Samstag, 20. April 2024

Gardel en Nueva York - Capítulo 4: Francisco Vagnoni

    

Capítulo 4: Francisco Vagnoni
por Terig Tucci con anotaciones de Camilo Gatica y José Manuel Araque


Un músico uruguayo, Francisco Vagnoni, que inició su carrera en Nueva York como violinista, alcanzó más tarde uno de los más importantes puestos administrativos de la radio norteamericana. Más bien alto, bien parecido, cordial, con un bigotito “cachador”, Vagnoni hablaba poco y oía mucho y desplegaba una sonrisa enigmática, que prestaba a su actitud y personalidad una cierta inescrutabilidad oriental.

Ocupaba entonces el puesto de administrador adjunto del departamento de música de la emisora. A él le debíamos la orquesta de treinta músicos latinoamericanos, entre los que se contaban Remo Bolognini, Osvaldo Mazzucchi, Domingo Guido, Rafael Galindo, Joe Biviano, Joe Kahn, además de entera dotación de “El tango romántico” y por supuesto, Hugo Mariani en la dirección de orquesta y yo en los arreglos instrumentales.

Un día o dos después del primer programa de Gardel, nos encontramos con un viejo amigo argentino, el Sr. Vicente Piazzolla, padre de Astor, el notable bandoneonista y compositor, quien recapituló sus impresiones del programa diciéndome:

-Ustedes han traído un pedazo de Buenos Aires a tierras del Norte; es como si el Río de la Plata desembocara en la bahía de Nueva York…

El enorme éxito de las presentaciones de Gardel y el sabor criollo de sus programas se debían, en buena parte, a Francisco Vagnoni. Era imperativo que tratáramos a este hombre con toda la deferencia; lo que no era nada difícil, dadas sus agradables prendas personales.



Notas

Francisco (Frank) Vagnoni es un tanto misterioso. El 23 de septiembre de 1925 Vagnoni (violinista) llegó a Nueva York desde Uruguay en compañía de Abraham Thevenet (pianista) y Doroteo Andrada (violinista). En sus papeles de inmigración declaró que había estado en Nueva York en 1921, pero no encontramos ningún registro de esa entrada (¿vino vía Tampa?). Thevenet y otros usaron a Mariani como referencia.

Especulamos que fueron invitados por Mariani para grabar con su Orquesta Típica para Gennet Records.

 

No había muchas oportunidades de grabar Tango después de 1926, así que Mariani se fue a trabajar para la Radio. Se convirtió en uno de los principales conductores de orquesta de la NBC, y a partir de principios de 1927 apareció muchas veces en la Blue Network (WEAF, WJZ y otras). Unos meses después de la primera actuación pública de Mariani en la radio, y durante un par de años, Frank Vagnoni también dirigió para la NBC. En 1929 Victor y NBC se fundieron con la Radio Corporation of America (RCA), la radio se había convertido en el medio dominante para la distribución de música. La evidencia apunta a una sólida relación entre Mariani y Vagnoni, pero no sabemos quién trabajaba para quién ni cuándo. El hecho que Tucci dedique un capítulo entero de sus memorias a Vagnoni parece indicar que Vagnoni tendría más rango y llevó a Tucci a dirigir la orquesta que tocó en el cine y grabó con Gardel, y con la venia de Mariani. Vagnoni trabajó para la NBC y la ABC durante más de 20 años, pero nunca se le menciona entre los músicos que tocaron con Gardel.

Tucci nombra a los músicos que dirigió en las grabaciones de Gardel que él dirigió, dos en agosto de 1934 y el resto en marzo de 1935. Remo Bolognini estaba allí, por supuesto, en compañía de Joseph Kahn, Osvaldo Mazzuchi y Rafael Galindo, todos ellos hombres de la Filarmónica de Nueva York a las órdenes de Arturo Toscanini. Mazzuchi, violonchelista, era uruguayo y estaba en Nueva York desde por lo menos 1919, y en la Filarmónica de Nueva York desde 1925. Galindo, violinista, era mexicano, hijo de un notable violonchelista. Se educó en Francia y llegó a Nueva York desde Madrid en 1927.

