|Full civil name||Ángel Domingo Emilio D'Agostino|
|Artist name||Ángel D'Agostino|
|Date of birth||1900/05/25 in Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Date of death||1991/01/16 in Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Role(s)|| • Orchestra director|
Ángel Domingo Emilio D’Agostino (May 25th, 1900 Buenos Aires, Argentina - January 16th, 1991 idem) was an Argentine pianist and orchestra director. His musical career began at an early age and soon escalated to reach its peak as director of one of the most renowned tango orchestras of all time. D’Agostino’s style is defined by respect of melodic lines and rhythm, making his music a favourite among dancers. It is generally considered that his greatest work was done in combination with the singer Ángel Vargas, with whom D’Agostino recorded extensively.
On Moreno 1626, between the streets Solís and Virrey Cevallos, in the neighbourhood of Congreso, Ángel D’Agostino was born to a home where music was always present. Though not professionally, many of his relatives played musical instruments, and young Ángel was drawn to the piano as early as the age of 6. According to Nicolás Lefcovich, the official start of his artistic career occurred in 1911, when D’Agostino formed his first orchestra, alongside his violinist friends Juan D’Arienzo and Eusebio Bianchi, to perform every Sunday at the Guignol Theatre, at the city’s Zoological Gardel. Legend tells it ended badly, with the youngsters setting the place on fire, as a protest for not getting paid for their work. Word about D’Agostino’s talent spread and he soon became a favourite performer at the most aristocratic households of Buenos Aires, where he was considered to be a child prodigy.
The following years would be busy and successful. At fourteen, he formed a duet with the violinist Eduardo Armani to play at a famous German brewery. He would then move onto performing as a varieté artist, setting a firm first foot on many of the city's stages. With Ennio Bolognini, back then reputed as the best violoncellist in the world, D’Agostino performed at the Jockey Club, and the famous establishments Florida, Empire and Apolo. It is know as a colorful anecdote, that D’Agostino and Bolognini played the Marseillaise from a balcony to celebrate the ending of the first world war.
D’Agostino had abandoned his studies at an early stage, but his dedication to music was already proving fruitful. By then, however, he still wasn’t devoted to tango exclusively. He even had a brief appearance as an actor at the Cervantes Theatre, and, back to the piano, accompanied singers such as Gloria Guzmán, Lola Membrives and the soprano María Barrientos. D'Agostino was even said to be the only one able to replace the English pianist Frederickson, who specialized in performing the challenging genre ragtime, as well as in missing performances due to his intricate relationship with alcohol. In D’Agostino’s own words:
I was as content as I could be, because I’ve always liked playing music from all over the world. One must give music the essence of the place and time that correspond to it. And regading that, I’m allowed to say I’m trustworthy and respect it.
His passing through Juan Maglio’s orchestra brought him closer to tango. However, D’Agostino’s first own mature orchestra, presented on March 15th, 1920 at the Teatro Nacional, was introduced as a típica y jazz. The show was successful and the orchestra was soon hired to play at the Palais de Glace. It was by then that D’Agostino incorporated Agesislao Ferrazzano, considered by D’Agostino and many others to have been the best violin tango has ever had.
Some years later, in 1925, D’Agostino performed with his orchestra at the Paramount Cinema, thus becoming the first cinema to include a live orchestra in its show, while D’Agostino’s orchestra became the first one the play in such context. Soon enough, other cinemas started looking for artists to perform, and so it was that the cinema became one of the most frequent sources of work for musicians. Some outstanding members of D’Agostino’s orchestra at the time were Juan D’Arienzo, Anselmo Aieta and Ciriaco Ortiz. Simultaneously, the orchestra performed at the high-profile café L’Aiglon, located on the street Florida, entertaining a high class audience.
A new orchestra was formed in 1928, together with the violinist Alfredo Mazzeo, and successful performances followed one another. They were eventually invited to play and became exclusive artists of LS2 Radio Prieto, performing daily at the station’s prime time. Later on, D’Agostino had his own show, in which he normally invited other musicians and interviewed them. It is known that the seed of the frienship between Troilo and Fiorentino, who was, by then, singing with D’Arienzo, was first planted during one of these interviews.
In 1934, D’Agostino formed yet a new orchestra, his first “typical orchestra.“ Some names are particularly worthy of mention, such as Hugo Baralis, Aníbal Troilo and the singer Alberto Echagüe. Success was faithful to D’Agostino and, together with his new formation, he performed at the Tabaris and the Chantecler, two of the highest-profile cabarets at the time.
