Tango in 1937

Canaro, D’Arienzo and Fresedo present three very different styles of music-making. The variety in the music is one of the joys of dancing tango. “It all sounds the same – and scratchy”, someone said to me recently. Really?

Canaro (Maida) 1937

Francisco Canaro

Canaro had sounded almost soporific in 1936, but for these recordings he seems to have returned to a more rhythmic style – more like that of the early thirties. The arrangements are very straightforward and very danceable.

  • Condena (8-Nov-1937)
  • Copos de nieve (20-Jun-1937)
  • Novia (26-Apr-1937)
  • Las cuarenta (08-Nov-1937)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1937

Juan D'Arienzo
Juan D’Arienzo

An unyielding rhythmic drives propels each of these songs. D’Arienzo was an exacting and demanding musical director, resulting in controlled and disciplined playing from every section. The musical material passes back and forth between violins and bandoneóns. Biagi (at the piano) filling spaces between phrases and decorating with bright bell-like flourishes. It was said that he had manos brujas – bewitched hands – and that aspect of his playing is very evident here.

  •  La morocha (21-Dec-1937)
  • Qué noche (5-Mar-1937)
  • El baqueano (21-Jan-1937)
  • El caburé (22-Sep-1937)

There’s a very wide variation in the quality of tango transfers. Here are two short clips from the opening of El baqueano. The first is from Magenta’s CD Juan D’Arienzo Discographia Completa v1 and the other from TangoTunes’ 2015 download-only album todo de juan v3. I have processed the latter to reduce clicks & crackle, and apart from rendering this extract as a compressed (MP3) file, this is exactly as I play it:

Fresedo (Ray) 1936-37

Osvaldo Fresedo

In the sometimes rather austere-sounding world of tango, probably no one but Fresedo could have got away with including parts for harp and vibraphone in his orchestra. Later on, he adds drums too (and then we start to giggle, a bit), but for now, the blend of instruments with the gentle delivery and diction of Roberto Ray represents the sort of perfection that should be part of any tea dance.

  • Sueño azul (4-Jan-1937)
  • No quiero verte llorar (12-May-1937)
  • Adiós para siempre (7-Dec-1936)
  • Niebla del Riachuelo (17-Sep-1937)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1936’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1938’.

Clive HarrisonBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.


Tango in 1936

The second half of the decade sees D’Arienzo getting into his stride and Canaro, Lomuto and others continuing to record popular and danceable repertoire.

Canaro (Maida) 1936

Francisco Canaro

The opening bars of both Mi noche triste and Envidia suggest that Canaro has gone about as far as he can with the softer tones of Roberto Maida – and this is long before the actual entry of the singer. However, the introductions are not representative of the pace of either song, and the whole tanda ticks along quite nicely, as though quite indifferent to the new innovations from D’Arienzo. Canaro was hugely successful, commercially, and presumably saw no reason to change his winning formula – at least not yet.

  • Como las flores (12-May-1936)
  • Mi noche triste (14-Jul-1936)
  • Envidia (26-Aug-1936)
  • Siempre unidos (6-Oct-1936)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1936

Juan D'Arienzo
Juan D’Arienzo

Pianist, Rodolfo Biagi joined the D’Arienzo orchestra at the very end of 1935, and the series of recordings that followed, until his departure in June 1938, are among D’Arienzo’s most popular. There is hardly a bad song among them and they are great for dancing.

  • Don Esteban (3-Jul-1936)
  • Ataniche (27-Nov-1936)
  • El irresistible (5-Aug-1936)
  • Comme il faut (27-Oct-1936)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1936 (Vals)

Two notable features of D’Arienzo’s recordings in this period are that they are nearly all instumentals, and that his output included a high proportion of valses (11 in 1936 along with 12 tangos and 1 milonga). These fast-paced  arrangements all feature constant rhythmic and melodic interplay between the bandoneon section and the violins. For once, Biagi’s piano is in the background.

  • Amor y celos (3-Sep-1936)
  • Inolvidable (5-Aug-1936)
  • Lágrimas y sonrisas (29-Sep-1936)

Lomuto (Omar) 1936-37

Francisco Lomuto

Lomuto’s orchestra was perhaps at its best in the mid 30s, helped along by the recruitment of baritone, Jorge Omar, in 1935. Here he sings four great songs, including the lesser-known Monotonía, which might be said to be Lomuto’s nod to the soft and more contemplative style of Canaro/Maida at this time.

  • Mano a mano (3-Oct-1936)
  • Nostalgias (28-Oct-1936)
  • Monotonía (3-Dec-1936)
  • Las cuarenta (30-Jul-1937)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1935’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1937’.