 
 
En 1929 Galindo y Mazzuchi se unieron a Leon Fleitman (viola) y Angelo Sasso (violín), también de la Filarmónica, y formaron el American Pro-Art Quartet y tocaron en la radio durante un par de años. Cuando Toscanini formó la NBC Symphony Orchestra en 1937, todos estos hombres formaban parte del conjunto.


En 1926, a los 18 años, Joe Biviano fue descubierto por un ejecutivo de la NBC tocando el acordeón en el ferry de Staten Island. Fue el acordeonista de referencia en la NBC durante años, y creemos que tocó con Mariani desde 1928. 
 
 
No sabemos por qué Tucci sólo nombra a Joseph Kahn como pianista. Abraham Thevenet figura como pianista en la Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR) en las grabaciones de 1935, quizás Kahn sólo estuvo en la única sesión de Agosto de 1934. Lo que sí sabemos es que Kahn mantuvo una larga y duradera amistad con Bolognini. En la imagen inferior, Kahn toca el trombón mientras Remo toca el clarinete a bordo del USS Uruguay, en la gira de Toscanini por Sudamérica en 1940.


Tucci no menciona al violinista Horacio Zito, incluido por la DAHR en un puñado de grabaciones emblemáticas como Volver. Zito, también uruguayo y amigo de Mariani, estaba en Nueva York desde 1928, y grabó para Brunswick en 1931/1932. Cuando Gardel llegó a Nueva York, la Orquesta Poema de Zito tocaba regularmente en el Thé Dansant en el Empire Room del Hotel Waldorf Astoria (también tocaban las orquestas de Xavier Cugat y Enric Madriguera, y Ramón y Rosita bailaban allí). Una pregunta abierta es si la Orquesta de Zito era la antigua Típica de Mariani.


 
Por último, Tucci tampoco menciona a Vicente A. Navatta, también uruguayo y violonchelista, y también nombrado por la DAHR en las grabaciones de 1935. Navatta llegó a Nueva York en agosto de 1923 y usó como referencia a Domingo Guido (contrabajo). Guido llegó a Nueva York en 1920 con Hugo Mariani (utilizando a Mazzuchi como referencia), lo que lleva a preguntarse: ¿por qué Mariani no dirigió a sus músicos en las grabaciones de Gardel? Una posibilidad es que los hombres de Toscanini (y el resto del proyecto) estaban bajo obligaciones contractuales con la Victor, y Tucci era el hombre de la Victor.


 
Para terminar este breve capítulo sobre Vagnoni, Tucci menciona a Vicente Piazzolla, que llegó a Nueva York con su hijo Astor en abril de 1925. Astor era alumno de Andrés d'Aquila, un pianista que en ocasiones tocaba en trío con Tucci. Unos días antes de la llegada de Gardel, Astor, de 11 años, había estado tocando el bandoneón en una fiesta en el YWCA de Brooklyn. Lamentablemente Tucci no utilizó a Astor en las grabaciones de Gardel.

Gardel in New York - Chapter 5: Gardel sings in English

    

Chapter 5: Gardel sings in English
by Terig Tucci with annotations by Camilo Gatica and José Manuel Araque


The NBC programs, already well underway, continued with growing success, delighting equally the public and the directors of the radio station. The Latin American colony of New York, which then numbered more than half a million souls, was glued to the receivers to listen to Gardel's programs. The newspapers of the city were putting him among the most select ones that were offered by the radio. Despite the fact that most of the American public did not understand -as is natural- the Spanish text of the songs, his adherents multiplied in an astonishing way; the word was spreading, the artist was gaining a foothold. And while the dramatic meaning of his songs remained a mystery to the American public at large, the beauty of his vocal artistry, the sheer delight of his singing, were enough incentives to attract and captivate.

The management of the radio station, with the purpose of stimulating the interest of the commercial agencies sponsoring the programs, proposed that Gardel should sing in English. The artist was unfamiliar with the language and feared that singing in a language that was foreign to him might seem presumptuous. He did, however, lend himself for the experiment that was made with this attempt.

Some of the refrains of Argentine songs, those that were best adapted, were translated into English and written phonetically. For example... the phrase I LOVE YOU was written with Spanish sounds: ÁI LOV IÚ. After one or two auditions, Gardel refused to continue his efforts to sing in a language that was totally unfamiliar to him.

