Arcieri, a typical ”Unknown Soldier”

As you might have noticed in my previous articles, a recurrent theme I like to place emphasis on is how incomplete our vision on Golden Age tango music is. This vision has been mostly defined by the actual recordings that were made and can still be listened to today. While in some cases the ”privilege” of studio recording does reflect who the most succesful and popular artists were, I can easily list some utterly painful cases in which there aren’t really any acceptable reasons as to why so much creative and high quality music has been lost forever. For example, in early 1940, D’Arienzo was deserted by all of his musicians, and the pianist, Juan Polito, went on to lead a key orchestra for several years that included D’Arienzo’s star singer Alberto Echagüe. Nothing was recorded.

I could easily list other examples, such as Troilo only being able to record 2 songs from 1938 until 1941, but for now, let’s focus on one specific and more obscure example of what we are missing out on. The photo below shows the orchestra of a certain Antonio Arcieri around 1935 and perhaps the most surprising element here is that the aforementioned Alberto Echagüe was its singer. Just a few years later, Echagüe would become one of the pillars of D’Arienzo’s powerful musical revolution that had begun gaining traction in 1935 and would foster a Golden Age for all the main tango orchestras. The few existing internet biographies don’t mention Arcieri’s orchestra in Echagüe’s career, so it might have just been a short stint, or… we’re once again dealing with something that simply hasn’t been documented all too well.

(article continues below photo….)

antonio arcieri con echague

What makes this story even more confusing is that the (scarce and short) available articles about Antonio Arcieri don’t even mention the existence of his own orchestra around these key years of tango music history. A very interesting thing we do find however, is that all these bios mention Arcieri being a violinist in Ricardo Tanturi’s musical endeavours starting somewhere in 1920s and continuing throughout the 1930s and 1940s. This basically means Arcieri went on to play an important role in one of the classic Golden Age orchestras. But it also means that it’s quite possible that when Arcieri was leading his own orchestra, his style was similar to Tanturi’s. That’s an important conclusion, because beyond all this speculation, in one rare track we can actually hear how Tanturi’s orchestra sounded like in the early Golden Age! Exciting, right? I’ve always found it quite different from conventional Tanturi just a few years later, and yet, also positively similar and mature.

So, why is this important? I tend to argue that towards the rise of the Golden Age or perhaps even a few years before that, the main tango orchestras started developing a more mature and distinct musical style for their orchestras, whereas until more or less 1933 most of the orchestras pretty much sounded alike (this is the part the article where Theresa Faus is scripted to get totally tilted). In essence, that’s why I would have loved to hear how Arcieri’s orchestra, possibly similar to Tanturi’s, could have sounded like, especially with a singer of a caliber like Echagüe. But the sad conclusion is that we will never know, just like due to the lack of recordings, we can barely hear how Tanturi’s orchestra sounded like before 1940. And this is a pattern we see happening with several Golden Age orchestras (or singers who went solo and made actual music for dancing too) that became much more free to record music in the late 1940s, when the special excitement of the Golden Age years was all over and done with.

And yet, as a conclusion, fortunately there’s a small consolation for those wondering how Antonio Arcieri’s orchestra sounded like, because at least he did leave us one tango (head phone users beware of an annoying glitch at 0:16) in 1944 with Juan Carlos Miranda, who was arguably Lucio Demare’s best singer in the years before that. And you know what the funny thing is? To me, actually this song kinda reminds me of Tanturi before 1940. So, can you imagine this style with Echagüe as a singer? That’s some pretty cool stuff, right? At least you have the power of your imagination.

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1 Response to Arcieri, a typical ”Unknown Soldier”

  1. jantango says:

    There were so many orquestas tipicas that only the very best were selected for recording contracts, and only after their tunes were applauded by the dancers. Alas, so many of them will never be heard.

    Thanks for getting back to your research and writing these posts to further our knowledge of these hidden gems in tango history. It’s the first time I’ve heard of Ancieri. I found the recording appealing for dancers, but a DJ would have to mix it in a tanda with Tanturi recordings.

    Liked by 1 person

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