Montag, 10. Mai 2021

Fresedo's early years 1917-1920

Osvaldo Nicolás Fresedo was born in the center of Buenos Aires on May 5, 1897, the eighth child of his parents Nicolás Fresedo and Clotilde García. The family moved several times and eventually found permanent domicile in La Paternal when Osvaldo Fresedo was 8 years old. This neighborhood became his home, where he studied and later made his debut as a young musician. He started with a concertina, an instrument very much like a bandoneón, but with a different and simpler key layout. He calls it a "concertina" himself, but it is likely to have been a "bandonica" with only one row of keys. 
His teacher was a classical violinist who gave him a good knowledge of musical theory. But Osvaldo soon switched to bandoneón, for which he had to save in a disciplined way before finally in 1914 he was able to make his first appearance in a café "Paulín" in La Paternal. Since 1913 he had been together with his brother Emilio and a guitarist already shown in public as a trio.
Success came quickly, as a few years later he followed the “Tigre del bandoneón”, the famous Eduardo Arolas. Before that, as early as 1914, he became established as a composer as his first tangos were played by established musicians: "La ronda", later renamed "El espiante", was played by Augusto P. Berto, and “Chupate el dedo”, also composed by Fresedo in 1914, was played by Carlos Posadas in the 1914 Carnival.
Tito Roccatagliato
In 1915 Fresedo played at carnival balls himself, then switched to Manuel Aróztegui (Arostegui) in his formations (orchestra as well as trio) and in 1916 joined the large orchestra of Francisco Canaro, which "sent" - animated large carnival balls in Rosario.
In 1916 Fresedo also made his debut - in the middle of the year - at Cabaret Montmartre with a quintet consisting of the pianist José Martínez, the violinists Francisco Canaro and Rafael Rinaldi, Osvaldo Fresedo on bandoneón and Leopoldo Thompson playing double-bass. Eduardo Arolas is said to have recommended the musicians there. This quintet later received a contract at Cabaret Royal Pigall towards the end of 1916.
In 1917 the 20 year old Osvaldo Fresedo was recording in the formation of the "Orquesta tipica criolla":


Also in 1917 he recorded together with the Orquesta Típica Vicente Loduca.

Osvaldo Fresedo remembers in Zucchi's interview:

(...) in 1916, Francisco Canaro called me to play at the Carnival dances at the "Politeama" theater in Rosario. Since Vicente Greco had left, José Martínez came looking for me. On my return to Buenos Aires I formed my first orchesta. A quartet completed by José Pracánico on piano, Emilio Fresedo and Francisco Confeta on violins.
One night "Tito" Roccatagliata came to offer me to perform at the Montmartre cabaret. It is that he, along with Arolas and Juan Carlos Cobián, left the site and looked for another group to replace them. I called José Martínez and Rafael Rinaldi. And Canaro himself was added, at the request of Martínez. From there we went to the Royal Pigall and soon after I replaced Arolas in the trio with Cobián and "Tito". [...]

But things were slowly but surely getting tense with Canaro. One night, he met with Roccatagliata and things started to get better for him:  "One night  Tito Roccatagliata came looking for me, because Juan Carlos Cobián had arrived.”Pibe, why don't you come home to eat? I have a piano and Cobián is coming. Bring your bandoneon and we'll make some music. Come on, I'll introduce you to my wife and my mother."  I went to his house; he lived by the Hospital de Clínicas, I don't remember the street exactly, but it was one of those that crossed Azcuénaga or Ombú (Pasteur). There I met Cobián; there was indeed a piano and we began to play. It was heavenly, the way they played, wonderful!"

During the 1917 carnival, Osvaldo Fresedo was a member of the giant "Firpo-Canaro" orchestra, which performed at the Carnival dances at the Teatro Colón in Rosario. The formation of that historic orchestra was the following:

Bandoneons: Osvaldo Fresedo, Pedro Polito, Juan Bautista Deambroggio "Bachicha" and with many doubts Eduardo Arolas (although his photo appears in a poster published by F. Canaro in his memoirs).

Violins: Francisco Canaro, Tito Roccatagliata, Agesilao Ferrazzano, Julio Doutry and A. Scotti. Clarinet: Juan Carlos Bazán. 
Flute: Alejandro Michetti 
Double Bass: Ruperto Leopoldo Thompson

Fresedo himself keeps narrating:

- "Things at the Royal Pigall, as far as relations with "Pirincho"(Canaro) are concerned, got bad. We had another argument, so I closed the bandoneon, sheathed it and left. I didn't come back for the night section. So "Pirincho" sent someone to look for his brother, "El Macaco". That's what they called Juan Canaro, who took my place (there the band began to be called "Orquesta Francisco Canaro"). 

