Néstor Pinsón

ighty years ago tango entered its definitive stage. Julio De Caro had already begun to record and his style drew the attention of his fellow musicians, he woke controversies and, since then, two trends coexisted among tango orchestras: the traditional and evocative stream, the avant-garde and innovative stream.

By that time Tito had led a downhill life for over five years, ruined by alcohol and cocaine, until his death in 1925.

He was neither a prop of tango, nor he left a big oeuvre. His most important composition is, no doubt, “Elegante papirusa”. But the chronicles of his time show him as a virtuoso violinist. Today we find it difficult to assert it, due to the antiquity of his recordings that would require an expert to value those capabilities.

Is it too little to keep him into account? No, because he is part of the history of tango itself, because he was alongside the great figures that created the genre. Let us mention two of them as an example, Roberto Firpo and Eduardo Arolas. Furthermore he was member of the mythical Orquesta Típica Select that recorded in Camden (New Jersey), place of origin of the Victor company.

Two opinions of that time contribute something. That of the violinist Esteban Rovatti, possibly exaggerated, who said: «He was the greatest tango violinist ever». And the moderate opinion of Emilio Fresedo, two years younger than Tito: «He had good schooling and he joined orchestras that played classical music».

In 1908, he formed a trio with the clarinetist Juan Carlos Bazán and the pianist Roberto Firpo. Since then his tenures in groups are many and a great number are ignored.

In 1909, he became acquainted with Eduardo Arolas, he joined his quartet and they began a long friendship, in which a bohemian life and alcohol were in the middle. In 1910, he played at the Café Oriental on Entre Ríos Street with a group that included Arturo Bernstein, Bazán and the pianist Pedro Modesto Ramírez.

Vicente Greco had already had the idea of naming the tango outfits as Orquesta Típica Criolla and the recordings of discs was a profitable business. Arolas began his recordings in the Polifón label. Along with the great composer on bandoneon, were Tito, the flutist Vicente Pecci and Emilio Fernández on guitar. In 1913 he was member of another trio with Genaro Expósito and Roberto Firpo and later Arolas was added. They appeared at the Armenonville and at the renowned café El Estribo, where he was mentioned as the «Famous Criollo violinist».

With the orchestra led by Firpo he had a four-year tenure. The leader, when noticing Tito's peculiar style, decided to add a second violin as a harmonic support. So Agesilao Ferrazzano then appeared. He was a delicate performer that counteracted Tito's drive. Since then the violins no longer play in unison and the violin solos in pizzicato by Tito are insinuated on the background of counter melodies with long notes that Agesilao improvised. Even though Firpo was not the creator of this violin interplay, he imposed this approach since then.

During 1915, he had no trouble in recording at the same time with the group led by Arolas for the label Tocasolo Sin Rival, with Astudillo on flute and Marcos Ramírez on guitar. He was member of that renowned reunion of the Canaro and Firpo orchestras to play in the carnival balls of the Teatro Colón of Rosario in 1917.

Soon thereafter he was in La Giralda of Montevideo when “La cumparsita” was premiered. Firpo, on that simple sheetmusic they presented to him, covered all the clearings and deficiencies of that first composition of the young Gerardo Matos Rodríguez and added a counter melody for two violins so that his two boys would be showcased.

They returned to our country and appeared at the Palais de Glace. Then he quit and returned to the bohemian life alongside Arolas. We think, and we are surely right, that this decision was not good for the future of his health.

He performed in numerous locals. To mention them doesn't make sense, but only to enumerate some addresses we mention that: the Arolas, Tito, Cobián trio appeared at the cabaret Montmartre on 1400 Corrientes Street, in the L'Abbaye on 500 Esmeralda, the Fritz on 400 Suipacha. A season in the province of Córdoba at the café Las Delicias. A meaningful anecdote told by the owner of the venue to the musician Manuel Pizarro that played there when the boys finished their cycle: «... they had an unquenchable thirst, since in a few days they finished a demijohn of gin».