It was in 1932, after a performance at the Florida Theatre, that the two Ángeles met, introduced to each other by a business man called Vázquez, Paulina Singerman’s husband. By then, Ángel Vargas worked at a cold-storage plant, and was already known to D’Agostino, since they were both regulars at the café Tres Esquinas.
Their official debut took place in 1940 at the cinema Florida, and then at Radio El Mundo. They were immediately offered a contract from RCA Victor, and so began six years of hard work, the result of which, apart from hundreds of concerts and radio appearances, are almost 100 recordings which are, to the day, heard and danced to with reverence and pleasure all around the world.
The artistic association of “the two Angels of tango“ was a roaring success from the very beginning, but their partnership was never stable, in spite of the numerous performances they shared and the large amount of recordings they made together. For example, as tango researcher and collector Carlos Puente explains:
Their six years of work were almost cut in half by a two-month absence of Vargas, who left the orchestra together with bandoneon player Alfredo Attadia. They weren’t a failure, but what they achieved was nothing in comparison with the impact Vargas’s work with D’Agostino had had on the audience. D’Agostino, on his part, filled Vargas’s space with Raúl Aldao, but they found the same situation Vargas did on his own. As a result, two months later, D’Agostino and Vargas were back together, starting what would be a sort of “second half“ of their career together as one of the most successful pairs in the history of tango.
Indeed, their success by 1944 was huge, and it coincided with the ochestra’s passage from Radio El Mundo to the brand-new Radio Splendid. It was one of the big changes in the radio world at the time. Radio Splendid had the flavour of novelty, and many orchestras, such as D’Agostino’s or Biagi’s began to play there instead.
Finally, in 1946 D’Agostino dissolved the orchestra. Even though he were to come back later on, that was the end of the D’Agostino-Vargas association. There is not a lot of detail about the exact reasons for D’Agostino’s decision. Some say it had to do with new regulations pertaining orchestras, that had a much more corporative approach that he liked. Others say there were big differences between both Vargas and D’Agostino’s approach to work. Some say they just preferred to part ways and pursuit their careers separately. Carlos Puente referred in an interview that the possibility for a tour to the province of Mendoza had appeared, but since D’Agostino wouldn’t leave the city − he was always extremely reluctant to crossing the Gral. Paz − Vargas went on his own, with another band; D’Agostino stayed in Buenos Aires, fulfilled all of his pending commitments and obligations with the singer Tino García filling in for Vargas, and once he was done, handed over the orchestra to arranger and first bandoneón Eduardo Del Piano to do as he pleased. And so was it that, upon Vargas’s return from Mendoza, the ruiseñor began performing with this “new“ orchestra, that was almost exactly the same as D’Agostino’s. The orchestra as such held together for about three years.
Acclaimed by his audience, D’Agostino returned once more, together with Tino García. Even though they recorded, made radio appearances and numerous concerts, it was only for a short time. It wouldn’t be until early 1951 that D’Agostino would make a more lasting comeback, accompanied by the singers Tino García and Rubén Cané. It was Canaro, back around the year 38, the first one to introduce two singers with his orchestra. It became quite normal during the 40’s, when the success of tango reached its peak, and it thus became terribly strenuous for just one voice to keep up the pace of the numerous performances.
D’Agostino’s new orchestra did well; it perfomed, participated in radio shows, made recordings, though more sporadically than before. The singers who participated in this last decade of activity were, apart from Tino García and Rubén Cané, Ricardo Ruiz, Roberto Alvar and Raúl Lavié. It was clear that the overwhelming success achieved with Vargas was not to happen again. Times were changing.
D’Agostino retired in 1962 and continued to live in Buenos Aires, as well as steadily taking part in its nightlife. He died in the early morning, on January 16th, 1991, at age 90. Here’s an extract from the article in the Clarín newspaper, that gave the news of his passing:
Don Ángel died as he liked to live: alone, with his piano and his memories. (...) His friends from the neighbourhood said he was happy and dynamic as always. He was a classic porteño, and got his moment of great fame with Ángel Vargas. Afterwards, the maestro retired, because the time had come for the “low tide of tango.“
On more than one occasion, D’Agostino declined offers from RCA Victor and Electra to record. The reasons are not really known. It was only with Vargas, that he began to record, and he did so as one of RCA Victor’s artists.
Ángel D’Agostino made a total of 143 recordings, including the soundtrack of the short film “El cuarteador.“ The vast majority of such recordings, 94, were done with Ángel Vargas as singer: 6 milongas, 5 waltzes, and 83 tangos. However, other singers to record with D’Agostino were: Tino García, Rubén Cané, Roberto Alvar, Ricardo Ruiz and Raúl Lavié.
