Tango in 1942

After the mostly fast-paced music-making of 1941, most of the leading orchestras changed their styles in 1942 by slowing things down. The early 40s represent the peak of the Golden Age. Never again would there be so many orchestras producing music of such high quality. The leading orchestras all had the confidence (and mostly, the necessary commercial success) to produce music in a rich variety of complementary styles and without artistic compromise.

The great orchestras were very active on radio, on disc and, of course, in live performances for dancers. For any number of reasons we’re unlikely ever to see the like of it again; but I’ve never read any really satisfactory explanation for the fact that quite so many first-rate musicians, composers and lyricists were all serving the dance community of really just one city – Buenos Aires – and for really quite a short period, when arguably nothing quite like it has ever occurred anywhere else, or at any time.

Caló (Berón) 1942

Miguel Caló
Miguel Caló

Caló had first formed an orchestra in 1929, and while it recorded during the 30s, its time had not yet come and it was only modestly successful. However, everything changed in 1941 when the orchestra regrouped with some particularly fine players, many of whom would later go on to lead orchestras of their own. The first real hit came in 1942, with the young Raul Berón singing Al compás del corazón. He was to feature on every side (except one) cut by the orchestra that year. He went on to record with Lucio Demare in 1943, and was to record a handful of further sides for Caló in 1944 – but it is the 1942 recordings that are most loved.

  • Al compás del corazón (29-Apr-1942)
  • Trasnochando (30-Jun-1942)
  • Un crimen (9-Oct-1942)
  • Tristezas de la calle Corrientes (2-Sep-1942)

D’Agostino (Vargas) 1941-42 (Vals)

Ángel D'Agostino
Ángel D’Agostino

While most of the other orchestras were redefining their musical styles, D’Agostino seemed never to change. He doesn’t fit in any of the obvious style groupings either: rhythmic (he had played with D’Arienzo, years before, and his music is rhythmic, but this is not a rhythmic orchestra); lyrical (his music is frequently lyrical, but this is not a lyrical orchestra); and so on. His musical sound is unique: subtle and sophisticated. The voice of Ángel Vargas is also so woven into its fabric, that things are never the same after he leaves in 1946.

  • Qué me pasará (12-Dec-1941)
  • Esquinas porteñas (22-May-1942)
  • Yo tengo una novia (17-Nov-1942)

Demare (Miranda) 1942

Lucio Demare
Lucio Demare

Lucio Demare formed his orchestra in 1938, but it had only cut six sides before recording Malena, composed by Demare himself (and the story goes that the melody came to him in a café and he jotted it down in fifteen minutes). He also wrote Mañana zarpa un barco, both with lyrics by the great Homero Manzi. The sound of the orchestra is string-led and highly lyrical. Like Caló, he always worked with baritone voices, and that brings a slightly darker colour to the sound at a time when most tango singers were tenors. Compare the alternate versions of No te apures cara blanca and Malena recorded by Troilo (below). The arrangements are very different, but in both cases, Troilo’s use of a tenor voice is significant.

  • Al compás de un tango (13-Mar-1942)
  • Mañana zarpa un barco (20-Jul-1942)
  • No te apures cara blanca (9-Oct-1942)
  • Malena (23-Jan-1942)

Di Sarli (Podestá) 1942

Carlos Di Sarli
Carlos Di Sarli

The young Alberto Podestá joined Di Sarli’s orchestra in 1942, singing alongside Roberto Rufino. The general slowing down of the pace of tango music had a big effect on Di Sarli’s style, which became far more lyrical (but without ever losing its rhythmic edge). Like Demare, Di Sarli favoured baritone voices, although there were great tenor voices to come, starting with Oscar Serpa from 1948.

  • Nido gaucho (30-Nov-1942)
  • No está (30-Mar-1942)
  • Junto a tu corazón (12-Nov-1942)
  • Volver a vernos (21-Dec-1942)

Rodríguez (Moreno) 1942

Enrique Rodríguez
Enrique Rodríguez

Rodríguez followed the general trend to slow down, but he did so by just relaxing his rhythmic grip a little. Bigger changes were coming in 1944, but for now, this remains easy-going music and is much loved by dancers. Two of these songs are not available on Spotify, so I have provided alternative listening links from YouTube.

Tanturi (Castillo) 1942

Ricardo Tanturi
Ricardo Tanturi

Tanturi followed the pack, mainly by choosing repertoire which naturally called for a slower pace, revealing a more contemplative side to the singing of Alberto Castillo. It’s very interesting to compare this version of Un crimen with that of Caló (above). The latter has phrasing with wonderful light and shade, and yet these are not so different, despite coming from leading orchestras of the rhythmic and lyrical schools.

  • Moneda de cobre (4-Dec-1942)
  • Un crimen (22-Sep-1942)
  • Madame Ivonne (18-Mar-1942)
  • Canción de rango (Pa’ que se callen) (4-Dec-1942)

Troilo (Fiorentino) 1942

Aníbal Troilo
Aníbal Troilo

Troilo was the master of integrating the singer into the orchestral texture, almost as an additional instrument, but without ever sacrificing the presentation of the lyric. The change of pace transforms the orchestra: gone is the pulsating drive of 1941 and instead we have greater intensity and subtlety. The first and last songs are relatively straightforward, but the inner two take dance music into new realms. The opening of Malena, in particular, is a world away from almost anything that has come before. This (and much Troilo from this point onwards) is demanding dance music – but for those that get under its skin, hugely rewarding.

  • Por las calles de la vida (10-Dec-1942)
  • No te apures cara blanca (18-Sep-1942)
  • Malena (8-Jan-1942)
  • Pa’ que seguir (14-Dec-1942)


Click here for ‘Tango in 1941’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1943’.