(autumn 1917)

"I had the misfortune (or luck) that Tito Roccatagliata invited me to his house, along with Cobián: "Why don't you bring the bandoneon? You have to be there at 12 o'clock, anyways", he told me. We formed a trio and I forgot about the "Royal Pigall" and everything. I continued with them and two weeks later I was playing at the cabaret "L'Abbaye", which was next to the bakery "El Cañón" in Esmeralda, between Lavalle and Tucumán. There I started playing with "Tito", Cobián and a German, Fritz, a cellist who had played with Arolas. Tito was a great guy; when I stopped playing with Canaro, I lived in his house for a while. This happened because until then I had lived in the same "apartment" house as Canaro and I didn't want to see him."

Later Fresedo, Cobián and Roccatagliata rented an apartment at Suipacha 323 to rehearse more comfortably.

"After finishing at L'Abbaye, the summer after Firpo left, we went to the old Armenonville, in front of the Automóvil Club Argentino, in the summer of 1917-1918. We played in a very dynamic way that pleased the audience very much. Unfortunately, Tito and Cobián drank too much and when we were done at the Armenonville we couldn't find a location."

The orquesta "Fresedo-Tito-Cobián" recorded some tracks for the "Telephone" label in the period of 1917-1918, true rarities.

- "When I was at the Royal Pigall, the Victor company sent a technician with, let's say "portable" recording equipment, to tour all the countries of Latin America recording the characteristic music of each of them. When he arrived in Argentina, the first person he contacted was Vicente Loduca, because he had already been in North America performing with pianist Celestino Ferrer. They knew him because they had recorded some records there to be released in our country. As a result, when the technician came, he began to look for Ferrer and Loduca. Ferrer had stayed in France and as a result, he found Loduca and they arranged for him to make a series of records. Loduca then arrived at the Royal Pigall; he didn't know me personally, but he knew "Pirincho". He saw him and said: "Look, I have an issue: people from the Victor company came to me to record some discs. Could I make them with all of you?" Our answer was affirmative.

Since this man from Victor knew nothing, Loduca gave him what he wanted. In short, we went with the entire Royal orchestra plus the inclusion of Vicente Loduca in it. It was the first time that two bandoneons were played on a record."

The record label specified: "A dos bandoneones Loduca-Fresedo". In these recordings the musicians were:

Bandoneons: Vicente Loduca & Osvaldo Fresedo 
Violins: Francisco Canaro & Julio Doutry 
Piano: José Martinez  
Double bass: Leopoldo Thompson

Zucchi asked the Maestro Fresedo if in this ensemble the bandoneons had two voices:

-"Look, we did whatever came to our minds, because Loduca wanted to earn a few pesos."

Zucchi continues: seven discs were recorded in 1917, in which it is announced that they were made with two bandoneons, but there are three more discs from the same year that could also be made with two bandoneons.


“El bandoneón y sus intérpretes - Generación 1910" (First part) Zucchi, Oscar. (Ed. Corregidor, 2001).

In 1918 the Lombart company inaugurated the "Casino Pigall" in Maipú 340 with the only performance of the Tzigan orchestra "Mirabell", to which a bandoneon would eventually be incorporated and only for the performance of tangos.  
For such a task, Fresedo was needed. And the success of "El pibe de La Paternal" was such that the company proposed the formation of a typical orchestra to alternate with the Tzigan group.
This orchesta worked there for about a year:
Bandoneon: Osvaldo Fresedo
Violins: Julio De Caro, Jean Koller
Piano: José María Rizzuti
Double bass: Hugo Baralis


Fresedo's first trip to the US in 1920

The directors of Casa Victor hired Fresedo and "Tito" Roccatagliata to join a typical orchestra and as Cobián was occupied they asked Enrique Delfino for playing piano. For the recordings they were invited to Víctor's central house located in the city of Candem, State of New Jersey and once there the ensemble was completed with the Chilean violinist Luis Infante Arancibia ("Luis Alberto Infantas") and the German-American cellist (classically trained) Alfred Lennartz.

