Elsa Bragato

Tango for listening

verything was developing at our apartment, placed on 2053 Córdoba street, ground floor, at the back.

It was like a house, with its two courtyards «pulmones de manzana» (urban space in a block on which buildings are not allowed). And, facing the entrance corridor, there was a door through which we entered what we called the «music room». The piano was there, inherited from my grandfather and which was of daily use for my father, a wall-to-wall bookstand, the «combinado» (radio tuner and record player) of then, the 78 RPM discs and the LP´s, the writing desk, two little pieces of furniture made by the «nonno» (grandpa), wood worker and flutist (don Enrico Bragato) and «piles» of sheet music, besides music stands in a corner, a red carpet and four chairs in the same color.

It was the place of meeting with Astor, my father and any musician arriving at these lands, without exaggeration.

And Piazzolla was not the exception. There he tested sounds, chords, interchanged ideas with my father, there many changes in tango must have sprung up, which were already «bubbling» in don Astor´s head. It was a sacred place.

When my father was working, which was something continued and daily, unless he were at the teatro Colón or with the Channel 13 orchestra or at some recording, neither my sister nor I were allowed to «disturb». Only my mother, doña Herminia, was allowed to wait on, at a determined time, her tasty «Italian style coffee».

I remember as if it were today that Astor and my father talked about «new tango» and the «reaction» that it would arise, or that it had already sprung up. This is something I have a little bit blurred. What is clear is that both came from playing all the weekends with the «típicas».

The dancing parties in Carnival, the weekend balls, were circumstances in which we «missed» our father. We knew that, as soon as he arrived from the Colón theater, he had to change clothes, tune up his instrument and leave, coming back home on Sundays, nearly by daylight. That is to say, that they knew by heart the tango that was meant for dancing, each one with whatever orchestra. Astor, with Aníbal Troilo; my father with Francini-Pontier, Osvaldo Fresedo, and many and many others. And, at least in daddy's case, he had developed almost a «phobia»: my sister and I could not go to the dancing parties of our school partners, the then known as «asaltos», because he did not like them. He never saw with good eyes, then, that people danced while they played.

When the possibility of the Octeto Buenos Aires came, nobody talked, I mean at least neither Astor nor my father, of «killing danced tango», in spite of the fact they disliked it. They talked, instead, of creating a «tango to be listened to, of making something avant-garde, different», as counterpart to tango for dancing.

They said it was the same as in classical music: there were waltzes, ballet and also symphonies, chamber groups.

My father always was part of some string quartet, besides his numerous occupations in orchestras, as soloist of the Filarmónica de Buenos Aires; first was the Cuarteto Buenos Aires and later the Cuarteto Pessina, perhaps the most prestigious in the country as for classical music.

The knowledge Astor assimilated in Europe allowed him to enter another environment with his music. This is the truth: they did not want to kill anybody, to take out anybody from the way but to offer tango from a different place, like chamber music.

If we analyze it at a distance, neither Astor nor the musicians who followed him in his "craze" of the Octeto Buenos Aires were mistaken; today co-exist the tango for dancing as well as the chamber tango, or tango simply for listening.

In both cases, they are always pleasant. And, as a paradox, Julio Bocca normally choreographs and dances Astor Piazzolla's tangos.

Elsa Bragato is professor in Letters, journalist, director of the supplement Última Hora of Crónica, daughter of José Bragato and advanced student of violoncello.