Clive HarrisonBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Tango in 1935

A year of contrasts: in the year that Juan D’Arienzo begins to record again after a break of seven years, with muscular, rhythmic arrangements that seem to reinvigorate the heavy compás of the guardia vieja, Canaro moves away from his more rhythmic style, forming an association with Roberto Maida which was to carry him through to December 1938. Osvaldo Fresedo, seemingly unconcerned by either trend, continues his partnership with Roberto Ray – and that, too, lasted until late 1938.

Canaro (Maida) 1935

Roberto Maida

The prodigious work rate of Canaro was frequently astonishing. He went into the studio with his new singer, Roberto Maida, for the first time on 20 March 1935. Four tangos were recorded that day. Just five days later, they were back to record four more. Three sessions in April (11th, 23rd & 25th) followed with another eleven songs. Canaro is also changing his style of playing, which while still rhythmic, now has softer edges. The opening and closing songs of this tanda tend to harder rhythms, while the inner two are gentler in feel.

  • Ciego (25-Mar-1935)
  • Golondrinas (25-Mar-1935)
  • Cogote (23-Apr-1935)
  • Cambalache (20-Mar-1935)

D’Arienzo (Instrumental) 1935

In 1914, Vicente Greco recorded a performance of Hotel Victoria for the Columbia label. It had been composed in 1906 by Feliciano Latasa. The sound is probably typical of acoustic recording at that time and the performance reflects the playing style of the day. I’m not sure I’d have rushed out to buy it: here’s the opening:

Twenty years later, having previously recorded a few wholly unremarkable sides in 1928, Juan D’Arienzo got a new recording contract with Victor. His first session, on 2 July 1935 produced Hotel Victoria together with Desde el alma. Many commentators more-or-less associate this event with the beginning of the época de oro – the Golden Age of Tango – and an excitable Michael Lavocah even writes:

This is the man who almost single-handedly propelled an entire city to its feet, turning a generation of tango listeners into tango dancers. It was a revolution.

Juan D’Arienzo

Hyperbole aside, D’Arienzo certainly made his mark, even if his recording debut is actually a little low key. What really set the D’Arienzo ‘revolution’ on its course was the appointment of Rodolfo Biagi as the orchestra’s pianist (he made his recording debut with the orchestra on 31 December 1935). The earlier recordings – just ten sides – have the perfectly competent but unexciting Lidio Fasoli at the piano. They draw on an established repertoire and were in many ways somewhat backward-looking.  The very earliest sides have rather poor sound, but Victor and the orchestra soon got into their stride.

My own approach to the music of D’Arienzo separates his output into periods marked by the changes in orchestra pianist (so important was the pianist’s role to the orchestra’s sound). In putting together D’Arienzo tandas, I rarely mix pianists, and as Fasoli only recorded five tangos, there are not many ways to combine them if you don’t want to mix them with later recordings. Here is my selection of four of them:

  • Hotel Victoria (2-Jul-1935)
  • Joaquina (12-Dec-1935)
  • Sábado inglés (19-Nov-1935)
  • Re Fa Si (3-Oct-1935)

For completeness, the fifth tango was Tinta verde: and it’s a perfectly good performance. But if you listen to Troilo’s debut recording of the same piece (from March 1938), you are forced to conclude that it is Troilo, not D’Arienzo that is on fire – but that doesn’t quite fit the conventional narrative, even allowing for the timing difference. Here are both versions:

Fresedo (Ray) 1935

Osvaldo Fresedo

The Fresedo – Ray partnership was in its third year by 1935, and it continued to produce a steady stream of recordings that remain deservedly popular and are great for dancing.

  • Recuerdos de bohemia (22-Nov-1935)
  • Volver (1-Jul-1935)
  • Isla de Capri (15-Feb-1935)
  • Pampero (15-Feb-1935)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1934’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1936’.

Clive Harrison: Tango DJBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Tango in 1934

It isn’t really fair to say that tango is in the doldrums in 1934, but several artists are relatively inactive, and this is not really a time for innovation or development. Things really do seem to change when D’Arienzo begins recording with his new orchestra in 1935, but meanwhile, these three orchestras sound entirely at ease with themselves.

Canaro (Famá) 1934

Francisco Canaro

Ernesto Famá had two spells recording with Canaro, and the first was to end in August 1934. For the rest of the year, Canaro recorded with Carlos Galán, prior to the arrival of Roberto Maida in 1935. Famá was to return for two further years from 1939 and then retired from public appearances, still a relatively young man.

These songs have very straightforward arrangements. Ya vendrán tiempos mejores is almost a duet: Famá is briefly joined by a second voice – spoken, not sung – and it seems likely that this is Canaro, himself.

  • Diez años (21-Feb-1934)
  • Ya vendrán tiempos mejores (17-Feb-1934)
  • Fin de fiesta (17-Feb-1934)
  • El tigre Millán (30-Apr-1934)

Donato (Maida) 1934

Edgardo Donato

Antonio Maida was the younger brother of Roberto Maida (who joined Canaro’s orchestra in 1935). He sang with Donato for two years, before leaving to pursue a solo career on radio.