Victors Talking Record Company 1920 in Camden, New Jersey

On August 15, 1920, Fresedo, Tito and Delfino arrived on the Martha Washington (items 8, 12 and 27 on the sheets) 


and in august and september 1920 they recorded 50 recordings - starting the series with Augusto Pedro Berto's tango Don Esteban

Osvaldo Fresedo remembers:

- "A few months after working with my orchestra at the Pigall Casino I was called by RCA Victor and met with Mr. Laiter and Mr. Leon, who were it representatives. They informed me that they were choosing the best musicians in the country to be sent to North America to record discs, and they asked me if I would be willing to travel, to which I answered affirmatively. Then they asked me if I would like this pianist to play with me, Enrique Delfino. I answered yes and they asked for my opinion about the possibility of the violinist being Tito Roccatagliata. "Of course!" -I said, "Besides, he's my friend". That's how the base of the group that would travel to the United States to record the first 25 discs registered in Camden, New Jersey to be edited in Argentina by Cas Pratt at 643 Sarmiento Street, their representative in the country, was formed."

The three chosen musicians set sail from Buenos Aires on the steamer "Marta Washington" around the mid-20'. Enrique Delfino informs us in an interview in 1961 of some of the details of the voyage:

"If today it is still an adventure to play tangos in the United States imagine how much it was for those days in 1920. To top it all off, we had a very hard navigation on board the "Marta Washington", and poor Roccatagliata was attacked by "the sickness of the sea", which kept him practically lying down during the whole voyage. I remember how, obsessed with the shipwreck, he used to tell me: "Sure, for you there is no problem, you have the last name of a fish". Besides, to evade the quarantine imposed by the immigration law, they entered the country clandestinely in the permanent anxiety of being caught by the authorities. “Everyone who passed by looked like a policeman”. 

Maestro Fresedo recalled:

-When we arrived in New York, Tito, Delfino, and I wandered the streets, getting to know Broadway. Delfy, always in a good mood, would go ahead and chat in English, so that they would think we were Americans. How can they think we are Americans?, look at the wide pants we have, and they wear the thin pants. Then the three of us went to eat at an automatic restaurant on Broadway, on 7th Avenue. -We were sitting at a table, when suddenly a guy appeared and exclaimed: "Hola Pibe!", and he took me by the shoulders; I didn't even know him and to hear him speak in Spanish, especially in New York, was very strange, "But, don't you remember? -he insisted- that I was going to dance at every matinee at the Casino Pigall?". I just recognized him; he was accompanied by another guy. "I'll introduce you to a friend: Roberto Medrano. What are you doing here?" -We came to record some discs, for Víctor, so we have to travel to Philadelphia, but we've been in New York for a week waiting for a recording date". - "So you're here to record, gosh! Couldn't you take me with you?", this guy whose name was Alberto Infantas Arancibia, and who played the violin a little bit said. He had arrived on the steamer "Bahía Blanca" and had deserted: they were both on the road. Medrano had the idea to put an academy there, to teach tango in New York. I said to him: "But you think you are going to make a living here, because nobody knows anything about tango or anything else"; and he replied confidently: "Yes, we are going to do it". With them was group of Argentinians who were later presented to us: "The truth? I didn't like them at all..." 

- "What are these guys doing here?" -I asked them 
- "They travel to Europe... to look for... the dead," Infantas informed me.
- "To look for the death?" I exclaimed in amazement.
-"Yes, the soldiers who died in the war, you know, they bring them here and bury them; it's an "odd job", you understand?”
-We invited them both to lunch and during the meal, in passing, Infantas reiterated the request to come with us. Well, look, you can come, but Medrano can't.  After dinner I asked them, "Where are you going now?" "To sleep at any train station," they replied. There the stations are very wide and blacks and whites can sleep, without anyone bothering them.  But we sympathized with them and offered them to come and sleep at the pension where we were. They slept under our beds so that they would not be discovered.
After 9 years, when I was in the fabulous Les Ambassadeur in France, which presented the most successful American magazines, in one of them, as the maximum attraction, the international dance couple "Medrano and Donna" showed up. The same Medrano who had slept under our beds!  When we started rehearsing, we made Infantas Arancibia play.  He played a little, but he was the second violin."

Alberto Infantas Arancibia, later in 1934, was the conductor of the cabaret orchestra "El chico", one of the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking New York environment.  He also played two very short roles as an actor in two films starring Gardel: "El tango en Broadway" and "El día que me quieras".

Once in Camden, Fresedo was joined by the cellist, Alfred Lennartz of German descent. Unfortunately, Maestro Fresedo did not remember his name, to confirm or rectify it.

- "There were five of us: piano, bandoneon, two violins and cello; the double bass couldn't be played because it was too low and the recording equipment wouldn't register it. There were no microphones yet and it was recorded with horns."