There were, in truth, powerful reasons of professional sincerity in his refusal.

-How can I sing," Gardel explained, "words I don't understand, phrases I don't feel. There is something in me that vibrates to the sound of words that are familiar to me, that are deeply rooted in the most intimate part of my being; words that I learned in my childhood, that have the meaning of things very much ours, impossible to transmute. My language, gentlemen, is Spanish... or better yet, porteño. The question "¿Me quieres?" does not contain for me the emotion that becomes in the same porteño question ¿Me querés? The pronoun VOS, instead of TÚ; the verb VENÍ, instead of VEN... They are archaisms of old affirmation, that come to us from our ancestral trunk. What a pity, friends that I cannot satisfy your desires! I know how to sing only in criollo!

All of us, including the NBC directors present there, remained silent, not knowing what to say. We all understood and respected the integrity of the artist.




Notes

 

Gardel in New York - Chapter 2: The first radio program

    

Chapter 2: The first radio program
by Terig Tucci with annotations by Camilo Gatica and José Manuel Araque


The following day we met at the music room of the hotel. Rested now and after a succulent breakfast, in which we could appreciate the magnificent morning appetite of Castellano, the pianist, Gardel vigorously rubbing his hands together, with the impetus of an explorer who comes to conquer new worlds, all infinitely more cordial and enthusiastic than the previous evening, we began to go over the songs with which Gardel would debut on NBC in those same days. Mariani suggested as rubric of the programs the tango "Buenos Aires". This song, which seemed to us a happy choice, met with Gardel's immediate approval.

Buenos Aires was the city most identified with the artist's career. Since his arrival with his mother from his native France, when he was a very young boy, it was Buenos Aires where Gardel made his first steps. Buenos Aires, which later consecrated him as his favorite artist and baptized him with the name of El Zorzal Criollo.

When we had compiled the first program and after some instructions from Gardel and Mariani, I took the piano and singing parts to my house, to begin to prepare the orchestrations.

We had to make the most of the limited time we had, working on eight orchestrations and rubric, for an orchestra of thirty professors, which had to be ready in forty-eight hours. I worked all that day, that night, the next day and part of the night. Fortunately, I completed my task in just enough time to take a few hours of much-needed rest.

Bright and early that morning - the day of rehearsals and the program - with my assignment brought to a happy conclusion, I left my house, exhilarated as a child, heading for the NBC studios. We had a piano rehearsal beforehand. Some observations and corrections by Gardel were duly taken into account. With great satisfaction on my part, I was able to observe that Gardel was an extremely cooperative, accessible, approachable artist. His remarks were made as suggestions, almost shyly, fearful that his corrections might offend us.

After piano rehearsals we all went to the Santa Lucia, a small but magnificent Italian restaurant, located on 54th Street and Seventh Avenue, a few blocks from the NBC studios.

That same afternoon the orchestra rehearsals for the radio program were to take place. I was quite nervous, knowing the responsibility that fell on me as the author of the orchestrations and I kept asking myself: Will he like my work? will he challenge my efforts? Trying to overcome my doubts, I said to myself: I will know how to interpret his reaction by his gestures, by his expression... But, even though I was trying to get my courage up, terror tormented me and a cold sweat ran down my body.

It was time for the test. The professors were seated at their respective music stands; Gardel, completely self-possessed, was examining his songs; from his podium, Hugo Mariani, getting ready to start the rehearsal and clanging his baton, called the orchestra to order.

The first piece that was rehearsed was "Buenos Aires", the song that was to serve as rubric. Before an orchestra of that size, Gardel, fearful that it would interfere too much and thus hinder his work as interpreter, listened to the accompaniment with great attention and a certain suspicion, while he sang the lyrics in a low voice. He did not tolerate that anything could interfere with his singing, from time to time he would cast furious glances in the direction of the musicians. It was obvious that the artist considered the orchestra to be an opposing group... and dealing with this gang of musicians was no easy task. He was used to singing with guitars, which accompanied the singer in the simplest, sometimes naive terms, entirely subordinated to the fantasy or whim of the interpreter.