In 1917, Fresedo replaced Arolas. Again in the Capital they decided to rent an apartment to live together and to be able to rehearse comfortably. They are located on 323 Suipacha St. At the Armenonville they appeared to great acclaim and the Telephone record company required them to record. The disc includes the tango "Buenos Aires tenebroso" and "La cumparsita". The outstanding feature is that Cobián instead of piano plays guitar. The trio disbanded and Fresedo started his own group. Cobián, on the other hand, formed a quintet which included Luis Petrucelli and Agesilao with Tito, plus a fifth boy that, according to Cadícamo, was named Colinos.

And then it was the time of the Orquesta Típica Select. The Victor company began to compete with Nacional-Odeon and wanted to release a product free from deficiencies. Because of that they decided to record in the headquarters of the company, in North America. The musical line was, of course, tango. And for that they chose three boys: Tito, Fresedo and Enrique Delfino. The pay was 5.000 dollars for each one.

Already in Camden, New Jersey, they added a second violin and a cello. In the recording annotations Alberto Infantas on violin and Lennartz on cello are mentioned. But some say that also the German cellist Herman Meyer, with excellent capacities, played.

Alberto Infantas or Infanta, would be in fact the Argentine violinist Alberto Infante Arancibia, then the leader of the orchestra of the cabaret of New York: El Chico. And he appeared shortly in two Gardel's movies. In Tango on Broadway he is the singer that sings inebriated and has to be replaced by Gardel. And in El Día que Me Quieras he is the policeman of the scene with the kid Piazzolla.

They recorded 50 numbers. The group did not play in all of them, there are solos by Fresedo and by Delfino. The reason would have been Tito's heavy drinking which confined him to bed. The work lasted for three months during the second semester of the year 1920.

Some of the recordings particularly highlight Tito playing pizzicato, for example in Augusto Berto's tangos "Don Esteban" and "Curupaytí". His command of the bow is remarkable and he frequently played them on the fourth string, a technical difficulty with a positive musical result. He achieves a true phrasing in the low register, a bandoneon-like definition, more appropriate for tango than any insipid virtuosity.

Back in Buenos Aires the trio added Ferrazzano and they continued working. Later on, Delfino quit and Cobián reappeared.

When Fresedo made his debut with his sextet on record, the pieces were "Snobismo", by Cobián and "Siete pelos" by Fresedo himself, dedicated to president Alvear. There the players were Tito, side by side with Manlio Francia, the bandoneonist Alberto Rodríguez, Cobián and Thompson on double bass. Tito was in the first 20 recordings and his tango "Elegante papirusa" was included. Cadícamo dared to say that that tango was Cobián's and not Tito's. But the analysis of the written music quickly denied such a statement. It was a writing with little elaboration and with spaces to fill that was inappropriate of the pianist.

His health reached a deplorable state, but he still had two years for the end. His last performances would have been with Antonio Scatasso, in 1924. In that orchestra also played Bernardo Germino, Luis Bernstein (double bass) and Fidel Del Negro. Precisely with the latter he composed his last tango whose title makes us guess that he was aware of his immediate future, "La vida" (Life), what he was losing.

He had a great friendship with Cobián, also with Arolas whose tango "Lágrimas" (Tears) the latter dedicated to Tito's mother.

By chance or not the original score shows in the drawing of the front cover a weeping woman receiving her son that arrives at dawn in a pitiful state carrying a violin. Versions of those times point out that his drug addiction made him force his wife La Gallega (to whom he dedicated a tango) to work as prostitute to get money for him to buy drugs.

As composer we can mention the following titles, although it is possible that some others exist. "Buenos Aires tenebroso". Already mentioned and committed to record. "Don Eduardo." Recorded by the Select. "Elegante papirusa" which after it was published and recorded Sandalio Gómez added lyrics. After the initial recording by Fresedo several renditions were cut but we highlight that of Miguel Caló. In censorship times (27/12/1943) he had to rename it "Elegante porteñita." "Firpito", dedicated to Roberto Firpo who recorded it. "La Gallega", dedicated to his wife. "La vida", with Fidel Del Negro and lyric by Genaro Pugliesi.

Tito had a brief stay in life, but we cannot ignore him in the history of tango. Today there is no doubt that his contribution has been important and his figure is a bohemian archetype of la belle époque.