The Strange Case of
Don and Mr. Esteban
Why is there
only one recording of "Don Esteban" listed as obviously two
different recordings can be found on CD editions ?
But now, thanks to my good friend César from Montevideo, some audio material arrived - taken from original 78 rpm records from the collection of Sr. Jorge Debroque, also from Montevideo - which allows to shed some more light on this issue. Muchas gracias César y Jorge...
To have the picture complete, I needed one more recording (from the RCA Victor series "Tango de ayer") which was kindly provided by Luis Mora from Medellin, Colombia. Muchas gracias Luis...
1) Recording and edition history (RCA-Victor)
"Don Esteban", by Augusto Berto, is dedicated to Esteban Benza, secretary (escribano) of the "Z Club", an association (ca. 1900-1910) which organized dance evenings in the "Casa María la Vasca". Pianist (and composer) Rosendo Mendizábal was one of its members.
The tango was recorded by the D'Arienzo orchestra on the 3rd of July, 1936 (master number 93238). That same day, the orchestra recorded the vals "No Llores Madre" (master number 93239). Both recordings were edited by Victor on the record numbered 37955.
The only other 78 rpm edition I know of is an Uruguayan record in the series "Festival D'Arienzo 1961", number 1A-5033 (together with "Culpas Ajenas" from 1942). On the label, the master number 93238 is mentioned which corresponds to the 03-07-1936 recording. My Uruguayan friends refer to this record as the Edición Casa Morixe (the Casa Morixe distributed the Victor recordings in Montevideo).
Many D'Arienzo 78 rpm recordings have been reedited on LP by RCA Victor, e.g. in the RCA-Camden series, "para coleccionistas" , from the early seventies, but to the best of my knowledge (I may have missed one) "Don Esteban" was not included there. However, it was reedited in the 10 LP-set "Serie Tango de Ayer" (1980): Vol. 3, Juan D'Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica, con Rodolfo Biagi al piano (1936-1938) (TA-4803). Again explicit reference is made to the original record 37955, recorded on 03-07-1936. This LP also includes "No llores madre", the only reedition by Victor of the original B-side that I know of.
"Don Esteban" is absent in the modern CD editions (like the series "Tango Argentino" or "D'Arienzo - 70 años") by Sony-BMG, who owns the Victor catalog. The same holds for "No Lllores Madre". Very likely the original masters belonged to those deliberately destroyed and are now lost forever.
|2) Third party CD Editions
For more determined collectioners one more edition exists (although less readily available). It belongs to the comprehensive D'Arienzo collection by Akihito Baba. The CTA-302 CD was edited in 1998 but, already in the eighties, earlier editions must have existed on cassette tape.
Now the problems starts... Many have observed that the Baba edition was different from the 3 commercial editions mentioned earlier.
Baba mentions the source of his material: original 78 rpm records ("...esta grabación ha sido realizada en Japón con discos originales..."). So this must be the genuine and original version ? A human error in a collection of 1000 recordings cannot be excluded (there's one in a similar Canaro collection) ? I am glad that I can now confirm that this is indeed Victor-37955 by comparing it to the audio obtained from a record from an independent source.
But then, what about the version on the commercial CDs ? This came as a big surprise to me: they can now be traced back to the Edición Casa Morixe -record from 1961 !!! In spite of carrying the master number 93238 on its label, the recording is different from the original 37955 record.
If the mistery is not yet solved completely, it is sufficiently pushed back in time so that we can now exclude a cut-and-paste reconstruction from the nineties (as I once suspected). And it is also this version which was reused many years later on the Serie Tango de Ayer-LP (by the way: "No Llores Madre" on this LP corresponds to the one on El Bandoneón n°84).
|3) The two recordings compared
Here's my attempt to juxtapose the two recordings visually:
I have labeled the sections by the most prominent instrument, but as the full orchestra is rarely really silenced this is sometimes subjective.
Even the sections that look structurally similar (like the o-v-b-o at the start) may be different in details (the CTA version has some piano beats which are absent in the others). Other sections are strikingly similar but occur at different positions (like the final o-v-b-b in the first and the o-v-b-b at 10-13 in the second).
The two piano sections in the second half (15 & 19) made it particularly easy to differentiate the 2 versions.
There can be little doubt that the 2 versions must have been recorded around the same time (which, according to the recording practices of that time, could mean: on the same day). However, the differences between the two arrangments are, all things considered, minor, and one may wonder if in those years they would have justified 2 recordings. Only a few more cases come to mind - with more drastic adaptations - like the recordings of "Sos Una Fiera" by Di Sarli (1929) - once instrumental, once with estribillista or "Seguí, No te Parés" by Donato-Zerrillo (also 1929 but for the Brunswick label) - one featuring bandoneons, the other violins as the main instruments. Nevertheless, the facts are what they are and we have to accept them.
One more remarkable detail: the infamous destruction of original masters by Ricardo Mejia is generally situated in the "early sixties" without further detail. Therefore, it could be that the editors of the "Festival D'Arienzo 1961" series have rescued this version... just in time....
"Festival D'Arienzo 1961"
Those are the records that I could identify as belonging to the series "Festival D'Arienzo 1961"
The number between brackets is the master number as mentioned on the records.
The 1A-xxxx series is not exclusively reserved for Uruguayan editions. Some were edited, with the same edition numbers and content (but with characteristic label colours), by both RCA-Victor Industria Argentina and RCA-Victor Industria Uruguaya. Those belonging to the "Festival D'Arienzo 1961" series however seem to be exlusively Uruguayan. If they form, as it appears, a continuous 1A-50xx series, then there are still many gaps to fill. Some of the recordings in this series have never been edited on CD, other than in the Baba collection.