De flor en flor - A tango piece with two lyrics on the open sea
n the early years of the twentieth century tango had already become our popular music. From Buenos Aires it had been spreading towards other areas of the country and to Europe. So the pioneers went there, some of them sent by a record company, others with the illusion of new job possibilities and eagerness for adventure.
The well-to-do people, the important family names in the country, the rich landlords –owners of the «breadbasket of the world» (as the southern lands of the continent were known) were already accustomed to cross the seas as a regular outing surrounded by comfort and luxury. Many times they were accompanied by their cooks or part of their serving staff and, as a picturesque legend, some times by a cow with her calf in order to get fresh milk.
World War I was a passing annoyance for them but it was not so for the early musicians, singers and dancing trainers who had a bad time because of the lack of job. Fortunately, when the war was over there were several years of prosperity.
Then the crossings of the Atlantic ocean on steamboat were back. One of these ships was the «Antonio Delfino», name of the agent in South America of the German shipping company Hamburg Sud for which he worked for 28 years. This man was honored with this recognition when he was still alive. And for the tango and Gardelian circles this has a special interest because this steamboat carried Carlos Gardel on his first voyage to Europe. Its three classes lodged 1868 passengers.
The seaport of Vigo, in Galicia, was the point of arrival. Gardel, José Razzano, Eduardo Bonessi, Luis Gaspar Pierotti (the singer’s agent), Mariano Alcalde (valet), José Ricardo and Guillermo Barbieri (guitarists) had departed from Buenos Aires. In Montevideo they were joined by over 40 members of the Rivera-De Rosas theater company. She, Matilde Rivera, was the wife of Enrique de Rosas whose real name was Dionisio Russo (1888-1948). He was one of the most outstanding actors of our national scene at that time. He appeared at some movies, not more than five films, one of them, precisely, with Gardel: “Tango Bar” in which he plays the role of a gambler and refined jewel thief.
When they were on the open sea, Bonessi made his fellow travelers hear a composition of his which was warmly received by the boys who regarded it as a beautiful piece. Gardel asked the secretary of the theater company who was also critic and comedy playwright to write lyrics to that number. Domingo Gallicchio, a 32-year-old man, accepted the proposal and wrote the words. He was Uruguayan and was born in Montevideo on September 1, 1891.
On December 5, 1923 they arrived and, hours later, they reached Madrid by train for their debut at the Teatro Apolo, on December 11 (a birthday present for the Zorzal Criollo). They had a lot of work until the early January when the season came to an end and, consequently, the duo split with the company. That time, with no show business activities, was a chance for Gardel to travel to France to see her mother who was there visiting relatives. It was on that occasion that Carlos was able to get acquainted with her grandmother who was very old then.
Two months later, back in Buenos Aires, on February 13, 1924 Gardel recorded for the first time that tango conceived on the open sea and entitled “De flor en flor” by the authors. He recorded it again, six years later, on May 22, 1930. Gallicchio died in Montevideo on March 22, 1965. By that time his lyrics, including its title, had disappeared of the repertoires.
On June 3, 1938 at the Monumental movie theater the motion picture directed by Ernesto Vilches, “Una prueba de cariño”, was premiered. It was only a vehicle to present some artists like the then succesful group “Los Bohemios” led by Mario Pugliese “Cariño”, the comic actress Margarita Padín, Aída Luz and the singer Roberto Páez who sang the tango “Desvelo (De flor en flor)”. The number had the same melody of “De flor en flor” but with new lyrics, now written by Enrique Cadícamo.
There is no doubt that both lyrics are quite poor and do not deserve to be regarded from a literary or poetical point of view. But Bonessi’s melody is very beautiful and original.
“De flor en flor” had the above renditons by Gardel and some others: Héctor Mauré accompanied by guitars in 1954, Alberto Marino with his orchestra conducted by Héctor María Artola on January 13, 1949. As an instrumental Eduardo Bonessi’s melody was recorded by the Nuevo Quinteto Real that included Horacio Salgán (piano), Néstor Marconi (bandoneon), Antonio Agri (violin), Ubaldo De Lío (guitar) and Omar Murtagh (double bass).
As “Desvelo (De flor en flor)” it was recorded, among others, by: Antonio Rodio with Alberto Serna on March 8, 1944; Aníbal Troilo with Floreal Ruiz on February 28, 1949; Alberto Morán with Armando Cupo on May 17, 1956; Armando Pontier with Hernán Salinas on vocals, on October 24, 1979; again Morán –now with the Alberto Di Paulo orchestra in 1986- and also Di Paulo with Roberto Ayala in 1997. It was as well in the Alberto Mancione’s repertoire with José Torres on vocals and there is a copy of a radio take. Other recordings are by Alfredo Belusi backed up by the orchestra led by Osvaldo Requena and the one by Carlos Cristal with the Trío Berlingieri.