Until then Gardel had never sung with an orchestra of thirty professors, like the one that confronted him that afternoon, and very rarely with any orchestra, in which case the orchestral accompaniment had always been just a timid, shy murmur, reduced to filling the gaps in the melody, sometimes with true instrumental virtuosity, but generally anodyne, insubstantial chatter.

Before I began writing the instrumentations, I had taken the precaution of studying a number of Gardel's records with orchestral accompaniment. With rare exceptions, I found them inadequate. Accustomed to the aesthetics of North American instrumentation (the introduction of the microphone brought great modifications in the art of orchestral playing for radio and record) that Gardelian premise of musical shyness was difficult to accept. However, we could not upset the performer's wishes too much by abruptly introducing sound combinations to which he was not accustomed. My aesthetic credo is to merge performer and orchestra into a single sound mass; that the orchestra comments on the infinite emotional gradations of the song with the same intensity infused by the performer and that together, performer and orchestra, running through the range of human emotions, reach the vehement culmination of the interpretative realization, as in the climax of a drama.

That same afternoon I had the opportunity to verify that my strategy was well founded. One of the pieces being rehearsed was Charlo's beautiful tango "Cobardía". The refrain begins with the words:

“Yo sé que es mentira
todo lo que estás diciendo,
que soy en tu vida
solo un remordimiento”.

Thus he describes the painful via crucis of the tormented lover.

A stubborn crescendo of mortifying unhappiness reaches its climax in a strong emotional explosion, in which the instrumental forces, following the cumulative curve of the performer, burst into a powerful chord followed immediately by the echo, noble and resigned in harmony, which is almost a sigh of four brass instruments -two horns and two trombones, pianissimo- over which the performer announces the end of his immense tragedy:

“Lo sé, y sin embargo
Sin esa mentira
No puedo vivir.”

For an instant, we were all galvanized by the masterful interpretation of this superb artist, even those present who did not understand the Spanish text. We all, as one person, applauded with frenzied enthusiasm. Gardel, happy for his first triumph in New York, turned to me, and with the typical gesture of complete approval, consisting of holding his thumb and forefinger to the right side of his upper lip, as if twisting an imaginary moustache, he announced in the purest porteño accent:

-Che Tucci, macanudo viejo. ¡Macanudo!

That same night, the triumphant voice of Carlos Gardel, the zorzal criollo who came to conquer new laurels in the northern skies, was heard in countless millions of American homes.




Notes

The day after his arrival, on Friday December 29 at 1PM, Carlos Gardel attended a lunch party in his honor at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Madison Av at 46th Street (walking distance from the Waldorf). Hugo Mariani attended too, the event was sponsored by NBC to introduce Gardel to the Latinamerican diplomatic corps. The "King of Tango" was finally in New York (sadly this monicker was now overused, Eduardo Bianco was still in town and also called himself "king"). The event at the Ritz-Carlton was transmitted live on a handful of stations including WEAF in New York.

The Ritz-Carlton was built in 1911 and was the very definition of extravagance. It featured a palm court, a japanese garden and a roof garden, an a large main dining room open to events. It probably had seen better days in 1933. Of course Gardel sang.


Tucci had little time to work on his arrangements, though there must have been a plan in place before Gardel arrived. For one thing, NBC was going live with the singer in 48 hours, and the singer had barely met his Orchestra for rehearsals. Mariani brought his old "Orquesta de Maestros" to play with Gardel. This group was associated with Mariani for years, it was likely a studio orchestra that Mariani could mold to the incesant change of programming in radio, it played everything from jazz to latin rhythms and more. Mariani poached from this NBC stable and likely added one or more of his South American associates to the group. This Orchestra probably had some familiarity the material before meeting Gardel. They only had one shot at it.


Who was Terig Tucci? Not much is known about the historical Terig Tucci before he met Gardel. He was born in Buenos Aires on June 23, 1897. He learned to play the piano, violín, bandola and other stringed instruments. In the early 1920s Tucci is said to have conducted some minor groups. He arrived in New York on July 13, 1923 (a few weeks before Cobián), and apparently worked odd jobs (construction) for a while. In September 1930 Tucci played tangos on the independent radio station WRNY, with a group called "Trio Pampa" that included pianist Andrés D'Aquila. In November of the same year Tucci directed an orchestra for Columbia in two recordings by Spanish singer Consuelo Moreno, his first and only documented credit conducting in the studio before Gardel. Moreno and Tucci worked on and off through the rest of the decade.

