Argentine tango orchestra leader and pianist Angel D’Agostino did not achieve the same recognition as the likes of Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Fresedo or Juan D’Arienzo, but he was still a respected and admired figure in tango. D’Agostino was one half of “Los Dos Angeles” (“The Two Angels”). Jose Angel Lomio or Angel Vargas the singer of the two was also called “El Ruiseñor de las Calles Porteñas” (“The Nightingale of the Buenos Aires Streets”).
Before he became a professional in the tango scene, he was born Angel Domingo Emilio D’Agostino on 25 May 1900 in Buenos Aires. He was born into music, with a father and uncles who were all musicians. There was a piano at home that grew up playing often. Musicians Manuel Aróztegui and Adolfo Bevilacqua were frequent visitors and the latter’s tango, “Independencia,” made its debut at D’Agostino’s home in 1910. The young D’Agostino studied at a conservatory and even played in public. Their group was a trio, which included his neighbour Juan D’Arienzo. They were infantile at the time and when they weren’t paid for their performance at the Zoological Garden, they started a fire, which was soon put out.
D’Agostino quit high school, choosing to focus on music. He played for aristocratic families’ parties and at a night local, where he tried different rhythms, like ragtime. In 1920, he assembled his first orchestra, playing a mix of tango and jazz. One of his musicians was Agesilao Ferrazzano, considered by D’Agostino as the best tango violinist. Others included Juan D’Arienzo, Anselmo Aieta and Ciriaco Ortiz. When silent films were playing, D’Agostino’s group was one of the first orchestras to play at the cinemas.
The cabaret Palais de Glace, among others, hired his orchestra group, but they never went on tour. Supposedly, this was due to D’Agostino’s mysterious behaviour. He was something of a character in Buenos Aires. He was a skilled gambler and stubborn bachelor. Eva Peron once gifted him a clock, one of three of a unique design.
In 1932, D’Agostino met Angel Vargas, but they did not team up until 1940. Together, they recorded 93 pieces. In 1934, D’Agostino collaborated with Aníbal Troilo and the singer Alberto Echagüe to form an orchestra strictly dedicated to tango. There was also a time during the 1930s when he performed in an orchestra under the name “Carlo Vargas.”
D’Agostino’s style has been described as “folk-like” and “simple,” but he succeeded because of his clear language and simplicity. Angel Vargas’ voice, considered sweet and charismatic, allowed for an expression that made the audience understand the lyrics. D’Agostino himself described his style: “I shaped my orchestras with two conceptions that I never gave up: respect for the melodic line and rhythmic emphasis to make the dancing easier. When the singer breaks into the scene and displaces the musician from the spotlight, the orchestra was structured in such a way that music and singing did not interrupt the possibility of dancing. For that, the singer had to turn into one more instrument, a privileged instrument, but not apart.”
On 16 January 1991, D’Agostino passed away. He promised his friends he would die alone and he kept it.