Héctor Ángel Benedetti

Orquesta Típica Brunswick

rom the very beginnings of the recording industry, several record companies had their own orchestras or small groups whose only purpose was to cut recordings and, consequently, they made no public appearances. Already in the 10s, a period when, among others, the Orquesta Columbia and the Orquesta Polyphon appeared, this was more or less frequent. In spite of these far distant antecedents, it was in the 20s and 30s when they multiplied and each company launched their aggregations lined up by musicians that also were members of other orchestras of the same label. They only met for recording dates.

The most widely known were, undoubtedly, those formed by the Victor company, which since its succesful Orquesta Típica Victor —with a long and heterogeneous career from 1925 to 1944— produced other “private” orchestras like the Victor Popular, Victor Argentina, Victor de Salón, Victor de la Guardia Vieja, Radio Victor Argentina, etc. Probably more than once the same musicians were gathered under different group names. To look for any of their public performances is a vain effort: they only existed on record.

Between the twenties and the thirties the Brunswick company came to Argentina and the Columbia company returned. These two new labels, ready to vie for the hegemony that Victor and Odeon had in the local market, also introduced their own orchestras. But while the Típica Columbia preferred a varied repertory, which only included tangos from time to time, the Típica Brunswick was more specifically devoted to this rhythm, hence, its big importance for the genre.

The Orquesta Típica Brunswick began its series (numbering the discs from 1.801) in the mid- 1929. The recording dates are unknown because the documents of the company were lost. But the first advertisement on papers dates back to July 1929 and this already allows us to place it in time, estimating that the recording must have been made at least two or three months earlier.

At the beginning it was led by Pedro Maffia. By that time this bandoneonist was very busy and, in fact, he was already recording with his own orchestra. It is not a surprise, then, that due to the many engagements of Mafia, the Típica Brunswick had to interrupt temporarily its series after having released only two copies to reappear in the mid- 1930 led by another great director: the pianist Juan Polito.

Although it is said that Polito began to lead this orchestra in 1932, he was, in fact, already leading it two years before. As some time in 1932 the company had begun to vocally “announce” each recording, because of that only in recordings of this year we can hear that before a rendition somebody says, for example: “Mariposa de ilusión. Tango. Gran Orquesta Brunswick. Dirección: Juan Polito.” But even though it was not announced, Polito had already been conducting it since 1930, after that brief starting leadership by Maffia.

With Polito’s arrival the recordings of the Típica Brunswick not only started again but also continued regularly until a little before the company’s closure in the late 1932. During this period the orchestra released over forty records, and some of its matrices were even issued outside Argentina.

The Típica Brunswick’s repertoire included renderings of numbers that were hits by singers in the same label. Of those committed to record by Agustín Magaldi (exclusive artist of Brunswick by that time), the orchestra recorded tangos such as “El penado 14”, “Carne y uña”, “Inspiración” and “Arreando”, the fox trot “Beatriz” and the maxixa “Pueblito mío”. From Azucena Maizani’s songbook it released tangos such as “Brochazos”, “Chamuyando” and “Pensalo, muchacho”. A good exercise is to compare these renditions, especially taking into account that, save for a couple of cases, these pieces had a few recordings.

Even though the recordings were mainly instrumentals, the Típica Brunswick used to include estribillistas (refrain singers). Through its ranks passed Antonio Rodríguez Lesende, Carlos Viván, Teófilo Ibáñez and Luis Díaz (the most recorded, twenty-three recordings). All them linked to the recording company because they were vocalists of other groups associated with the label: Pedro Maffia, Ricardo Brignolo, Osvaldo Fresedo, Julio De Caro, Edgardo Donato, Donato-Zerrillo. Sometimes the teaming was inverted, so we find, for example, recordings by Luis Díaz accompanied by the Orquesta Típica Brunswick.

Like in many of the orchestras of those years, from time to time a little oddity was allowed in the Típica Brunswick. Such is the case of "Chamuyando", tango by A. Pérez (disc 1.809 side B), which features the playing of a musical saw. Or "Se fini", tango by Eugenio Nobile (disc 1.831 side A), whose arrangement presents a swing rather different to what is customary. Or "Quejas de bandoneón" (disc 1.824 side A) which features a Hawaiian guitar. But they were far from intending to make experiments with other sounds, like Julio De Caro used to do; the Típica Brunswick just tried to offer some kind of change between one record and the other.

One of its best recordings is the tango "Raquel", composed by Osvaldo Donato (disc 1.831 side A), released in 1931. It clearly shows us their patterns: a marked beat, the piano player is constantly showcased, a "full" sound with legato notes... and a slight difference with other orchestras of that time. But even though it did not stand out because of its originality, the Típica Brunswick had other values, based on the proficiency of its players: they were all professionals of high level, outstanding members of the other outfits of the label. Assembled under the coherent leadership of Polito, we can even notice a remarkable evolution between the recordings of the beginning and the last ones.

The orchestra as well released in 1931 a 30 cm disc (disc 8, with a different numbering to the serial) including on side A the waltz "A su memoria", composed by Antonio Sureda and Homero Manzi, with Teófilo Ibáñez on vocals; and on side B the Gerardo Matos Rodríguez's tango "La cumparsita" in instrumental version. Without deviating from the style set up by the Típica Brunswick (greatly influenced by the use in vogue at that time), both pieces had more polished arrangements, in which we can appreciate expressive introductions, beautiful violin solos and long bandoneon variations.

Although it had neither the long career of similar groups nor the popularity it ought to have deserved because of its qualities, the Orquesta Típica Brunswick is still an interesting reference of those years of transition.