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Juan D´Arienzo´s Typical Orchestra

Part 1.

Juan D´Arianzo typical orchestra was accolated, celebrated and popular in a tango land such as Argentina and Uruguay. It was characterized by its compass (2×4) and interpretations that exuded rhythm, nerve, strength and personality.

D´Arienzo (orchestra director) started the change of making tango more danceable, getting the public to the dance floor and therefore making it more popular.

Tango Historian José María Otero wrote in his article “Juan D’Arienzo en TV”: “…That orchestra plus its milonga rhythm left you breathless, but with a body flavor that made your life and your heart happy…”. Luis Adolfo Sierra described him in “The Evolution of Instrumental Tango” as “Te resurrection of tango was a result of an interpretation mode, of a key character: Juan D’Arienzo”.

According to this great master, the fall of tango was due to the role given to the singers, since the orchestra was used as an excuse to highlight the singer. The musicians, including the director, were mere side dishes for a more or less popular divo. According to him, tango is essentially music, therefore the human voice should be considered another instrument of the orchestra.

The most relevant fact that consolidates the orchestra´s musical style is the addition of pianist Rodolfo Biagi (alias “manos brujas”) in 1935. He changes the compass of the orchestra (from 4×8 to 2×4) giving it a personal stamp: feverish, powerful and danceable. He also highlighted the piano´s higher pitch, accentuating the rhythm.

Another characteristic that this orchestra portrayed, besides the piano´s distinctive sound, was the low pitch accentuation of the violin´s fourth string, resembling a viola or a cello.

The directing method was less than orthodox: he used his bare hands (he used to say that it was due to the fact that they are more expressive in this way), his fingers, his arms, his eyes, even his full corporal language. He said: “I do not act this way for the public to notice ,e. Don’t get me wrong. I just live it in this way. A look has a meaning. This are is my natural body language when I notice an instrument is out of tune or gets distracted. To get he back on track I encourage him”. According to some haters, he was a mixture of patriarchal dictator, a gymnast and an articulated doll. His actions on stage seem like an absurd choreography.

In July 1938, Biagi leaves the orchestra and pianist Juan Polito replaces him, keeping the style but increasing the speed, up to 1941. The rhythm and the live accents prevail over the melody. The bandoneons are on top (six), violins (4) and piano plays a key role in completing the rhythmic structure.

From 1942 onwards, the tendency of the rhythm and speed change highlighting the musical phrases. This time, it is D´Arienzo who would adopt and follow the new era tendencies, slowing the tempo and leveling the melody with the rhythm. Héctor Mauré plays a key role in this change due to the continuity of his phrases. He flies through the compasses with a strange talent, contributing to the equilibrium between melody and rhythm.

Later, the style is maintained while the speed is slightly higher (lower since 1942). This raise in speed would continue for a long time, and would depend on the tango that was interpreted, but it would not follow a strong tendency, as it did before.

In 1950, the orchestra alters its style due to the departure of the bandoneon player and composer Héctor Varela, who left to create his own group. The new composer, piano player Fulvio Salamanca, makes a new change in the group´s style, making the music more compass-flow  to dance and listen.

In 1957, the departure of pianist and composer Fulvio Salamanca and the return of pianist Juan Polito is reflected on a change of style. From this moment onwards, up to 1975, musical arrangements would be in charge of bandoneon player Carlos Lazzari. The singers Alberto Echagüe (who would return in 1968) and Armando Laborde (who would return in 1964) abandon their places, being replaced by Mario Bustos and Jorge Valdez. This would mean a great success for these two, highlighting them with longer singing parts and more present voices, at the same time confronting the “Rey del Compás” idea back ine1949 : “The human voice is not and should not be other than an orchestra´s instrument. Sacrificing everything in favor of the singer, the divo, is a mistake “.

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