Hernán Volpe

Herrero - Interview to Oscar Herrero made in June 1998

n artist of a well-remembered career, maestro Oscar Luis Herrero has been one of the Argentine popular musicians who has not been unnoticed in the tango milieu. He was member of the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra for over twenty years and co-founder of one of the most successful groups worldwide: the Sexteto Tango.

Alongside Pugliese, in different stages, he passed through varied experiences which were important for his life as musician and man completely involved in determined musical aesthetics and a political doctrine closely identified with the communist thought. There were important events like the tours of Russia and China in 1959, a similar tour of Japan in 1965; the long seasons without work because of political persecution and other happier times of splendor like the one deriving from his composition: the tango piece “Nochero soy”, which place us before an upstanding artist. We keep the best memories of him.

«After studying music with my father and my brothers, who were bandoneonists, I began to play in different second level groups until I joined the orchestras led by Pedro Maffia, Juan Canaro, Elvino Vardaro and Emilio Orlando. Later, with my brothers we put together an orchestra in 1937 of which there is some photograph as evidence somewhere; and, in the late 1943, at the same time I was summoned by two promising orchestras: the one led by Alfredo Gobbi and Osvaldo Pugliese’s. Well, I think my choice was obvious.

«I preferred Pugliese, mainly, because its style was more appealing to me. And also because I had given my word to the violinist Enrique Camerano that I would join that orchestra. When I told Gobbi about my decision he got very angry and he even tried to beat me. Today, many years later, that is only one more anecdote.

«It was nearly a 25-year tenure with the maestro which is really not a short one, indeed. It was a hazardous life alongside Osvaldo and all the orchestra. Many of them were truly great friends besides being sidemen in the aggreagtion. We had shocks of all kinds and also rewards for so much struggle. Let me tell you about Pugliese’s complete belief as creative musician, innovator and as person. Beside him I learnt a lot about music, about tango and about life; I was honored with his friendship besides being the first violin in his orchestra for eleven years.

«In the late 1956 I composed a tango number that I later named “Nochero soy”. The orchestra arrangement was written by no less than Osvaldo Ruggiero who added a final variation to it. We later recorded it and received a wide public acclaim and then it was in the orchestra book for several years. A story that makes me proud took place in 1959 when, before traveling to Russia and China, we played a private concert at the Teatro Nacional to pay homage to the great director, composer and violinist Aram Khachaturian, a Russian of Armenian origin —a celebrity of classical music— who was visiting Argentina with a large delegation. At the end of the concert, which included the most important tangos of the repertoire of that time and classics like “Mala junta”, “La rayuela”, “Mal de amores” and “Recuerdo”, the maestro, through his interpreter, told me that my tango had very much attracted his attention and he regarded it as a “little work of art”.

«The way we decided to quit Pugliese and form the sextet is quite a story. The first ones to be amazed with the success of the Sexteto Tango were we ourselves. The initiative, ignoring the future, was given by Pugliese himself, who used to repeat the phrase “I’m going to hang up my shoes” and every time he was less interested in working. He used to tell us that we had to form a group, that we had to put together something just in case… Finally nothing of the sort happened and he worked until the end of his life. But we, at that time, followed his advice and progressively were engaged in recordings and concerts until it was impossible to do both things. As Pugliese did not dismember his orchestra we had to split with him. It was hard to take that decision because we were all unconditional friends of the maestro either in good or in bad times.

«As for the style of my predecessor, Enrique Camerano, I can say that his sound and the vibrato he got were unique. Despite he was not a virtuoso, he was an artist. Maybe like Gobbi, wasn’t he? They were creators of a style. That’s the great difference. Other violinists, instead, have been better technicians or virtuosi but with less expression. I, humbly, think that I contributed as much as I could, with tenacity and practice, and managed to be accepted by everybody. But I can assure you that by that time I was greatly on edge due to the heavy responsibility I had to face. It was the Pugliese’s orchestra and it had to sound the best as possible.

«To sum it up, I want to thank you for the interest you have for me about the few or many things I did for our Argentine popular music. I sincerely thank you all and long life to tango!».