Recordings with Ángel Vargas
There are 87 recordings. Click expand to view all. Sort results with the little arrows.
Recordings with other singers
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D’Agostino as composer
D’Agostino’s legacy as a composer left valuable jewels. The following are the ones recorded by his own orchestra:
- Instrumental: Café Domínguez (tango)
- Lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo: Bar de Rosendo (tango), Dice un refrán (tango), El morocho y el oriental (milonga), Mi chiquita (tango), Adión Arolas (Se llamaba Eduardo Arolas) (tango).
- Composed together with Alfredo Attadia, lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo: Tres esquinas (tango).
- Lyrics by Eduardo Pereyra: Ángel Vargas (El Ruiseñor) (tango).
- Lyrics by Aldredo Attadia & José María Contursi: Y te dejé partir (tango)
- Lyrics by Hector Marcó: Ábranse las pulperías (tango), Entre copa y copa (milonga), Hay que vivirla, compadre (tango).
- Lyrics by Santiado Adamini: El cocherito (tango)
- Lyrics by Jesús Fernández: Cantando olvidaré (tango)
- Lyrics by Eduardo del Piano-Avlis: Esta noche en Buenos Aires (tango)
- Lyrics by Barreiro Bazán: Así me gusta a mí (milonga)
- It is worthy of mention, that D’Agostino and his orchestra participated in the extremely popular radio show at Radio El Mundo, called “Ronda de Ases“ (lit. “Round of Aces“). It featured a kind of contest where several great orchestras participated playing an original arrangement of a certaing given tango, milonga or vals. Then, a group of appointed judges and the audience would vote a winner. The show had such a large audience, and the participating orchestras were so renowned (Troilo, Tanturi, Fresedo, D’Arienzo, Di Sarli, to name a few) that it was a very prestigious thing to participate in it, not to say to be the winner. On October 28th, 1942, D’Agostino and his orchestra won the prize, which also involved a not at all neglectable sum of money.
- In the year 1942 D’Agostino and Vargas participated in a short, ten-minute film, produced by a back then well-known race car driver called Emilio Cartulovich. It belonged to a series of short films that featured also other orchestras, such as Rodríguez with Moreno, Laurenz with Podestá, and Brunelli with Radamés, among others. In the case of D’Agostino, the two songs featured, sung by Vargas and played by a quartet (piano, bandoneón, contrabass and violin), were “Tres esquinas“ and the milonga “El cuarteador“. The latter had been recorded by Troilo with Fiorentino, and even though D’Agostino had the milonga in his orchestra’s repertoire, they never recorded it. Some time later, RCA Victor released the soundtrack of the film, so it was thanks to that, that that version was saved from being lost.
- Ferrer, Horacio, El libro del tango, Buenos Aires, Galerna, 1977, p. 361.
- Lefcovich, Nicolás, Estudio de la discografía de D'Agostino-Vargas: Todas sus composiciones y trayectoria artística, L. N. Lefcovich, Buenos Aires, 1983, p. 5.
- Los grandes del tango, Editorial Tango, Buenos Aires, Year 1, no. 22, March 1991, p. 6.
- Diario El Litoral on 25.05.2013 http://www.ellitoral.com/index.php/diarios/2013/05/25/escenariosysociedad/SOCI-03.html
- Los grandes del tango, p. 13
- Translation by TT team. Original in Spanish: Yo estaba a mis anchas, porque siempre me gustó ejecutar la música de todo el mundo. Es que a la música hay que darle la esencia del lugar y el tiempo que le corresponde. Y en eso puedo decir que la sé respetar fidedignamente - de Los grandes del tango, p.12.
- It still stands today on Posadas 1795, see the song page Palais de Glace.
- Lefcovich, Estudio de la discografía..., p. 6.
- Lefcovich, Estudio de la discografía..., p. 7.
- Many puns have been made, as well as several comments, about the fact that both D’Agostino and Vargas bore the same first name, Ángel, meaning angel.
- Paulina Singerman (1911-1984) was a well-known Argentine actress.
- Adet, Manuel, "Ángel D'Agostino, el piano de Vargas" Diario El Litoral on 25.05.2013 http://www.ellitoral.com/index.php/diarios/2013/05/25/escenariosysociedad/SOCI-03.html
- Interview with Carlos Puente, November 2014. Extract online on tangotunes.com.
- Link to interview.
- General Paz: Highway that acts as one of the borders of the city of Buenos Aires.
- Quoted in Los grandes del tango, p. 22-23.