two years old. It was a pleasure and an honour to know him.