Interview with Miguel Ángel Bertero, violonistFriday, November 18, 2016
‘In tango today, there’s a lot of supply and very little demand’
For the Herald
Miguel Ángel Bertero was just a kid when he started playing the violin by chance. He formed a strong bond with tango from a very early age, but wanted to play the accordion. He had to settle for the violin instead — and as luck would have it, the violin would come to suit Bertero just fine.
Soon enough, he would not only be playing with symphonic orchestras like the Santa Fe, Entre Ríos and Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón ensembles, but would also be part of the National Symphonic Orchestra itself. After a lifetime playing with countless legends of the genre, Bertero has released a new record, Ciento x ciento Tango Argentino. With the violin as its main instrument, the result is a delightful middle ground between the softest-sounding classical music and pure Argentine tango.
He took some time to talk to the Herald about his work and his views on the local tango scene.
How would you define your new record?
As an authentic tango record, one which tries to respond to the original melodies of the songs covered and the classic two-by-four rhythm. How I toy with the structures of the songs, however, does change. Some are arranged for violin to be the main instrument, accompanied by an orchestra, some to have the piano as the main instrument, etc. But every song I choose does have a memory linked to it, an emotional context that refers to certain circumstances in my life.
The tango Divina, for example, makes me nostalgic for when I started playing for the famous show Tango argentino, and tangos like Concierto en la luna and Madreselva remind me of what I played and listened to during my early teenage years.
You’ve said that with Cien x ciento Tango Argentino what you tried to do was stay faithful to an aesthetic that evokes childhood in Buenos Aires. What was your childhood like?
Actually, I didn’t grow up in Buenos Aires but in Gurtly Norte, in Santa Fe. But it is true that in my previous record, A mi querida Buenos Aires, I told the story of how I imagined the city when I was a kid through the tangos my father would play on the bandoneón and the songs on the radio
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to play an instrument, more specifically the accordion, which was the most common instrument where I’m from. My dad, however, couldn’t afford an accordion, so he got me a violin, despite the fact that I didn’t like that noble instrument at the time. I then ended up loving it and devoting most of my life to it.
Which musicians would you say have influenced your work the most?
I find it really hard to evaluate all the musicians that have influenced what I do. There were so many, some well-known and some not famous at all, that I honestly have a hard time even trying to count them all. I can tell you an anecdote, though. Back in 1968, I was performing in the famous National Tango Festival at La Falda, and one morning I heard a violin playing Wieniawski’s Second Violin Concerto in D minor. It really caught my attention to hear such a finely played concerto, considering I was at a festival that was all about tango. So I asked who that was, and it was none other than Elvino Vardaro; I couldn’t believe it, so of course I immediately went to him. He was one of the violinists I admired the most. And I ended up spending two whole days listening to him practise and talking with him. In 1976, I met Enrique Mario Francini, and I even got to record with him along with Fernando Suárez Paz and Reynaldo Nichele. And the list goes on and on.
How would you define the current tango scene? Can you observe big differences from when you started playing back in the fifties?
Yes. In the ’50s there were orchestras everywhere. The cultural scene was different, and a lot of tango was heard in radio and movies. Today it’s very hard, mainly for budgetary reasons, to maintain a typical orchestra with 12 musicians. And aside from a few exceptions, tango isn’t given the place it should get in the media.
We have excellent young musicians, but there’s a lot of supply and very little demand. Aside from that, I think that tango today is in a good place. There’s a constant quest for new elements, and there’s lots of material to listen to. We’ll see what stands the test of time. The world doesn’t stop. I think (Astor) Piazzolla left a small crack for musicians to break through, and it might take time, but genius will appear eventually.
When and where
Thursday 24 November at 8.30pm at
La Casa del Tango (Guardia Vieja 4049).
Free admission. For more information,