The Sounds of the Centennial
hat follows is only a brief sketch of the most important and curious aspects related to musical sounds arising with the celebrations of the first patriotic Centennial of the Revolution of May 1810.
The tango was a consolidated porteña dance and the bandoneón had managed to be placed proudly in the hands of excellent musicians in order to define, with pure art, its melodic and rhythmic personality.
Both bands and "rondallas" having a prominent place in the last quarter of the 19th century, were still in vogue, giving performances of popular genres, classical music concerts, opera excerpts which were very much in demand by the Italian community settled in Buenos Aires.
All bands in 1910 included in their repertoire a great number of tangos like the ever-present: “El choclo” and “La morocha”, together with “El otario”, “Ni fósforos”, “Joaquina”, “El entrerriano”, “Don Juan”, “La catrera”, “El Porteñito” and many more. They completed their repertoire with mazurkas, waltzes, maxixas, native airs, zarzuela tunes and the unavoidable Franz Lehar´s “Merry Widow”.
That year many bands stood out, due to their plentiful work: the Federal Police Band conducted by Felix Rizzuti, father of the pianist, composer and leader José Maria Rizzuti; the Banda Municipal de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires City Municipal Band) founded that same year and conducted by Antonio Malvagni; the Pabellón de las Rosas and the Parque Japonés bands (Pavilion of Roses Band and the Japanese Park Band) —both of them conducted by Gaetano D'Alo— who, with the latter, participated in the carnival opening of the park ballroom.
Rondallas entertained, mainly in balls organized by Spanish collectivities; their musicians played all kind of string instruments: José Vázquez, Bretón and Prudencio Aragón rondallas. As well as bands, rondallas played tangos and they produced a large number of records.
In the academias, which were merely places to dance, and had barrel organs, pianolas and orquestones that worked with tokens paid by the dancers. These mechanical music machines were mainly manufactured in Italy, Germany and France and were provided with wood or bronze cylinders. Pins or metal tongues appropriately arranged jutted out from the surface, each of them representing the adequate musical note so that when the cylinder was revolved a complete turn, the mechanism was set and the chosen tune played.
One of the most requested pieces of music was “La Brasilera”, habanera by Arche and it was present in many of these machines.
Piano, duets, trios, quartets and quintets formed by musicians such as flutists, violinists and mainly bandoneón players were replacing these automatic musical instruments which had appeared in the previous century.
The street barrel organ had a different fate; the player wandered around neighborhoods while carrying the instrument hanging from a thick leather rope placed on his back and when the bellows vibrated, melodies in tango, waltzes and zarzuela pieces were heard and enjoyed by adults and kids. The barrel organ player had the honor of having been in charge of spreading music in a direct way and had a great popularity among people since the times when the first license had been granted to the first Italian barrel organ player in 1842.
In 1910 the Infanta Isabel of Spain arrived in Buenos Aires to attend the patriotic celebrations, Vicente Greco dedicated to her a tango he composed: “La Infanta”.
Something similar happened when Guglielmo Marconi, already in these shores, that same year successfully completed the first telegraphic communication from Europe to Buenos Aires and Alfredo Bevilacqua composed and dedicated to the former his tango “Marconi”.
1910 saw with pleasure musicians, music machines, barrel organ players living harmoniously together with the young and proud talking machines playing back cylinders and records: phonographs and gramophones, still blossoming scientific wonders, became a significant means of socially spreading artistic events.
This was a commercially successful year for stores selling talking machines with their records or wax cylinders. One of them was José Tagini´s, located on Avenida de Mayo and Perú street where the term «orquesta típica criolla», attributed to Vicente Greco, was born when, at the end of the year, he made the first recording of the tango Rosendo by Genaro Vázquez, at that recording house: an important event.
Hundred of criollo recordings (Argentine music records) of tangos performed by bands and orchestras arrived in Buenos Aires for the celebrations, from France, Paris: the Republican Guard Band and Pathe Band ; from Italy: the Milano Band; from Spain: the Spanish Band; from Germany: the Beka Orchestra and Homokord Band and from the United States: the Edison Band and the Promenade Orchestra.
This is a brief summary of the musical range which people were able to hear in the year 1910.