“From Horacio Salgán there is a lot to learn, it has not been squeezed yet. If I had to describe him as a pianist, I think is one of the most solid of tango. And we had amazing pianists. It’s time to talk about the total Salgán: the pianist, the arranger and also the composer of some songs ”, says the pianist Pablo Estigarribia from San Francisco, regarding the presentation of his new album.
Horacio Salgán Piano Transcriptions it is much more than a record. There is hard work of research behind the transcripts of the songs that Salgán performed thirty years ago at the “Festival of pianos on the lake stage”, a cycle of solo piano concerts that took place in the Lakes of Palermo, in which the Cuchi Leguizamón, Horacio Larumbe, El Mono Fontana and Baby López Furst.
It was so singular to hear Salgán playing a repertoire of tangos on piano alone that The Mono Fontana decided to record the recital by his own means. As far as is known, is the only solo record, because Salgán used to perform with Ubaldo De Lio or with the Quinteto Real. The precious material came into the hands of Estigarribia and thus the project was born, which includes a book with the transcriptions of the album’s themes.
Pablo Estigarribia did a huge research job to edit “Horacio Salgán Piano Transcriptions”. Photo Courtesy Daniel Arakaki
A record of admiration
-How did Horacio Salgán come into your life? Because unfortunately he is not a musician of great circulation, less for those of your generation, born in the eighties.
-One day someone gave me a CD by Horacio Salgán for my birthday. I didn’t even know who he was, I put on the first song and said: “oh well! If tango is like that, I want to sound like that“. That was the moment when I realized that I could dedicate myself to tango. And, since then, that is what I did. I owe it to Salgán’s music. Before him, I was not into tango. I liked the classical music, jazz, Herbie Hancock, with dense and heavy harmonies, I enjoyed Piazzolla more from listening, not to appropriate it, he did not vibrate with that.
Horacio Salgán, one of the most important tango pianists. Photo: Rafael Calviño
-What was the theme of that Salgán album that impacted you so much?
-The arrangement of The dizzyby Salgán-De Lio. It starts with a piano introduction and you don’t know if it’s Salgán, Bill Evans … I felt much closer listening to that type of tango.
-And you didn’t run to get the score?
Yes, I came out desperate! I went to SADAIC, with the irreverence of adolescence, to ask where I could buy Salgán’s arrangements, and they laughed a lot. Scores were not available. There I decided to study until I understood and see how I could translate that by myself. In the middle, some scores came to me, I joined the Emilio Balcarce Tango School Orchestra and started working with Víctor Lavallén. I started rubbing shoulders with people who really know tango.
The concert on which Pablo Estigarribia was based for his album was recorded by Mono Fontana in a non-professional way, so that he could listen to it. Photo Courtesy Daniel Arakaki
-Do you have any hypothesis why Salgán did not write his arrangements and there are so few scores?
-The official version I heard is that he had such a prodigious memory that he did not write the piano parts and always played them the same. In fact, I did not see a single video of Salgán with a score on the front, he played everything from memory.
-Do you think that Salgán’s style and contributions have been understood and assimilated?
-It’s a very strong point. When I came to live in the United States, I set foot in New York and started working with tango. Everyone knew Piazzolla and I got tired of playing him. Every time Horacio Salgán mentioned, nobody knew who he was. That drove me crazy. I tried to think why it could have happened. On a musical level, obviously I am not going to discuss the great genius of Piazzolla because it is stupid, but for me the music of Salgan does not have much to envy the music of Piazzolla.
I think Salgán is a thousand percent tango and much less discussed than Piazzolla, because the structure of tango exists, but the limits are all expanded and many times in directions where many genres have already gone.
The cover of Pablo Estigarribia’s album, “Horacio Salgán Piano Transcriptions”.
-There are untranslatable issues in popular music, such as phrasing, aspects that in Salgán’s music are completely intertwined with his role as a performer. How was the process of trying to transcribe Salgán’s magic on paper?
-The material with which I worked is not a professional recording, it is quite rudimentary, because the objective was simply to record, and the Mono did it by his own means because he wanted to listen to that concert again. So when I was transcribing I came across passages that were not entirely clear. I looked for other versions of Salgán-De Lio where they played the same theme to see if the harmony was more or less similar and if I could get that bit that I didn’t understand.
-Did you find different records of all the songs on the album?
-Do not. There are many songs, at least three, that I didn’t get a score, a version, a recorded version or anything. He only played them in this concert from ’91 and never again: the two songs by Mono Villegas (Simonette Y Horacio and Adolfo) Y Tango for your hands, one thing, I found a score but it has nothing to do with what he played and he did not record it – at least I did not find it – neither with De Lio nor with the Royal Quintet nor with the orchestra. Making this score available is a humble contribution for Horacio’s music to continue forward.
-You did a puzzle job.
-Yes. Do not transcribe what he played literally, but try to go to the original idea of the arrangement. So I turned to other versions to check. The album that they recorded with De Lio in 1991 was super useful to me, because it has several themes in common with this live recording. Then I found a video that Melopea recorded in 2001. Independent ClubFor example, it’s on all three records: solo, duo, and the duo ten years later. Salgan plays exactly the same thing. In ten years he didn’t change a note. It was very crazy to see all that in the process of investigating these transcripts.
Pablo Estigarribia says that Horacio Salgán was not used to writing scores for his songs because he had a prodigious memory and always played the same arrangements. Photo Courtesy Daniel Arakaki
-It was like getting inside Salgán’s head, in the process of his musical and aesthetic decisions.
-Yes, exactly. I put it in the book notes. When you go to transcribe you have two possible ways: the easiest thing is to transcribe note by note what it sounds, but it ends up being superficial. I understand transcription as the reverse process of interpretation -where you start from something written, do a subjective reading and that is reflected in your interpretation-, because what I did is start from that subjective reading and try to deduce what the score was that it was. the cornerstone of that. It is a much more complex work than simply transcribing what it sounds like. It took me a year and a half, more or less, between when I started, transcribed, revised.
-In Salgán’s selection for his solo piano concert, in addition to his link with tradition (De Caro and Bardi), are the arrangements of the two songs by Enrique Villegas. What do you know about that link?
El Chuchi Leguizamón, Salgán and Enrique Villegas were friends -in the recording of the recital, Salgán is heard talking a lot about Mono Villegas- and they used to make gatherings to get together to play. What must have been! We are talking about piano priests in Argentina. Adolfo Ábalos was another who used to be in those meetings. Very interesting that union between all of them.
-What led you to finally record the transcripts?
It was a need that arose with my students. The original recording cannot be marketed because it is not official, so the idea was transformed into the publication of the book with an audio reference. My idea was never to do a lot of concerts playing the music of Horacio Salgán. Not because it’s not wonderful, because it is, but it was very difficult to put myself in the shoes of the person who was a great inspiration in my life.
Horacio Salgán Piano Transcriptions
Piano: Pablo Estigarribia
Repertoire: The Cachila (Eduardo Arolas), Boedo (Julio De Caro), Echo Tango (Horacio Salgán), Don Agustín Bardi (Horacio Salgán), Independent Club (Agustín Bardi), Tango for your hands (Horacio Salgán), Horacio and Adolfo (Enrique Villegas), Simonette (Enrique Villegas), Those country tangos (Horacio Salgán) and Went (José Dames). Bonus Tracks: May have no end (Horacio Salgán) and Waltz motif (Horacio Salgán).
Official presentation: Friday, July 30 at 9 p.m., through www.youtube.com/pabloestigarribiaok, free access.