Friday, 30 January 2015

Troilo and the arrangers

(Please check out this later post.)

I received a comment on my earlier post telling me that an 82-minute film about Troilo, called simply Pichuco, was released last year.

I checked it out. It tells how a teacher of the School of Popular Music in Avellaneda, together with his students, is digitizing around 500 original handwritten arrangements from the Troilo orchesta that have come to light, an astonishing trove of scores. It immediately occurs to me that handwriting can be recognised: it should be easy to work out who was responsible for each tango arrangement. I'd also expect the scores will throw light on the creative process. I hope that one day arrangers will get some credit for their work in the development of tango.

I found the website for the film, which has the trailer. (You have to switch on subtitles.) People who knew and worked with Troilo talk about him, and these include Leopoldo Federico, Horacio Ferer and Raúl Garello. (Very sadly, Federico and Ferer both died last December.) Their recollections are going to be fascinating. There's also a calendar of showings: it will be seen at events in Europe this year, although there are no planned viewings yet in the UK. I await with great interest!

I wrote that arrangers don't get much credit, but I guess that's because the development of a tango was usually a group effort. A classical composer could expect his music to be performed much as he wrote it, but a tango arranger was less sure of such respect. In fact there's a great story told by Garello: he says Troilo didn't write much music, but he erased a great deal. Arrangers would present their work and he'd go through it, cutting out whole chunks, to the arrangers' despair, although when they heard the recordings they knew he was right. (I can imagine Piazzolla turning up with a new score and Troilo pulling it apart, and augmenting it with feedback from the band, after which they'd all go out to lunch, leaving their 22-year old arranger to pick up the pieces and put the new version together, so they could finish their rehearsal.)

The same comment also informs me that 'His arrangers were Argentino Galvan, Julian Plaza, Ismael Spitalnik, Raul Garello, Alberto Caracioli and Astor Piazzolla.' 

I've checked them out on Todotango. However, Garello was born in 1936, and Julián Plaza in 1928, so they would have been 8 and 16 respectively in 1944, the year when Troilo and Piazzolla parted company, and any contribution by them to the 108 Troilo recordings between 1941 and 1944 can be ruled out.
Galván was much older, and according to Todotango, he was the arranger who created the sound of the Caló orquesta, writing virtuoso solos for the strings. (His favourite composer was Debussy.) He was associated with Troilo in 1940, in particular with Troilo's version of Pimienta, but if Troilo recorded it it doesn't seem to have survived. Troilo regarded his 1946 recording of Recuerdos de Bohemia in a Galván arrangement as his most important. (At 5:22 it must be one of the longest for the time. It's a marvelous piece of music, but it's hardly danceable: it looks forward rather to the late 50s and 1960s. It's on YouTube.) So Galván was certainly around in the period. 

Ismael Spitalnik was born in 1919, so he was a close contemporary of Piazzolla. Between the late 1930s and 1943 he was with the D'Agostino orquesta, while beginning to study composition seriously, and completing his studies in industrial chemistry! He seems to have worked with Troilo somewhat later. Alberto Caraccioli was born in 1918, and also seems to have started studying composition in the mid-1940s.

Between 1941 and 1944, the period in which the 108 tangos were recorded, Piazzolla was Troilo's in-house and in-orquesta arranger, and it seems likely that most of the recordings were arrangements he had a big part in. But perhaps the manuscripts of the arrangements will make possible a more complete history of Troilo and his arrangers. 

(I've not mentioned who sent the comment, as the same person emailed me a few days later complaining rather bitterly that I hadn't posted the information as a post! Well! For a start, I decide where a comment is published, indeed, if it is published! & as it happens I do other things, apart from blogging and going out dancing, and I can't always find time to check things out carefully and follow up on what interests me. I don't think we need to know the names of people who can't be courteous on the internet.)

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