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Anibal Troilo’s Typical Orchestra. Part 1

Autor: Isidro Aguirree

In 1937, when he was only 22 years old, he created the “Orquesta Típica de Aníbal Troilo”, with which he continued his professional activity until his death (1975).

La Orquesta Típica de Aníbal Troilo (director) made its debut July the 1st, 1937 in the night salon “Marabú” in Buenos Aires.


It was one of the most successful and popular orchestras in Argentina.

This typical tango orchestra was a model of equilibrium between a dancing rhythm and sang tango in a Gardel style.

In the beginning, the orchestra played “a la parrilla”, term used in the tango slang to designate improvised music, performed without a written arrangement, that may be or not, practiced beforehand.

At this starting time, the music (like the 1938 version of “Tinta verde” or the 1941 “Toda mi vida” alongside Fiorentino) was made by simple arrangements, compared to those made by Julio De Caro, to cite one. But to coordinate eleven or twelve musicians with no partiture to guide them can be a very difficult task. Although in tango, as in other disciplines, the resulting sound depends on the knowledge of certain ground rules that cannot be put in writing.

The simplicity of this music, that responds to the orchestra´s logic to play in salons were people dance, is somewhat relative, given by the fact that it presents a huge range of expressive shades (volume and dynamic) that are always played with great clarity and effect. This can be appreciated in the recordings and distinguishes this orchestra from others. The tempo (speed) they manage is always agile.

Given that the majority of the music is played but not written, it is only logical that the sound portrayed variated with the different musicians. That is why the influences of different piano players is an important topic regarding Troilo’s orchestra.

In the 1942 recordings, the orchestra plays with written arrangements that possess more detail (which allows for a more sophisticated sound). Around this years, Troilo delegates the task of writing music to other musicians such as Ástor Piazzolla (that integrated the orchestra between 1939 and 1944), among others. The arrangements for “Inspiración” (1943) and “Chiqué” (1944) were made by him. Even upon leaving the orchestra, Piazzolla kept making musical arrangements for it. From this point onward, the music played by the orchestra would change enormously depending on the composer, though it always conserved the exquisite expressive precision that characterized it since its beginning.

Along this years, Troilo’s orchestra incorporates a new phenomenon that was going on in which the musical work was divided between directors and musical arrangers/orchestrators. Other orchestras that adopted this movement were the ones of Francisco Canaro, Juan D’Arienzo, Osvaldo Fresedo even the one of Osvaldo Pugliese.

In this time he recorded most of the songs with singers Francisco Fiorentino, and some with Alberto Marino.

The decrease in work in dancing salons and the fact that the rhythm of the orchestra tended to be slower, made it able to appreciate other aspects of this music.

The late 40´s and the 50´s are considered a transitional time for Troilo’s orchestra. This is the time of the arrangements made by Argentino Galván (like the version “Romance de barrio” with Floreal Ruiz), Ismael Spitalnik (like 1948 “Ojos negros”), Emilio Balcarce (like the 1949 “El último organito” san by Edmundo Rivero). None of this were members of the orchestra.

Eduardo Rovira also makes arrangements for Troilo´s orchestra in this period and Troilo also works alongside singers Alberto Marino, Floreal Ruiz, Edmundo Rivero, Raúl Berón and Ángel Cárdenas.

This process decanted in 1960, when we find ourselves with an orchestra whose members are Osvaldo Berlingieri piano, Ernesto Baffa and later Raúl Garello, bandoneon and musical arrangers.

Around this time Troilo plays arrangements by Julián Plaza (from sang themes such as “Te llaman malevo”, registered in 1957 with Ángel Cárdenas, and instrumentals, some from the very Plaza, like “Danzarín”). By this time, the sound of Troilo´s orchestra has definitely changed. In this period Troilo plays with singers Roberto Rufino, Roberto Goyeneche, Elba Berón, Tito Reyes and Nelly Vázquez.

Trough the 50´s and emphasizing in the mid 60´s, Troilo let the bandoneons be played by other musicians, first in singing songs and afterwards in some instrumental songs, dedicating himself exclusively to directing the orchestra. This sets a mark for Troilo´s work in the orchestra, now as an executor and director, with the participation in the orchestras of Francisco Canaro y Juan D’Arienzo; the difference relies in that in Troilo´s case, his lack of playing was not due to an incapacity (he continued to play in some solos and themes).

Since 1960 until his last performances (without Baffa and Berlingieri, that founded their own orchestra), the orchestra´s sound did not change majorly, with a style based on orchestral effects that possess a modern touch but are never excessively complex. The musical arranger during this time was Raúl Garello (most of the disc that Troilo records with Goyeneche in 1971 are).

Regarding Troilo´s singers it is said that “they are another instrument from the orchestra”, expression that highlights the union of the resulting coherent sound, where singer and orchestra execute pauses and shades with the same sense. It is remarkable how two different versions of the same tango performed by two different singers (like “El motivo”, sang by Goyeneche in 1961, and by Tito Reyes in 1965, with the same arrangement) do not differ very much from each other. On the other hand, the musical pieces from the first time have a more instrumental component than a lyrical one. Generally, the orchestra first played the music corresponding to the verse and the chorus (most lyrical tangos have two parts, some have three), then the singer would join and then the same music from the beginning started playing. The supremacy of the instrumental part over the lyrical one is due to the fact that the music was made for a dancing audience. The most extreme case of this could be “Los mareados” in Fiorentino´s version: that tango has three different musical parts that correspond with the song’s verses. But in Troilo´s version, first the tango is execute completely, then the lyrical part and last, the third instrumental part. This tendency of making the instrumental part longer by making the lyrical part shorter in not exclusive to Troilo’s orchestra.

As time went by, the instrumental part became shorter (commercial songs usually last between three to five minutes; as tango tempo became slower, the instrumental part was also shortened to give space to the lyrical one). Since the 50´s tango is sung in two verses (if the tango has them) and eventually both introductions and instrumental pieces become shorter. This applies for most lyrical tangos but there are plenty of exceptions.

Generally, Troilo´s orchestra worked with two singers; eventually there are pieces performed by duets, like the milonga “El desafío” (sung by Fiorentino and Marino), or “Coplas” (sung by Goyeneche and Elba Berón). Most tangos are not sung in duets, but a classification (valses, milongas), since tango lyrics usually express individual feelings.

One Comment

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    It’s nearly impossible to find experienced people in this particular topic, but
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