Héctor Bates

Michetti - Note-interview to Alejandro Michetti in 1935

oday tango is quite acrobatic, very pretty, but not tango. The exaggerations made by bandoneon players have as an aim a substitution for the flute, an objective that never will be reached.»

The composer and skilled flutist Alejandro Michetti, was interviewed by Héctor Bates in the last radio program by Tangos y Autores on Radio Belgrano. And Michetti, after mentioning different and interesting aspects of his life, came to important conclusions as for present tango and about the reasons that made the flute be taken out of its aggregations.

These are statements that the public might have vehemently replied and which we think need to be repeated so that these commentaries would be more consistent after reading this summary of the words said by the skillful flutist.

Alejandro Michetti was born in Calabria, Italy and arrived in Argentina in 1899 when he was three years old. In 1907 he was studying music at the Conservatorio Weber, and in 1909 he was playing flute in the movie theaters.

The first orchestra in which he played was comprised by a pianist, Mrs. Siniscalco, the violinist Enrique Varela and himself on flute. He also appeared at the Teatro Nacional with Guillermo Battaglia.

He joined the orchestra led by Alpidio Fernández that played at the basement Sol de Mayo, which was located on Entre Ríos Street. This orchestra did not play exclusively tangos. They used to play excerpts from different operas and, from time to time, some tango. One day Alpidio took him to the Roberto Firpo’s place to that he would meet him in person because he had already heard him as flutist. Firpo suggested him to join his orchestra but Michetti’s parents strongly opposed to it for at that time to belong to a tango orchestra was even indecent. He recalled that his father had threatened him to break his flute for fear that his son would play in a tango orchestra.

But a disgraceful circumstance helped him to get permission from his parents to perform with Firpo. Due to the suicide of his brother, his parents were so much scared that he would do the same that they finally allowed him to appear as flutist with Firpo. He played with the latter from 1915 to 1916 and then switched to Juan Maglio (Pacho). With Maglio he made a tour of Uruguay with a wide acclaim. On his comeback from Montevideo he again joined Firpo, but this time it was a ten-year tenure.

He with Juan Carlos Bazán, Bachicha (Juan Deambroggio), Roberto Goyheneche, Emilio De Caro, David Barberis and Pedro Gagliano formed the Orquesta Royal. This aggregation appeared with the Ratti brothers in El Bailarín del Cabaret at the Teatro Apolo where they premiered the Manuel Jovés’s tango “Patotero sentimental” which was sung by Ignacio Corsini.

With this same orchestra, along with Teresita Zazá, they went to Peru for the Peruvian Centennial. In order to return they had to talk to Monsignor Duprat who got for them a warship named Guardia Nacional. This Orquesta Royal later went to Spain with Muiño-Alippi, but Michetti stayed and never again played in tango orchestras.

Thereafter Ángel Greco decided to put together an orchestra in the old style to appear in the radio show Tangos y Autores which Michetti joined as flutist.

Michetti thinks that the reason why flutes were removed from tango orchestras is because they were scarce at that time, and as finding flutists was very difficult, the orchestras were put together without that instrument. Then gradually they grew accustomed to do without a flute until they forgot about it completely.

He also thinks that the reason for the present tendency to exaggerate variations on bandoneon was born out of the need to substitute for the sixteenth notes played by the flute by the bandoneon. And that need evolved in such a way that today nearly all the bandoneon players not only do that but also every tango seems to be a work of finger agility. It’s quite acrobatic the lines played by the bandoneons. He finds it pretty but he thinks what they play today is no longer tango.

Of his oeuvre as composer he mentions: “El Pochocho”, “Quién te iguala”, “Falsa”, “Barón”, “El botellero”, “Eres tremenda”, “Negrita cruel”, “El tajarete” and the waltzes “Elvirita”, “Sembró tu corazón”, “Tierno amor” and “Tus besos [b]”. But he explained to us that he never was successful with his pieces. People liked them but they never became great hits. However, the tango “Quién te iguala” is still played and was recorded by Roberto Firpo in 1916, by Juan D'Arienzo in 1941, by Carlos Di Sarli in 1952, by the Cuarteto Enrique Mora in 1953 and by the Cuarteto Del Centenario in 1975, among others.

Finally, he congratulated Bates for his campaign against the introduction in our country of a great number of foreign musicians, and that «it would be fair that like in other countries we are not allowed to play with our groups the same would be enforced here concerning foreign players taking into account that here there are very good musicians able to satisfy the most demanding bandleader».

Note-interview excerpted from the Revista Antena (magazine) – Saturday, February 2, 1935.