The Tango Years: Milonga in the 30s

The roots of milonga as a musical form and as a dance lie in the late nineteenth century,  but there are no recordings by dance orchestras until the 1930s. It could be said that Canaro dominated the early 30s and that D’Arienzo dominated the late 30s. But then, that’s more-or-less equally true for tango and vals, as well.

Canaro (Famá) 1933-34

Francisco Canaro

Milonga sentimental was the first popular song in the ‘new’ milonga dance genre. Canaro first recorded it with Ada Falcón in December 1932, but that was not an arrangement intended for dancing. A second version, a duet between Ernesto Famá and Ángel Ramos, came along six months later. Along with Milonga del novecientos, Milonga sentimental is one of the best-known of all milonga recordings. Both songs were both composed by Sebastián Piana with lyrics by Homero Manzi. Canaro championed the genre and every other orchestra largely adopted the style he developed, such that milonga in the 30s has a remarkable homogeneity.

  • Milonga del novecientos (8-May-1933)
  • Yo me llamo Juan Te Quiero (22-May-1934)
  • Milonga sentimental (9-Feb-1933)

Here’s a short excerpt from the earlier Ada Falcón recording (which is perfectly danceable).

Canaro (Maida) 1935-36

Roberto Maida

These recordings come from the early part of the Canaro/Maida partnership. They fit very comfortably with other Canaro recordings at this time, with softer, less insistent rhythms and a steady pace. They’re great for dancing.

  • Silueta porteña (17-Jul-1936)
  • Largá las penas (11-Jun-1935)
  • Milonga criolla (6-Oct-1936)

Canaro (Instrumental) 1937-38

A very high proportion of Canaro’s 30s recordings include a singer, but here are three instrumentals from the late 30s. Odeon is producing consistently good sound and the Canaro orchestra is on good form.

  • Milonga de mis amores (26-May-1937)
  • Milonga de antaño (19-Aug-1937)
  • Milongón (20-Jun-1938)

Laurenz (Farrel) 1937

Pedro Laurenz
Pedro Laurenz

Pedro Laurenz had just composed Milonga de mis amores and this was his debut recording. Héctor Farrel makes a brief vocal contribution, but the star of this arrangement is Laurenz, himself, on bandoneón. The comparison with the Canaro version is interesting.

  • Milonga de mis amores (14-Jul-1937)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1937-38

Juan D'Arienzo
Juan D’Arienzo

D’Arienzo recorded six milongas in the period with Biagi at the piano (Dec-35 to Jun-38). Here are the three instrumentals. I consider El esquinazo to be one of the highlights of the milonga repertoire.

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

Donato (Lagos) 1938-39

Edgardo Donato

It sounds as though everyone involved really enjoyed recording these milongas. They are rhythmically playful, cheerful and always popular with dancers. Sacale punta is a duet between Horacio Lagos and Armando Piovani (who was also one of the orchestra’s violinists).

  • Sacale punta (9-Mar-1938)
  • De punta a punta (6-Mar-1939)
  • Ella es así (10-Oct-1938)

Lomuto (Omar) 1938-39

Francisco Lomuto

It’s always interesting to make comparisons between Canaro and Lomuto, and there is a repertoire overlap here, too, as they both recorded Milongón. Lomuto’s pace is consistently faster, and yet the vocal delivery of Omar seems a little matter-of-fact. Sadly, the sound of the available transfers of the Lomuto recordings hardly do them justice, but the overall impression is of an orchestra trying to enjoy themselves.

  • Qué tiempo aquel de ayer (24-Feb-1938)
  • Varón (17-Feb-1939)
  • Milongón (28-Feb-1939)

The only available version of Varón on Spotify has very poor sound. Here’s an excerpt from a slightly better transfer (but still not a good one). If anyone can point me to an alternative source, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

D’Arienzo (Echagüe) 1938-39

Alberto Echagüe
Alberto Echagüe

In the period leading up to the break up of the D’Arienzo orchestra in 1939, his recordings of vals outnumbered milonga by more than 2:1 and with a high proportion of instrumentals. However, during the tenure of Juan Polito as orchestra pianist (Jul-38 to Dec-39) there were six milongas to five valses; all of them with Alberto Echagüe on vocals. They are very fine – in fact, D’Arienzo was so sure-footed in the 30s that his output is all of a uniformly high standard. Here are the milongas:

  • Estampa de varón (5-Aug-1938)
  • Milonga del recuerdo (17-Jul-1939)
  • Milonga querida (9-Nov-1938)

D’Arienzo (Echagüe) 1939

  • Meta fierro (3-Mar-1939)
  • De antaño (27-Sep-1939)
  • La cicatriz (31-Oct-1939)

Click here for ‘Vals in the 30s’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1940.