Fifty years ago, Horacio Salgán founded the Quinteto Real, a group that today is a tango institution and which remains active with tours and recordings. The current director is César Salgán, who pays tribute to his father's arrangements. An interview with a tamgo musical dynasty.
In 1960 the Quinteto Real launched its first record. The photo on the cover was a clear reflection of what the new group was proposing: between the traditional and the modern, ensconced in armchairs in a living room, we see Horacio Salgán, Ubaldo De Lío, Enrique Mario Francini, Rafael Ferro and Pedro Laurenz, all of them relaxed, dressed in smoking jackets and smiling into the camera as if inviting us for a pleasant chat. "When the quintet started, it had a spirit of fun. We wanted to give birth to a faster and lighter ensemble and the repertoire was chosen with these criteria," recalls its mentor Horacio Salgán. The debut album contained syncopated arrangements of tangos like Felicia, Julián and Canaro in Paris, a ludic concept of music with a contagious rhythm.
Since then, half a century has passed. Time enough for the Quinteto to traverse different periods. They were an extraordinarily successful group during the 60's, sidestepping the difficult times tango had to face; they created a following in Japan, where they played several times to great acclaim. In 1987 they were briefly presented in the market with a record called "Maestros del tango", on which Leopoldo Federico played the bandoneón, and in the 90's they celebrated their revival due to the initiative of Cacho Vázquez, owner of the restaurant Club del Vino, who proposed they reunite. The magic nights in this little hideaway during the 90's remain unforgettable. In 2003 Horacio, the piano player and founder of the Quinteto, decided to withdraw from performing live and designated his son César as his successor, a role that César has fulfilled ever since. The unifying element of the Quinteto remains the same: it is a group that worships the arrangements of Horacio Salgán and respects them to the letter.
"Music is a tradition we have inherited from our ancestors and we leave it to those who will continue our work, those who will be our heirs", reasons Horacio Salgán on a cold autumn afternoon, looking at his son César, our host, in his apartment in Villa Crespo with its view of the entire city. "I bequeath you the music; since money I don't have", adds Horacio and both smile. The interview takes place in a homely atmosphere and is characterized by a sense of humor and commonly shared codes between father and son. They have plenty of reason to be in a good mood: the Quinteto Real is celebrating half a century of history.
The celebrations will initiate a new chapter: very soon, a CD will be recorded with arrangements written by Salgán sen. in recent times. "I retired from the stage, but not from music", he clarifies. But this comment should not be taken literally either. Not very long ago they played as special guests during a Bicentenary celebration on 9 de Julio Avenue. On August 13 the ceremony will be repeated: the Quinteto Real, which consists of César Salgán, Esteban Falabella (guitar), Julio Peressini (violin), Carlos Corrales (bandoneón) and Juan Pablo Navarro (double bass), will perform along with two VIP guests: Horacio Salgán and Ubaldo De Lío. "We will be a quintet with seven participants", says César. It will be the highlight of a series of activities taking place during this year. As they say: the perfect celebration.
The Quinteto today is un by César, who is very competent and highly respected, as he has become a very good musician. It is not easy to replace somebody who has a particular style. He came to it little by little, exactly as I did when I started. He earned the approval of the entire tango scene. The same thing happened to me when I took my first steps: playing with my orchestra I earned the approval of other musicians. In no profession is it easy to earn the respect of your colleagues. In addition, César is an excellent son. And this is far more difficult than to be a good piano player.
Don't believe him that I'm such a good son. I'm pretty mediocre (they laugh).
At the moment he fulfills his responsibilities in the Quinteto with such authority that it is an unexpected satisfaction for me. I say this because there are fathers who want their sons to follow in their footsteps. I never had such a concern. But it occurred naturally. He is supported and appreciated by top musicians. He already passed the test for introduction and ability. He almost plays better than I do (both once again laugh cheerfully).
If I'd known it didn't matter to you whether I followed in your footsteps, I would have devoted myself to something else. In 1976 I played the bass and I participated in his orchestra, but I never imagined I'd be playing the piano one day. If anybody had told me that this was going to happen, I'd have said it was hard to believe. To play his music and have his approval is something I have been looking for since my childhood, maybe without being aware of it.
look at it from a different angle. Music is made or not; it is inside a person or it is not... Horacio has helped me very much.
This means, you carry the music inside yourself. He could have gone on with music even if he had no talent. Nobody knows where they can get to. He was lucky: he has the talent and the musicality to continue on this path.
Yes, I already have five or six new instrumentals for the Quinteto. I retired from the stage, but not from music. As always, I continue studying the piano to stay current.
t is not easy as I have to study a lot. I'm a great perfectionist and very demanding on myself, because I feel so much respect for music, the composers, the intentions of the writers, and I take a great deal of care not to change original works to something incongruous. With my orchestra it was the same: it was never easy to listen to. I have a lot of pieces for the piano and the musicians tell me: how difficult! I agree with them. It is difficult, even for me. So I have to study my own music a lot to be able face such a project.
Yes, I was lucky. In my family there was a strong passion for music. They gave me the best teachers available. At home, music was what most mattered to us. There was encouragement and an extraordinary love for music.
Our relationship is a bit strange and not as straightforward as it might seem. Perhaps it's difficult to understand, but I don't like to play in front of him, not even at home. I don't ask him for advice: I learn watching him. Any question I have, except maybe very specific issues, are reflected in the piece he's playing. Our relationship is very special. For instance, he does not hear me playing at home, but when I play live, he will be there. If you were in with us, you would understand better how our father-son relationship works.
Actually César plays with and is a guest director of the Orquesta Nacional de Musica Argentina de Juan de Dios Filiberto.
Yes, I participated as a guest director. I had the support of the entire orchestra. I presume that it is for what they feel playing my father's music. I am very grateful.