Tango recordings

Record collectorsTango has its collectors, and I’m not talking about step collectors.  There are a few private collections of phonograph records in distinct formats.  There was a time when only 10,000 copies were made of recordings.  It’s no wonder that many recordings are lost.

It is estimated that only a mere ten percent or so of all tangos written were ever recorded.  Mauricio Diaz, Carlos Puente, and Bruno Cespi are three generations of collectors.  During a presentation at the Festival Tango Buenos Aires, we heard a 78rpm recording of Atlanta by Roberto Firpo (1914) and Orquesta Carabelli of 1932.

Bruno Cespi and Gabriel Soria

Bruno Cespi has a large collection of photographs and scores.  He brought some of his collection which included three ID cards of Carlos Gardel.  His oldest score is from 1925.  The back covers of sheet music provide titles of tangos that were never recorded.

I met Mr. Cespi in July 2003 during my first visit to Club Glorias Argentinas in Mataderos.  He told me he was 74, and I thought he should be interviewed.  He organized a milonga in Club Social y Deportivo Buenos Aires and provided music from his 78rpm record collection.  He was finally invited to the Festival Buenos Aires Tango.  Mr. Cespi carried his precious scores and cards of Gardel in a paper shopping bag to the conference.  [He died on July 21, 2011 at the age of 86]

If you want to build your own music library of tango recordings and don’tHector Benedetti & Pablo Ochoa know where to begin, Héctor Ángel Benedetti has published a guide to help you get started.  Tango 101 Discos (Editorial Sudamericana) is the essential guide to achieving the ideal record collection.  He offers a catalog of must-have artists, analyzes their main features and selects the best album for each one.  You won’t end up with duplicate recordings from different albums.  He even uses icons to indicate those with lunfardo and those which are danceable.

The most ambitious project ever undertaken for the preservation of tango is a tango digital archive of thousands of recordings, photographs, scores, musical arrangements and films.  Ignacio Varchausky, director of Orquesta El Arranque and artistic director of Orquesta Escuela del Tango Emilio Balcarce, has been working for three years with a team of collectors, restorers and digitalizers in order to create the archive which will have a complete history of tango in a data base in a high quality format.  TangoVia Buenos Aires needs to raise a million dollars in order to complete this important project for tango’s future.  Time is running out on some of the recordings which will be gone forever if not preserved.  A fundraising campaign will make it possible for tango lovers around the world to contribute to this project.  The archive will be accessable to all.

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