Tucci was then hired by RCA/Victor/NBC as an arranger, and he became close with Alfredo J. Cibelli, an Italian mandolinist that had risen to become director of Victor's foreign music department. Perhaps confused about Tucci's origin, Cibelli asked Tucci to work on Colombian music, which started the long association Tucci had with that genre. Cibelli would later be credited as session supervisor for Gardel's Victor recordings.

In 1931 Tucci appeared on WOR radio accompanying the Trío Los Charros, formed by young Mexican singer Tito Guizar with Chago Rodríguez and Juárez H. García. Los Charros soon disbanded, and in September 1933 we find Tucci credited as the composer of two Rumbas recorded by Chago Rodríguez.

At 10:30PM EST on Sunday December 31, 1933, as the country waited for the start of a New Year, Gardel and Mariani and Tucci went live on the Blue Network. The show was re-transmitted to stations across the eastern United States.

 

Curiously, on the same schedule a 15-minute live program was brought over short-wave all the way from Argentina on competing station WABC.

Gardel in New York - Chapter 3: A tip from Castellanos

    

Chapter 3: A tip from Castellano
by Terig Tucci with annotations by Camilo Gatica and José Manuel Araque


The next day we met at the hotel in order to exchange impressions about the previous night's program.

We listened repeatedly to the program, recorded on a reference disc by the radio station, and we began to find some faults that needed to be corrected; and many slips that we could amend for the benefit of the program. The more we wanted to remedy, the more flaws seemed to emerge, until we all became nervous and irritable. Fortunately, someone suggested that we go to lunch, and without thinking twice, we left in a caravan to our favorite oasis, the Santa Lucia restaurant.

After ingesting a quota of solids and liquids and back at the hotel, equanimity returned, and we began to examine our problems more objectively... We understood then that they were not insoluble as they had seemed to us before our expedition to the Santa Lucia. Now, it was a frank meeting of comradeship, we were sharing praise and censure, without rancor that would cloud the cordiality of the participants, but with the eagerness for improvement that leads to that longed-for perfection.

Perfection! In pursuit of this chimera goes the wanderer, the cultivator of the arts, towards an inaccessible goal; eternally discontented, divinely discontented, rummaging in the most hidden corners of his being and of the world around him, to unravel truths and beauties that remain inviolate in the mystery of life.

We agree on the selection of the pieces that would constitute our second program. We say goodbye. Alberto Castellano accompanies me to the subway station. And as we walk, he tells me:

-Carlos was very well impressed by your work. I would like, however, if I may, to give you some warnings for your own good. As you know, I have known Gardel for many years, and on countless occasions we have collaborated in radio programs and recordings. In Gardel's opinion, the best accompaniment for his singing is guitars. His harmonic preferences -as you may have noticed- are the meager major chords that his guitarists call first, second and third. Corresponding to the tonic, dominant and subdominant chords, respectively.

Within this meager limitation of sound resources are Gardel's harmonic needs. He is not accustomed to the orchestra, particularly to the use made of it in the United States; and much less, to certain harmonic subtleties that he does not feel. Modern harmony is proscribed for him. French impressionism, that fugitive pictorial art that folded itself to music and widened its radius of action towards stellar regions, does not exist for Gardel. His is, instead, the romanticism of the 19th century. Melody reigns supreme and any harmonic procedure that could alter this axiom, encounters the most complete and immediate hostility of the artist.

Frankly -Castellano confesses to me- I would never have believed that Gardel would have accepted the instrumental treatment you wrote for the song "Cobardía".

In honor to the truth I must say here that when we were rehearsing the song in the studio, I could observe Gardel's harsh gesture of surprise, and that it was due to Castellano's intervention, who had found the orchestration interesting, that Gardel tolerated it; later, when he understood it better, he accepted it completely.

I thanked Castellano for his good advice. I said goodbye to him.

Even though I was positively convinced that Castellano was my best apologist, while I was descending the stairs of the subway, a terrible discouragement took hold of me, maybe premonitory of future difficulties.



