Tango in 1938

Tango’s endless round of musical chairs was in full swing in 1938.

  • The important musical partnerships of Francisco Canaro with Roberto Ray and of Osvaldo Fresedo with Roberto Ray came to an end.*
  • Aníbal Troilo made his first (and only) recordings for Odeon.
  • Rodolfo Biagi made his first recordings, having split from Juan D’Arienzo.

*Strictly, Ray’s final session with Fresedo was on 3 January 1939, and he returned to record a handful of sides in 1948 and 1950.

Biagi (Instrumental) 1938-39

Rodolfo Biagi
Rodolfo Biagi

Biagi’s last session as D’Arienzo’s pianist was in June 1938. The usual story is that he was just too popular with the orchestra’s fans for D’Arienzo’s liking. He took a small bow to acknowledge applause after a live performance, and just had to go.

“I’m the only star of this orchestra: you’re fired.”

Biagi wasted no time in forming his own orchestra, which was very soon recording for Victor’s arch-rival, Odeon. El incendio came from the very first session, just eight weeks later. With a free hand, Biagi adopts more insistent rhythms, but with musical textures that are frequently more sparse. This is partly because the orchestra had fewer players than D’Arienzo’s, but is mainly a deliberate style choice.

  • Unión cívica (16-Oct-1938)
  • El trece (15-Nov-1938)
  • El incendio (15-Aug-1938)
  • Pura clase (13-Jul-1939)

Donato (Instrumental) 1936-38

Edgardo Donato

With rhythms that are “light, quick and playful” (Lavocah), Donato is nearly always upbeat: rhythmic, but with a softness that is not found in either D’Arienzo or Biagi.

  • La tablada (6-Aug-1936)
  • El chamuyo (10-Oct-1938)
  • Cantando bajito (29-Aug-1938)
  • El estagiario (5-Feb-1938)

Fresedo (Ray) 1938

Osvaldo Fresedo

After more than seven years, Ray left Fresedo’s orchestra at the very beginning of 1939. Compared with the earliest sides, the pace had slowed just a little, but there was really remarkably little change; but why alter a successful format?

  • Telón (23-Nov-1938)
  • Angustia (8-Sep-1938)
  • Ojos muertos (23-Nov-1938)
  • Dulce amargura (23-Nov-1938)

Lomuto (Omar) 1938

Francisco Lomuto

During the Canaro/Maida years, Canaro has taken a softer approach, while his old friend and one-time student, Lomuto, had continued with a more foursquare rhythmic style and a heavier beat. With his best singer, Jorge Omar, Lomuto is on top form in the late 30s. With Maida gone, Canaro (once, the innovator) returns to that earlier style; but with mixed success. The importance of both orchestras now begins to wane – although Canaro (in particular) remains commercially successful.

  • El cornetín del tranvía (9-Jun-1938)
  • Otra vez (9-Jun-1938)
  • La melodía de nuestro adiós (12-Dec-1938)
  • Madreselva (24-Aug-1938)

The version of La melodía de nuestro adiós included above is derived from a vinyl LP issued in 1959: Ayer en el tango. Spotify attributes this rendering to Aquellas Canciones Records (2016) but it doesn’t sound very good. In 2013 TangoTunes made a new transfer of the same LP and here’s a 30s clip from it. After some processing to reduce clicks, and rendering this extract as a compressed (MP3) file, this is exactly as I play it:

Troilo (Instrumental) 1938

Troilo signed a three-year exclusive recording contract with Odeon, but after recording just two sides in 1938, Odeon recorded nothing more. The same thing happened to Tanturi. Nothing further appeared until 1941 when Troilo was able to move to Victor, by which time the orchestra was successful, experienced and had a wide repertoire. What we have from 1938 are two great songs, and in recorded sound which was years ahead of anything Victor could produce. Arguably, Victor never caught up: they certainly never did justice to the ‘big’ and sophisticated sound of the Troilo orchestra.

  • Comme il faut (7-Mar-1938)
  • Tinta verde (7-Mar-1938)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1937’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1939’.