Tango 250: Juan D’Arienzo

About Juan D’Arienzo

Juan D'Arienzo
Juan D’Arienzo

D’Arienzo was born in 1900 in Buenos Aires and died there in 1976. He was a violinist and he played and briefly recorded with a tango sextet in the 1920s, but those recordings are of no interest to dancers. He formed his tango orchestra in 1934 and it recorded for Victor between 1935 and 1975.

He was the oldest of the ‘Big Four’ orchestra leaders. He worked with many singers over a long career, but arguably only Alberto Echagüe (1938-39 & 1944-57) and Héctor Mauré (1940-44) were really notable. However, he also recorded many instrumentals, particularly in the early years, and the best of them represent his main contribution to the repertoire widely played today.

His orchestra’s sound is strongly rhythmic and is dominated by the bandoneons, but the pianist’s role is important too. Apart from his first ten recordings, he worked with three pianists: Rodolfo Biagi (1935-38), Juan Polito (1938-39 & 1957-75) and Fulvio Salamanca (1940-57).

The suggested Tango 250 collection features tandas with Echagüe and Mauré, and instrumental tandas from 1935 to 1951. Polito returned to the pianist’s chair after the departure of Salamanca in 1957, and he remained until 1975, but the many recordings of that late period are not generally favoured by dancers.

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1935-36

Nueve de julio was the first song recorded by D’Arienzo with Biagi at the piano. This tanda is a showcase for the orchestra’s instrumental style of the period and for Biagi’s incomparable piano playing.

  • Nueve de julio (31-Dec-35)
  • Retintín (31-Jan-36)
  • Lorenzo (8-May-36)
  • El flete (3-Apr-36)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1937

These four instrumentals are just perfect. What else is there to say?

  • El cachafaz (2-Jun-37)
  • Gallo ciego (9-Dec-37)
  • El porteñito (31-Aug-37)
  • El choclo (26-Jul-37)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1937-38

These early instrumentals were recorded towards the end of Biagi’s time at the piano, and they are great for dancing.

  • Unión cívica (7-Jan-38)
  • La catrera (8-Jun-38)
  • El cencerro (9-Dec-37)
  • El caburé (22-Sep-37)

D’Arienzo (Echagüe) 1938

These songs were recorded by Echagüe during his first (and arguably, best) period with the orchestra. Biagi plays the piano for the earlier two songs, and Polito for the later two.

  • La bruja (26-Aug-38)
  • Pénsalo bien (22-Jun-38)
  • Nada más (8-Jul-38)
  • Indiferencia (4-Jan-38)

D’Arienzo (Mauré) 1941-42

These songs come from a slightly later period. On Polito’s departure in 1939 there had been a complete change in orchestra personnel. The voice and more lyrical singing style of Héctor Mauré were very different from that of Alberto Echagüe, and the pace has slowed a little. When Mauré left the orchestra in 1944, D’Arienzo reverted to his earlier style but was perhaps even harder-driven than before.

  • Humillación (14-Jul-41)
  • Dime mi amor (21-May-41)
  • Compadrón (22-Sep-42)
  • Nunca más (14-Jul-41)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1950-51

These instrumentals belong to a much later period, but having gone off the boil for much of the 40s, the orchestra is back on form by the early 50s. The music-making is more hard-driven than before and while the recording technology is being pushed as far as it will go (tape mastering didn’t come in until 1954), this is still classic D’Arienzo.

  • Canaro en París (5-May-50)
  • Tucumán (28-Sep-50)
  • El simpático (19-Dec-51)
  • Don Juan (28-Dec-50)

D’Arienzo (Echagüe) 1939 (Vals)

These valses take us back to the very end of the 30s and the last sides recorded by Echagüe with Polito at the piano. At the end of the year, D’Arienzo was to lose every player in the orchestra, along with Echagüe, as Polito split to form his own orchestra (which disappeared into obscurity almost straight away, having failed to secure a recording contract). The new lineup was still commercially successful – but things were never to be the same again.

  • Ay Aurora! (14-Nov-39)
  • Recuerdos de la pampa (4-May-39)
  • Castigo (9-Aug-39)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1937-38 (Milonga)

Biagi is at the piano, again, and the rhythms are irresistible. D’Arienzo recorded La puñalada again in 1951 at a much faster pace and the comparison is interesting. El esquinazo is a tour de force, full of syncopations and great for dancing.

  • La puñalada (27-Apr-1937)
  • Milonga, vieja milonga (22-Sep-1937)
  • El esquinazo (4-Jan-1938)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1951-56 (Milonga)

These instrumentals are from a much later period (although Salamanca remained at the piano until 1957). They are fast-paced and the sound quality is noticeably better than previously.

  • El torito (29-Apr-54)
  • La puñalada (12-Sep-51)
  • Pampeana (20-Sep-56)

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Further reading

Click here for a further extended article about Juan D’Arienzo – El Rey del compás, with lots of additional listening links.