Julio Nudler

e was born in Nasielsk, a little town near Warsaw (Poland). There was no musician in the family, nor anyone that would encourage him towards music. However, when he was five years old he felt a burning desire to learn violin.

His parents ran a coffeehouse that was frequented by artists because it was located in front of the town’s theater. One day his father, Samuel, brought a radio set so that the gatherings at the local would not be without music. With it Szymsia heard Radio Budapest and was fascinated with a gypsy violin. Then his father gave him a toy violin but he smashed it in a fit of rage because he had dreamed of a real violin.

Soon later he began to study with a teacher of the town who months later began to take him to Warsaw twice a week to attend classes with William Kryshtal. When he was only 9 he played as soloist the Mendelssohn’s concerto with the orchestra of the Conservatory, conducted by Kryshtal.

His parents married in Poland and they left with their three children to Argentina before the war. Samuel had already been in our country where he stayed for ten years and he had applied for his citizenship.

His father’s second stay in Argentine that began in 1937 was not very successful. But that financial hardship is the reason that pushed Szymsia to tango that, until then, had not interested him. He did not like the bad violinists of the genre, except Elvino Vardaro who had a very good technique. He also had a respect for Bernardo Sevilla (Tito), member of the Pedro Maffia's orchestra.

Maybe, his first reconciliation with tango took place in 1939 when listening to Raúl Kaplún from the sidewalk of the Club Añasco. Miguel Caló was about to perform and Kaplún, the orchestra's lead violin, while he was waiting for the beginning of the show, was playing some Paganini’s excerpts.

In the summer of ‘42, an ad published in the newspaper requested a violinist for a sextet that would perform for the carnival balls in a club of Villa Ballester. For the audition he played a movement of a concerto, which caused a tremendous impression. Immediately, they offered him eleven pesos each evening. As he had never played tango nor he knew how to play ad lib, they wrote a score for him that he quickly learned. And so he began to enjoy this music. Since then he was constantly summoned to play in secondary orchestras that replaced the renowned ones. The former ones replaced Pedro Maffia, in the afternoon, and Aníbal Troilo, in the evening, during the weekends at the cabaret Tibidabo.

He joined the orchestra led by Tito Martín that, without embarassment, played with Juan D'Arienzo's arrangements. It appeared at the Tabarís, which featured as main attraction The Hawaiian Serenaders playing international rhythms. Tango had to be there, but for them it was enough with an orchestra of second level.

Seven years after his arrival in our country, Szymisia was no longer a foreigner to become a porteño through and through, known by everybody as the Rusito (Little Russian) Simón. Unlike the other musicians who, after playing a set at the cabaret, sat in a closed room to play cards or dice, he placed his music stand wherever he was able to study. Troilo found him playing those exercises and sat down to listen to him. Then Szymsia played for him passages of some sonata and Pichuco was touched with tears in his eyes, and he hugged him, and kissed him with fondness.

In certain way, Bajour was helped by the circumstances, because he appeared in tango when the genre required more and more trained musicians. His fellow musicians admired him and they were happy for his victories in the classical field. On the other hand, in the symphonic milieu, he had the stigma of being a tanguero, what impeded him to be considered a maestro. In fact, this influenced him and drove him to hide under the alias of Tito Simón when he composed the tango “Duele más” that Di Sarli recorded in the late 1956.

At the cafe on Corrientes and Libertad, near the Tibidabo, Szymsia had an exclusive table for him since ten in the evening. If you wanted to locate him you knew where to do it. And if he was not there then and you had decided to wait for him, you were allowed to sit down at that table and the drinks or whatever were on Simón. In like manner, Miguel Nijensohn had his table at the Bar Suárez, on the corner of Corrientes and Montevideo.

He joined in 1945 the orchestra led by the violinist Roberto Dimas which played at the Marzotto cafe in the afternoons. Dimas gave him freedom to improvise and Szymsia began to display chords, double stops and variations that later were the elements that became Enrique Francini's trademark.

Besides playing with Florindo Sassone at some dancehalls, he was regular member of the Edgardo Donato's orchestra, at the times when the vocalist of the aggregation was Leoncito Zucker, aka Roberto Beltrán. In it he came to know Emilio Balcarce who, time later, offered him to be the lead violin of the orchestra that accompanied Alberto Marino. The two violinists were responsible for the solos in that vertigo of appearances at the Café Marzotto and at the cabaret Ocean, on Radio Splendid, in the dances of every weekend and in the recording sessions for Odeon.

