Juan D’Arienzo, his orchestras and singers, through the years

El Rey del Compás

Juan D’Arienzo was born on 14th December 1900 and died on 14th January 1976 in Buenos Aires. He played violin with Angel D’Agostino from a very early age and formed his own orchestra in 1928. D’Arienzo recorded with the record labels Electra in 1928-1929 and Victor from 1935-1975.

In 1935 D’Arienzo’s orchestra consisted of 3 bandoneons, 3 violins, piano and double bass, the musicians were:

Domingo Moro, bandoneón
Faustino Taboada, bandoneón
Juan Visciglio, bandoneón
Lidio Fasoli, piano
Alfredo Mazzeo, violin
Leon Zibaico, violin
Domingo Mancuso, violin
Rodolfo Duclos, double bass

They did a total 10 recordings with the record label Victor, including Desde el Alma on 2nd July 1935. (Click here to view video).

When pianist Rodolfo Biagi joined the orchestra in 1935 everything changed, he introduced a change in the rhythm of the music which would prove irresistible to dancers and this change was what marked the new style for D’Arienzo going forward, one which would provide him with the huge success that he attained during the Golden Age of tango.

Aside from Biagi replacing Lidio Fasoli on piano, from 1935 until 1938 there were other changes to the orchestra with the addition of two more bandoneons and a fourth violin. The orchestra was now made up by the following musicians:

Domingo Moro, bandoneón
Faustino Taboada, bandoneón
Juan Visciglio, bandoneón
Jose Della Rocca, bandoneón
Adolofo Ferrero, bandoneón
Rodolfo Biagi, piano
Alfredo Mazzeo, violin
Leon Zibaico, violin
Domingo Mancuso, violin
Francisco Mancini, violin
Rodolfo Duclos, double bass

The singers were: Walter Cabral, Enrique Carabel, and Alberto Echagüe.

They did a total of 66 recordings with the record label Victor, including El Flete on 3rd April 1936 (Click here to view video).

In 1938 Biagi departed to form his own orchestra and was replaced by pianist Juan Polito. Alberto Echagüe continued on and together they did 40 recordings with the record label Victor from 1938 to 1939, including Nada más on 8th July 1938 (Click here to view video) and No mientas on 28th December 1938 (Click here to view video).

They had the perfect combination but in 1940 when Juan Polito left the orchestra, he took every musician with him, including Alberto Echagüe.

D’Arienzo very quickly assembled a new orchestra and so for the period of 1940 until 1950 we see the arrival of a very young Fluvio Salamanca on piano and Hector Varela on violin. The following were the musicians during that 10 year period:

Eladio Blanco, bandoneón
Alberto San Miguel, bandoneón
Hector Varela, bandoneón
Jorge Ceriotti, bandoneón – replaced by Pinotti
Jose Di Pilato, bandoneón
Salvador Alonso, bandoneón
Fluvio Salamanca, piano
Cayetano Puglisi, violin
Blas Pensato, violin
Jaime Ferrer, violin
Clemente Arnaiz, violin
Olindo Sinibaldi, double bass

The singers were: Alberto Reynal, Carlos Casares, Hector Maure, Juan Carlos Lamas, Alberto Echagüe, and Armando Laborde.

Together they did a total of approximately 255 recordings with the record label Victor including:

  • Rie Payaso, 22 agosto 1940 (Carlos Casares). Click here to view video.
  • Vidas marcadas, 29 abril 1942 (Alberto Reynal). Click here to view video.
  • Amarras, 21 julio 1944  (Hector Maure). Click here to view video.
  • Y entonces lloraras, 30 abril 1947 (Armando Laborde). Click here to view video.

D’Arienzo’s orchestras are well known for their lively beat and strong rhythm both of which make the music ideal for dancing. There are moments when everything stops and the piano plays in the background, or moments when the bandoneons take centre stage and they are the star of the show as can be seen is this video and years later in this example.

Juan D’Arienzo’s energy can easily be observed, he gives so much in his performance and at the same time passes on that energy to the musicians, he appears to demand a lot from them as he stands there watching, listening, making remarks with very expressive facial gestures.

The members of the orchestra were very young, some as young as 18 and many of them in their early 20s it’s no wonder they could follow this pace of music.

He considered the piano as the base instrument, with beautiful variations performed by the bandoneons, all leading to a constant rhythm (in the most part), the arrival of Biagi made all of this possible, bringing back the 2×4 and reviving many of the tangos from the Guardia Vieja such as El Entrerriano, Derecho Viejo, Hotel Victoria, El Choclo, etc.

D’Arienzo was quoted as saying “The way I see it, tango is, above all, rhythm, nerve, strength and character. The old tango, the tango from the old guard (Guardia Vieja) had all of this, and we must try to never lose this.” He continued to enjoy huge success with dancers, playing to huge crowds at packed venues.

“The base of my orchestra is the piano. I believe it to be irreplaceable. When my pianist, Polito fell ill, I replaced him with Jorge Dragone. If something should happen to him I have no solution. Then the violin with a fourth string appears as a vital element. It must sound like a viola or cello. I integrate my group with the piano, the double bass, five violins, five bandoneons and three singers.

D’Arienzo stayed true to his style through the golden age of tango, although there were times that he had to adjust to the singers. For example, when Hector Maure joined in 1940 it was difficult for him to keep up with the speed of the orchestra so some adjustments had to be made to the way the music was played, and while Hector Maure is considered to have been the best singer the orchestra ever had it may not have been the best choice for their style.

Alberto Echagüe

Alberto Echagüe was born in Rosario on the 8th March 1909 as Juan de Dios Osvaldo Rodríguez Bonfanti. Echagüe had three phases with D’Arienzo, 1938-1939, 1944-1957, in 1968 he travelled to Japan with D’Arienzo and continued to record together until 1975, this being the third and final phase.

Echagüe was able to keep up the speed with D’Arienzo, and while technically he wasn’t a great singer, he did have a great fit with the style of D’Arienzo. He was used as an estribillista or chansonnier and would sing a small portion of the lyrics, usually the chorus towards the end of the song. In this sense the singer was regarded as another instrument, and not the star of the orchestra.

His voice had a street style, ‘arrabalero’ with a predominant use of ‘lunfardo’ language which only added to his style. He died in Buenos Aires on 22nd February 1987.

June 2024
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