Notes



Gardel en Nueva York - Capítulo 5: Gardel canta en inglés

    

Capítulo 5: Gardel canta en inglés
por Terig Tucci con anotaciones de Camilo Gatica y José Manuel Araque


Los programas de la NBC, ya bien encaminados, continuaban con éxito creciente, deleitando igualmente al público y a los dirigentes de la emisora. La colonia latinoamericana de Nueva York, que eran entonces de más de medio millón de almas, se pegaba a los receptores para oír los programas de Gardel. Los periódicos de la ciudad lo postulaban entre los más selectos que se ofrecían por la radio. A pesar de que la mayoría del público norteamericano no entendía –como es natural– el texto español de las canciones, sus adherentes se multiplicaban de una manera asombrosa; se corría la voz, el artista se afianzaba. Y si bien el significado dramático de sus canciones permanecía vedado al gran público norteamericano, la belleza de su arte vocal, el puro deleite de su canto, eran incentivos suficientes para atraer y cautivar.

La gerencia de la radioemisora, con el propósito de estimular el interés de las agencias comerciales patrocinadoras de los programas, propuso que Gardel cantara en inglés. El artista desconocía el idioma y temía que cantar en un idioma que le era extraño pudiera parecer presuntuoso. Se prestó, sin embargo, al experimento que se hizo con ese intento.

Algunos de los estribillos de las canciones argentinas, los que mejor se adaptaban, se tradujeron al inglés y se escribieron fonéticamente. Por ejemplo… la frase I LOVE YOU (Te amo) se escribía con sonidos españoles: ÁI LOV IÚ. Después de una o dos audiciones, Gardel se negó a continuar sus esfuerzos de cantar en un idioma que le era totalmente desconocido.

Había, en verdad, poderosas razones de sinceridad profesional en su negativa.

-Cómo voy a cantar -explicaba Gardel- palabras que no entiendo, frases que no siento. Hay algo en mí que vibra al sonido de palabras que me son familiares, que están hondamente arraigadas en lo más íntimo de mi ser; palabras que aprendí en mi niñez, que tienen el significado de cosas muy nuestras, imposible de transmutar. Mi idioma, señores, es el español… o mejor aún, el porteño. La pregunta ¿Me quieres? No contiene para mí la emoción que se vuelva en la misma pregunta porteña ¿Me querés? El pronombre VOS, en lugar de TÚ; el verbo VENÍ, en lugar de VEN… Son arcaísmos de vieja afirmación, que nos vienen de nuestro tronco ancestral. ¡Qué pena, amigos que no puedo satisfacer vuestros deseos! ¡Yo sé cantar solamente en criollo!

Todos nosotros, inclusive los directores de la NBC allí presentes, nos quedamos callados, sin saber qué decir. Todos comprendimos y respetamos la integridad del artista.




Notas



 

 

Gardel in New York - Chapter 4: Francisco Vagnoni

    

Chapter 4: Francisco Vagnoni
by Terig Tucci with annotations by Camilo Gatica and José Manuel Araque

 

A Uruguayan musician, Francisco Vagnoni, who began his career in New York as a violinist, later reached one of the most important administrative positions in American radio. Rather tall, good-looking, cordial, with a "cachador" mustache, Vagnoni spoke little and listened a lot and displayed an enigmatic smile, which lent his attitude and personality a certain oriental inscrutability.

At the time, he held the position of assistant administrator of the station's music department. To him we owed the orchestra of thirty Latin American musicians, among them Remo Bolognini, Osvaldo Mazzucchi, Domingo Guido, Rafael Galindo, Joe Biviano, Joe Kahn, besides the entire staff of "El tango romántico" and, of course, Hugo Mariani in the orchestra direction and myself in the instrumental arrangements.

A day or two after Gardel's first program, we met an old Argentine friend, Mr. Vicente Piazzolla, father of Astor, the remarkable bandoneonist and composer, who recapitulated his impressions of the program by saying to me:

-You have brought a piece of Buenos Aires to Northern lands; it is as if the Rio de la Plata flowed into New York Bay....

The enormous success of Gardel's presentations and the criollo flavor of his programs were due, to a great extent, to Francisco Vagnoni. It was imperative that we treated this man with all the deference; which was not difficult at all, given his pleasant personality.



