Héctor Ángel Benedetti

The Gath & Chaves shop also released records

mong the record companies that were active during the acoustical period, one of the most outstanding (not because of a varied repertoire or a long career but due to its strong presence from a historic point of view) was Gath & Chaves.

It was run by the commerce of the same name: the Gath & Chaves shop, very popular in Buenos Aires (located on the corner of Cangallo —today Tte. Gral. Juan D. Perón— and Florida), with branches in several cities of the interior of the country. The variety of products that it offered, paying permanent attention to imported novelties and the efficient advise of a legion of employees, plus an accurate advertising policy, had quickly placed its shops as an unavoidable reference for varied quantity, quality and service. It was no exaggeration to say that you could enter Gath & Chaves naked and would get out completely furnished.

The entrepreneurs Alfredo Gath (1852-1936) and Lorenzo Chaves (1854-1932) had interests in different places in the world, and records were one of their many businesses in Europe and America.

The recordings were not made in Argentina but in France; and even though some usually date their appearance in 1907 (when one of the few artists of the label, the Gobbis, traveled to Paris), some clues indicate that the recordings would be made only after 1909.

The Gath & Chaves discs were of a diameter of twenty-seven centimeters: two more than the standard size. This makes them today, regarding them with analytical eyes, discs somewhat peculiar for the standards of that epoch.

The Gath & Chaves records bore no disc number, but side-matrix number: in other words, the same matrix number was used to number the disc-side. Each record, then, had two numbers: one for each side. This system was frequent in the labels of the first stage of the Argentine record industry: it was used by Phono d'Art, Scala-Record, Chantecler, Favorite Record, Fonogramas Marconi, Gloria, Homokord, Victoria-Record, Beka-Grand-Record, Avelino Cabezas, Homophon Company G.M.B.H. and some others.

As for these side-matrix numbers, the researcher of our national music is interested, especially, in two serials. The first corresponds to recordings by Alfredo Eusebio Gobbi and his wife; it begins in 4.500, stops around 4.705 and reappears in 4.800 and continues up to 4.922, approximately. The second serial belongs to recordings made by the Band of the Republican Guard of Paris and by other Orchestra not identified; it starts in 200 and goes up to about 280. As you can see they would be a little over two hundred discs, corresponding only to three artists.

The composer and player Ángel Villoldo also went to Paris to cut recordings for this company but he apparently didn’t. Or at least they were not released; but in fact Villoldo’s records in Gath & Chaves were never seen. However, in their book La historia del tango: sus autores (1936), the cousins Héctor Bates and Luis Bates say that they did exist (cf. pages 200 and 356). This led to the fact that still today some «historians» continue repeating that information without checking it and without taking into account that not even a record was ever released.

The labels of the record company had a background in light green color or white with blue details, with brown and black letters; near the edge it was very noticeably written «Buenos-Ayres» (above), «Paris» (left-below) and «Santiago de Chile» or «New-York» (right-below). The name «Gath & Chaves» appeared above the hole, within a white space. On the label, side-matrix number was placed to the right of the hole. From time to time we find the color of some label withered toward a yellowish coloration, because of the passing of time and chemical agents.

The name of the author very rarely appeared. The resource to make him appear on the credits was another: at the beginning of the recording he was simply mentioned in a loud voice together with other data of the recording. This practice of audio «announcing» was soon abandoned and only would it be unearthed in 1932, with the last discs released by the Brunswick company.

As a whole, the numbers recorded in Gath & Chaves denote a period of transition within the so-called Guardia Vieja. Tango was still played by fanfarrias (sort of brass bands), most times submitting the classic image of the brass and woodwind ensemble in uniform at the plaza of a park; but already some patterns in style foretell the imminent advent of the tango orchestra, which would take place soon later with Vicente Greco or Juan Maglio.

Among the most well-remembered titles recorded on these discs it's worthwhile to mention the Villoldo's compositions, such as ”Cuidado con los 50”, “El Porteñito” and “El choclo”; Manuel Campoamor's, like “El Sargento Cabral”, “Gallo viejo” and “La c...ara de la l...una”; Rosendo Mendizábal's, like “El entrerriano”, “Z Club” and “Reina de Saba”; also pieces written or collected by the Gobbis; Juan Bergamino's tangos (“Joaquina”), Feliciano Latasa (“Gran Hotel Victoria (Hotel Victoria)”), Enrique Saborido (“La morocha”), Ernesto Ponzio (“Don Juan (El taita del barrio)”); as well as national anthems, patriotic marches, mazurkas, maxixas, pericones, waltzes and so on.

Gath & Chaves as well published recordings of operatic repertoire under a serial 6.000 (tenor Carlo Albani, Albani-Costa duo), with a label exact as the one described. These records had not a wide distribution in Argentina.

As a curiosity, it is worthwhile to say that there is information about a disc with a Gath & Chaves label that does not match any of its parameters: it's a diameter of twenty-five centimeters, it has a matrix of the serial 20.000 of Polyphon Records (the recording artist is Prof. Raffaelle Moreno - Bruder) and, furthermore, a disc number that also belongs to the Polyphon series.

Addenda: One way, not completely correct, (and, however, common) of citing the name of this record label is to write Gath y Chaves. It has to be written with the ampersand symbol (&), as is printed on the labels. Contrarily to what many think, the & symbol is not of English origin but Latin: it represents the conjunction et whose meaning is and.