Héctor Ángel Benedetti

Ignacio Corsini’s «Federal Cycle»

gnacio Corsini’s discography embraces almost six hundred and fifty different numbers in all genres, and yet the principal memory that people keep about him (encouraged by the singer himself, who in this way wanted to be remembered) is thanks to the recordings of what may be defined as the «Federal Cycle»: a bunch of songs with historical overtones whose main authors were the poet Héctor Blomberg and the guitarist Enrique Maciel. It is not exhausted in its compositions but it goes back and forth in time with a suggestive complexity which was scarcely researched.

The issue of Federals and Unitarians appeared very early in different Argentine literary pieces. The first novels, all of them in the 1850s (Amalia, by Mármol; La huérfana de Pago Largo, by López Torres; El prisionero de Santos Lugares, by Barbará; Los mártires de Buenos Aires, by Nieves...), soon originated an impressive output in theater, poetry, biographical sketches, songs, etc.; written with a varying passion and recreating historical characters like Manuelita Rosas, Camila O'Gorman, Ciriaco Cuitiño, Facundo Quiroga, Manuel Dorrego, Juan Lavalle and many others from reality or fiction.

Phonographs picked up and expanded these plots. To put together a complete catalogue would be an arduous task; Corsini turned out the most popular performer of this material but songs and scenes about this subject matter were committed to disc since the early days of the recording industry. Artists contemporary with Ignacio Corsini, like Carlos Gardel, Agustín Magaldi, Charlo, Ada Falcón and Lito Más —to mention just a handful— also left analogue pieces but those played by the former are more widely known, especially those written by Blomberg and Maciel.

When we analyze his discography, we find that one of his early discs already contained a song of this type but the performer was another artist. It is the Victor Record disc Nº 63.711, which on its A side has the waltz “Noche silenciosa” by Corsini; on the B side, by the singer Diego Munilla, appears the song “Fusilamiento de Luro”. It dates back to 1912. But as it corresponds to the recording of another artist, this faraway antecedent is, in fact, accidental: here, the interesting thing about “Fusilamiento de Luro” is that it is placed on the other side of the second disc by Corsini.

In reality, the «Federal Cycle» effectively begins with the most widely known piece written by Blomberg and Maciel: “La pulpera de Santa Lucía”, which Corsini recorded on five occasions (with extended matrices on April 22, May 22 and June 19, 1929). We know that three were originally released, always under the same disc number: Nacional Odeón Nº 18.582, side B. History tells us about a troubled premiere and nearly without expectations; its authors did not foretell that this waltz would become an exceptional «popular signature tune» with a constant demand for four lustrums.

It is worth noting that Corsini recorded immediately before no less than the tango “La mazorquera de Monserrat”, written by the same authors; but due to its importance we have to consider “La pulpera de Santa Lucía” as the true opening of the «Cycle». And furthermore, the disc is the same: “La mazorquera de Monserrat” is on the A side.

The poems in which Blomberg speaks about the Rosas’s period were mostly compiled in his book Canciones históricas (Buenos Aires, 1935; Editorial Tor), by checking previous publications in magazines or in other poem collections. It is common to find interesting modifications depending on what we research, if it is a magazine, a sheet music, a recording or books: additional or missing lines, changes of words, variations in the order of the stanzas, etc.

After the boom of “La pulpera de Santa Lucía” and “La mazorquera de Monserrat”, the following recording with Federals and Unitarians in Corsini's discography does not belong to Blomberg and Maciel but to Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores, Carlos Max Viale and Vicente Retta: it is the waltz “La Virgen del Perdón” (October 18, 1929). Either Viale or Retta had collaborated with Blomberg in scripts that depicted the days of Rosas. Another number also with music by Geroni Flores, now with lyrics by Juan Sarcione would follow: “El gato federal” (December 19, 1929; January 14 and August 13, 1930), but it was not released.

Soon the Blomberg and Maciel team returned with the waltz “La guitarrera de San Nicolás” (March 7 and April 7, 1930) and, months later, with another waltz: “Tirana unitaria” (November 15, 1930). There is no need to say that Corsini, meanwhile, recorded other pieces by Blomberg and Maciel, of a different subject matter; furthermore, the singer performed on the radio other songs about the Federation which were never waxed.

More than a year later Corsini cut a magnificent recording of “El hijo del federal”, a song by Carlos Franzino, Pascual Botti and Domingo Vassalotti (December 30, 1931).

Later a striking event took place: Corsini recorded José Lojo's waltz “El payador de San Telmo” (March 4, 1932), which clearly is the «second part» of “La pulpera de Santa Lucía”. Blomberg, who had never allowed a continuation of his piece, published in 1938 a series of short novels to tell the «true story» of the famous general store blonde keeper with light blue eyes, whom he finally named: she turned out to be Dionisia Miranda, daughter of the sergeant Juan de Dios Miranda who had died in the Oribe's wars.

But the happy combination Blomberg-Maciel-Corsini continued after the incident in 1932: in that same year the singer cut the waltz “La bordadora de San Telmo”, written by Blomberg, Maciel and Viale (September 8), and days later the beautiful song “Los jazmines de San Ignacio” (October 22).

Months later the waltz “Patiecito colonial”, written by José de la Vega and Carlos Bardi (March 16, 1933) was released. This song only briefly mentions the Federation, but anyhow it is worthwhile to include it. Corsini's collectors regard it as one of the records most difficult to find. It's necessary to clear out that always its author Carlos Bardi was mistaken for the well-known composer Agustín Bardi, but just by reading the disc label you can solve the mistake.

Corsini soon returned to Blomberg and Maciel. He did it with the waltz “La canción de Amalia” (September 8, 1933), but for the following, late and last number of the «Cycle» there was an interval of more than five years: it would be “China de la mazorca” (March 15, 1939).

Shaped along a decade (although not in a regular way), and with thirteen songs of different rhythms and authors, this «Federal Cycle» brings to the artistic history of Ignacio Corsini an attractive topic that deserves, either due to its quality of interpretation or its descriptive details, a review that would not be pigeonholed.