Notes


Francisco (Frank) Vagnoni is a bit of a mystery. On September 23, 1925, Vagnoni (a violinist) arrived in New York from Uruguay in the company of Abraham Thevenet (pianist) and Doroteo Andrada (violinist). In his immigration papers he declared that he had been to New York in 1921, but we found no record of that entry (did he come via Tampa?). Thevenet and others in the group used Mariani as reference. 

We speculate they were summoned by Mariani to record with his Orquesta Típica for Gennet Records.

There were not that many opportunities for recording Tango after 1926, so Mariani went to work for Radio. He became one of the top orchestra directors in the roster of NBC, and starting in early 1927 he appeared many times on the Blue Network (WEAF, WJZ and others). A few months after Mariani's first public performance on radio, and for a couple of years, Frank Vagnoni was conducting for NBC too. Since 1929 Victor and NBC were part of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the airwaves had become the dominant medium for music distribution. The evidence points to a solid relationship between Mariani and Vagnoni, but we do not know who was working for who or when. The fact that Tucci dedicates an entire chapter of his memoir to Vagnoni seems to indicate that Vagnoni was the bigger fish, and that he brought Tucci to lead the orchestra that played on movies and recorded with Gardel with Mariani's blessing. Vagnoni went on to work for NBC and ABC and was an executive of some prominance for more than 20 years, but he is never mentioned among the musicians that played with Gardel.

Tucci names the musicians he directed in the 13 Gardel recordings he directed, two in August 1934, the rest in March 1935. Remo Bolognini was there of course, in the company of Joseph Kahn, Osvaldo Mazzuchi and Rafael Galindo, all men of the New York Philharmonic under Arturo Toscanini. Mazzuchi, a cellist, was from Uruguay, and was in New York since at least 1919, and in the New York Philharmonic since 1925. Galindo, a violinist, was from Mexico, the son of a notable cellist. He was educated in France and came to New York from Madrid in 1927.


 
 
In 1929 Mazzuchi and Galindo joined Leon Fleitman (viola) and Angelo Sasso (violin), also of the Philharmonic, and formed the American Pro-Art Quartet and played on radio for a couple of years. When Toscanini formed the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1937, all these men were part of the ensemble. 


In 1926, at 18 years of age, Joe Biviano was discovered by an NBC executive playing the accordion in the Staten Island Ferry. He was the go-to accordion player at NBC for years, and we think he played with Mariani since 1928.

 
We don't know why Tucci only names Joseph Kahn as the pianist. Abraham Thevenet is officially listed by the Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR) in the 1935 recordings, maybe Kahn played the single recording session of 1934. We do know that Kahn had a long and lasting friendship with Bolognini. In the picture below, Kahn plays the trombone while Remo plays the clarinet aboard the USS Uruguay, in Toscanini's tour of South America in 1940.


Tucci does not mention violinist Horacio Zito, listed by the DAHR in a handful of iconic Gardel recordings like Volver. Zito, also from Uruguay and a friend of Mariani, was in New York since 1928, and recorded for Brunswick in 1931/1932. When Gardel arrived in New York, Zito's Poema Orchestra was playing regularly at a Thé Dansant in the Empire Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (as did the orchestras of Xavier Cugat and Enric Madriguera, while Ramón and Rosita danced). One open question is whether Zito's Orchestra was really Mariani's old Típica.


Finally, Tucci also fails to mention Vicente A. Navatta, also from Uruguay and a cellist, and also listed by DAHR in the 1935 recording sessions. Navatta came to New York in August 1923 using Domingo Guido (bass) as reference. Guido came to New York in 1920 with Hugo Mariani using Mazzuchi as reference, which begs the question: why didn't Mariani direct his men in the Gardel recordings? One  possibility is that Toscanini's men (and the rest of the project) were under contractual obligations to Victor, and Tucci was Victor's man.


 
To round up his short chapter on Vagnoni, Tucci name-drops Vicente Piazzolla, who came to New York with his son Astor in April 1925. Astor was a pupil of Andrés d'Aquila, a pianist that on ocassion played in a trio with Tucci. A few days before Gardel's arrival, 11-year Astor had been playing the bandoneon in a fiesta at the Central Branch of the Brooklyn YWCA. Alas, Tucci did not use Astor in the Gardel recordings.