Francini-Pontier Tangos – July 29, 2021

This week’s Tango Mahi “Tanda of the Week” is of vocal tangos of Orquesta Francini-Pontier.

In 1936 a tango music teacher and band leader from Zarate, north of Buenos Aires, organised for a group comprising some of his best local students to play a one-off performance in Buenos Aires. The group included violinist Enrique Francini (age 20), bandoneonist Armando Pontier (age 19), and pianist Héctor Stamponi (also aged 19).

The performance was well received and led to the three being offered work by established musicians, at popular Buenos Aires events and venues, and on Radio Argentina, culminating in their 1938 recruitment by bandoneonist Miguel Caló (then 31 years old) as core members of a new orquesta he was setting up.

Other musicians who joined the Caló orquesta over its early years included Domingo Federico (then age 22) replacing Caló on lead bandoneon, Héctor Stamponi who was replaced a year later by 20-year-old pianist Osmar Maderna, and vocalists Raúl Berón (then age 18) and Alberto Podesta (age 16) replacing Caló’s vocalist brother Roberto.

The Caló orquesta enjoyed huge popularity and success, with regular live radio and milonga performances in which they played covers of dance music recorded by other orquestas as well as original music composed and arranged by Francini, Pontier, Stamponi, Federico, Maderna and to a lesser extent, Caló.

Through 1944 and 1945 most of the key Caló orquesta members left to join other orquestas or to form new ones. Alberto Podesta and Raúl Berón chose to become the initial vocalists of the new Orquesta Francini-Pontier, which was immediately hired by Radio El Mundo and signed by the Victor recording company.

Orquesta Francini-Pontier soon became one of the most popular in Buenos Aires, releasing 130 recordings of which more than 30 were Francini or Pontier compositions, and playing for the best balls and milongas. The recordings included 35 instrumentals with the rest being vocal recordings featuring Alberto Podesta (1946- 50), Raúl Berón (1946-49), Roberto Rufino (1947-49), Julio Sosa (1949-53), Hector Montes (1951-52), Pablo Moreno (1952-54), Mario Lagos (1953-54), Luis Correa (1954-55) and Roberto Florio (1954-55).

In 1955 Francini and Pontier reached an amicable agreement to dissolve their orquesta and go their separate ways after which both enjoyed great ongoing success; Pontier with his own new orquesta, and Francini in a variety of groups including Astor Piazzolla’s Octet and the 1960 Quintetto Real with Horacio Salgan, Ubaldo de Lioboth and Pedro Laurenz.

For the Tanda of the Week, I have chosen three Francini-Pontier songs from different points through the life of the orquesta, featuring three different singers:

Remolino – 1946 – Vocals by Raúl Berón – Composed by Alfredo de Angelis y Jose Rotulo
Claveles Blancos – 1949 – Vocals by Roberto Rufino – Composed by Armando Pontier y Jose Maria Contursi
Olvidao – 1953 – Vocals by Julio Sosa – Composed by Guillermo Barbieri y Enrique Cadicamo

The fidelity of Francini-Pontier recordings tends to be good, and like many other Francini-Pontier recordings, the musical arrangements of the “Tanda of the Week” tracks incorporate space to showcase the virtuosity of the violinist, bandoneonist and pianist as well as the vocalists.

Neri Piliu & Yanina Quinones dancing to “Remolino” at the 2014 Patras Tango Fiesta.

A clip from a 1948 film that features Orquesta Francini-Pontier performing “Cafetin” in a crowded café / bar, typical of the tango scene at that time.
Unfortunately, it appears that there was never a release of an audio recording of the song by Beron with Orquesta Francini-Pontier.