One day, we were recording "Milonguita" and in a studio next to ours, maestro Paul Witheman was recording with his orchestra the fox-trot "Whispering”. Both of these recordings were made the 25th of August, 1920. And “Whispering” was Witheman’s very first recording, followed by “The Japanese Sandman”

Regarding the recording sessions of the Orquesta Típica Select, according to the specific data in the recording studio's spreadsheets, the musicians entered the studio nine times. On Tuesday, August 24, 1920 they entered for the first time and recorded three tangos, on Wednesday 25 they recorded four, on Thursday 26 eight, on Friday 27 two, and on Saturday 28 six. On Sunday 29 they rested and returned on Monday 30 to record eight more tangos, on Tuesday 31 eight, on Wednesday the 1st of September six, and finally on Thursday the 2nd of September, nine. Of these nine, five were recorded by the five musicians. And the other four were the piano solos by Enrique Delfino.

Enrique Binda clarifies a myth about these four piano solos by Delfino and two bandoneón solos by Fresedo: “I would like to take this opportunity to refute another assertion, in this case concerning Roccatagliata. It has been reported that due to an alleged alcoholic excess, solo recordings had to be made by Delfino and Fresedo as an emergency, to make up for the impossibility of the orchestra to record with all its members.

This could be refuted with the simple argument that all recordings of any artist, and even more so in the case of a serious international company like Victor, were previously formalized by means of a contract, specifying both the fee to be received and the repertoire to be printed. It is not impossible to think then that the recording technician, in order not to lose the time reserved in the studio, could have said to Delfino and Fresedo: "Hey, play something and we' ll make use of the time slot to record", or something similar.”

Regarding those specific solos, Binda says:

“On the other hand, the matrix prior to the first of the series of solos was the last one recorded by the complete orchestra and on the same date: "Alma cansada," tango by Fidel Del Negro and Bernardo Germino, disc 72,899-A, matrix B 24,450-1, September 2, 1920. In other words, the contractual commitment of 50 recordings by the Select (including the presence of Roccatagliata) was done. And immediately began the task of recording the four Delfino solos and the two Fresedo solos previously stipulated. E. Delfino began the series with "Delfy", a tango by Anselmo Aieta, having recorded up to take 2 of matrix B 24,451 on the 2nd of September, which remained unpublished. The one that finally came out was take 5 of September 3rd, published in the disc 72.831-A. This same day, Fresedo recorded his two solos.” Fresedo’s solos were “Bélgica” by Delfino and “Nueva York” by Fresedo himself. Stamped on the disc N° 72966.

Enrique Binda comments on the importance of the Típica Select:  “This quintet paved the way to the period later dominated by the sextets and made clear another evidence: the written arrangement. In this way, Meyer -who came from classical music, being totally alien to tango and its interpretative peculiarities- was able to integrate perfectly into the orchestra's work. So we see that the written arrangement, of which there could even be earlier examples, did not emerge until 1924 with the arrival of the formation headed by Julio De Caro, as is often said.” 

Oscar Zucchi adds:
“These plaques, registered in Camden, were released in our market in successive batches, which were received with great acceptance, both for the interpretative modality of the orchestra, as well as for the valuable titles poured into their carefully chosen repertoire.”

Once these recordings were finished, they returned to New York where they left Infantas and Medrano, making some incursions into night clubs. Delfino, in an interview made in 1961 said that after the contract, which according to him lasted three months (Sic.), they returned to New York, where they tried to work in night places, without much success. In most of these places, businessmen without the slightest idea of what the rhythm of tango was were trying to get them to play a faster tempo. One even suggested that they introduce themselves, Fresedo disguised as a gaucho, and Delfino as an Indian, half-naked and tied to a piano leg, with a sign that read "Argentine Indians from the Pampas". Faced with this humiliating experience and other disappointing attempts, their patience was exhausted…

- "From there we wanted to go to France (Said Fresedo), an idea we were very enthusiastic about; we had 90 dollars each and the ticket to that country cost 50 dollars, while returning to Argentina cost us 150 dollars each... - We met then with the attaché of the Argentine Embassy in New York, Conrado del Carril, of whom I was a friend; he invited us to a party at his residence, and when he learned of our situation he advised us to return to Buenos Aires: "I am going to give you an extra so all of you can return". Going to France would have been an adventure, we had to "Get the rabbit", besides "Tito" wanted to see his wife, so finally we decided to return". 

They arrived to Buenos Aires in December 1920. 

The “Guardia nueva” wasn’t born by spontaneous generation in 1924. There was a transitional process happening since 1917 with Arolas’ recordings, and we’re convinced that once you’ll listen to Fresedo’s recordings in proper speed, key and sound with the Orquesta Típica Select, you’ll realize how modern they were for their time. And that the “Guardia Nueva” started 4 years earlier to what the offical history told us.

“El bandoneón y sus intérpretes - Generación 1910" (First part) Zucchi, Oscar. (Ed. Corregidor, 2001).