Donato’s music is mostly cheerful and upbeat. Si te perdes, chiflame has a chorus who sing and whistle. Quién más, quién menos and Riachuelo are both duets with one of Donato’s violinists, Armando Piovani (also known as Randona). Esto es el colmo has an unusual cello solo, near the start. Donato added another unusual instrument to his orchestra in 1934 too, by adding a piano accordion to his bandoneón section, although its contribution is not obvious here.

  • Si te perdes, chiflame (19-Dec-1934)
  • Quién más, quién menos (28-Nov-1934)
  • Esto es el colmo (9-Jan-1934)
  • Riachuelo (28-Jun-1934)

Fresedo (Ray) 1933-35

Roberto Ray

1934 was an unusually quiet year for Fresedo in the recording studio, producing just four tangos (along with several Rancheras and Fox-Trots), but En la huella del dolor and Canto de amor are both vintage Fresedo. This is perfect music for afternoon dancing, better with champagne than tea.

  • En la huella del dolor (27-Apr-1934)
  • Yo no sé llorar (2-Nov-1933)
  • El once (5-Apr-1935)
  • Canto de amor (18-Jun-1934)

Of the four 1934 tangos, Segui mi camino, is not available on Spotify, but apart from the three with Ray, there is just one instrumental: Tigre viejo. Here it is:

Click here for ‘Tango in 1933’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1935’.

Clive HarrisonBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Tango in 1933

There is no one single event or development that marks the beginning of the Golden Age of tango dance music. It is often said that the impetus surrounding the formation of D’Arienzo’s orchestra in 1935 was key: but that is to over-simplify. Having arrived at 1933, we’re not quite there yet, but many of the ingredients are in place.

The smaller groupings, mostly sextets, that had dominated early tango have now given over to small orchestras, and that changed the sound to allow more varied musical textures and more sophisticated arrangements. Canaro (Odeon’s most bankable recording artist) was already using six bandoneóns and six violins in his early 30s orchestra – making a very full sound.

Odeon (Canaro) also seemed to be well-ahead in producing almost modern-sounding recordings. The Victor sound (Fresedo & OTV) is distinctly different, and probably mostly to do with the two companies’ use of different microphone technologies – Odeon with condenser mics and Victor with ribbon ones.

Canaro (Famá) 1932-33

Ernesto Famá

These four songs are typical of Canaro in the early thirties: straightforward arrangements with clear rhythms. The vocal contributions of Ernesto Famá are in the traditional role of estribillista (chorus singer). In Dos amores we hear a muted trumpet solo straight after Famá’s vocal contribution – one of the ways in which Canaro (and others) expanded the instumental lineup to extend the range of timbres available in his orchestral palette. A pesar de todo is unusual too, in that Famá gets to sing twice as long as normal: a verse & chorus.

  • Dos amores (12-Aug-1932)
  • A pesar de todo (9-Sep-1933)
  • Pero aquel muchacho (7-Nov-1932)
  • Puerto nuevo (11-Dec-1933)

Fresedo (Ray) 1933

Osvaldo Fresedo

Fresedo and his sextet had recorded with Odeon until 1928, but nothing more appeared until June 1931. By then, he had switched to a much smaller company, Brunswick, but it promptly went bust. His last release for them was recorded in July 1932. The recorded repertoire of that period is interesting, though, as it marks the transition from sextet to orchestra, but unfortunately the sound quality of the available transfers (you can find then on Spotify) is dreadful.

By 1933, Fresedo had signed with Victor, and had started to record with tenor, Roberto Ray. The partnership produced several dozen wonderful recordings over about six years, and they remain Fresedo’s most popular work, even though he continued recording right up to 1980 (making his the longest studio career of any major tango musician). Ray had a distinctive voice. He sounds as though he’s an old hand and has been around for a while. It surprised me to learn that he was just 20 in 1933.

  • Araca la cana (6-Jun-1933)
  • El mareo (6-Jun-1933)
  • Cordobesita (6-Jun-1933)
  • Colibriyo (16-Mar-1933)

Orquesta Típica Victor (Gómez) 1932-33

Alberto Gómez

By the early 30s, the directorship of the Victor house orchestra had passed to Adolpho Carabelli. Unlike the early years, when the recordings were almost exclusively instrumental, the output is now almost all with a singer – here, Alberto Gómez. In all four songs, though, the role is still firmly that of estribillista. If there is a star in the orchestra it is Elvino Vardaro, the principal violinist – but every section had first rate players: Carabelli, himself, on piano, and a very strong lineup of bandoneón players.

  • Don Juan (4-Feb-1932)
  • El mortero del globito (9-May-1933)
  • Lemita (27-Oct-1933)
  • Ventarrón (13-Mar-1933)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1932’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1934’.

Clive HarrisonBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.