He also played with Roberto Caló, along with Leo Lipesker and Natalio Finkelstein, at the Confitería Nobel on Lavalle Street. After the performance of some tangos, Caló used to announce a small recital of classical music by Bajour accompanied by Julio Medovoy, the orchestra's pianist. He also played with Carlos Demaría, alongside Lázaro Lipesker and Manolo Sucher on piano.

In 1950 he joined the acclaimed orchestra of Carlos Di Sarli, in which he played from the celebrated solo of “A la gran muñeca” (that he recorded twice, first in RCA-Victor and later in Music Hall) to the sounds that imitated singing birds of “El amanecer”. In that group he knew the singer Oscar Serpa, a fan of the French impressionist music who used to sing for him passages by Ravel and Debussy. With Di Sarli he had two long tenures. The first one was up to 1955. That year, while he was on an extensive tour playing chamber music, the musicians of the Di Sarli's orchestra massively quit to put together Los Señores del Tango.

The leader needed to put together his orchestra again and he proposed to Szymsia, who had already returned, hiring the four violinists that had accompanied him on the tour. They were all members of the National Symphonic orchestra: Carlos Sampedro, Saúl Michelson and Elías Slon (substituting for Sampedro and Michelson later Bernardo Stalman and Luis Vidal joined them). That majestic string section of Di Sarli also had Elvino Vardaro, Carlos Arnaiz, Antonio Rossi and Juan Scaffino.

Bajour joined the Symphonic Orchestra in 1949. By that time he was only 21 years old and he passed the audition in spite of his lack of prior experience and that his reading at first sight was not good. In 1955 he resigned because playing with Di Sarli was much more rewarding financially speaking.

Nevertheless, Bajour was simultaneously member of other orchestras with a lesser following, some of them of great quality. In the four-hour evening balls aired by Radio El Mundo he ended up playing with all the tango orchestras that took turns before the microphone. On a Sunday in 1957 he played with Di Sarli, Joaquín Do Reyes, Alberto Mancione and Miguel Caló. By the same time he joined Los Astros del Tango (The Stars of Tango), an exquisite group led by Argentino Galván in which Szymsia teamed up with Vardaro or with Francini.

As a matter of fact, Galván wrote the arrangements for the Stampone-Federico orchestra that Atilio and Leopoldo headed between 1952 and 1953 and in which Szymsia was the lead violin. They appeared at the Tibidabo and on Radio Belgrano, committing to disc an anthological rendition of “Criolla linda” with a noteworthy solo by Bajour. That was the first occasion on which he was satisfied by playing in an orchestra. Until that time he had only experienced that sensation as a listener, when he stayed at the Tibidabo to listen to Troilo. Szymsia and Leopoldo Federico, in a duo of violin and bandoneon, recorded on a disc impossible to find today: Camile Saint Saens' “Introduction and apricious rondó”.

In 1959 he split with Di Sarli to appear at the Seventh Youth's Festival held in Vienna. During his voyage on ship he received a telegram from Osvaldo Pugliese who asked him that after the Festival he joined his orchestra in Moscow. So he shared that historical but not very memorable tour of the Soviet Union and China, with an improvised show that was presented before audiences that lacked a previous information. For the Russians the Argentine stuff was Lolita Torres and they expected from Pugliese something similar.

He had acquainted Astor Piazzolla at the Tibidabo. A great friendship began between them. Bajour was later the first one in playing as soloist “Tanguango”, premiered in 1950 by Simón at the Sevilla cinema theater of La Paternal, before Piazzolla himself. His association with Astor would reach its peak when he became the initial violinist of the Quinteto Nuevo Tango. But the day after the recording of the first long-playing record, in 1961, and after recording the violin parts for the music of the film Quinto Año Nacional, he left to Havana, hired as concertino of the National Symphonic Orchestra of Cuba.

In 1975 Ben Molar produced a record, Los 14 de Julio De Caro, and he summoned great soloists for that release. On one of the tracks, the only one played by a single instrumentalist, Bajour displays an elaborated rendering of “Todo corazón” in an arrangement written by Luis Stazo and Bajour himself.

Excerpted from the book Tango judío. Del ghetto a la milonga, Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires 1998.