Bandoneon – Rómulo Larrea
Contrabass, Double Bass – René Gosselin
Piano – Richard Hunt
Violone, Violin – Adolfo Bornstein
Back in 1921 when Rudolph Valentino danced the tango in the film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse audiences gasped in shocked amazement at the decadence of it all. Believe me, they didn't know the half of it. The tango was originally danced by men without female partners; it was the dance of unloved men. These gents would perform the dance in barrooms and on the streets of Buenos Aires. Soon, however, an edict was passed by the then-mayor of the city which forbade men to dance together.
By 1900 Argentina had a veritable swarm of European immigrants. As a matter of fact, the ratio of native Argentinians to immigrants was just about 2: I. Not surprisingly, then, the tango waltzed its way into Europe not much later. In 1913 Cardinal Amette of Paris was livid when he said, "Christians should not in good conscience take part in it." In England it was "a dance of moral death." All of this clerical concern piqued the interest of Pope Pius IX, who ordered a command performance from Kasmiro Ain, the premiere danseurde-tango. But it was still banned in Argentina.
In the years before WWI the tango found its way to the United States and Central Europe and became the utmost rage in the ballrooms and on the stage. At England's Gaiety Theatre it was performed by Phyllis Dare and George Grossmith, and in the States Irene and Vernon Castle showed 'em how. When Valentino danced the tango on screen a most exotic version was born, and it is that tango of which we think most when the dance comes to mind.
The choreography of this version is most erotic and, to say the least, criminally chauvinistic. The mannerisms and style of the tango reflect the postures of the Don Juan type who was a most popular pimp in the early Buenos Aires barrios: the straight upper body of the male dancer moving in the smooth pattern of Creole knife dueling. The major theme of the tango, a dance of couples, displays obvious domination of male over female in a very close embrace highly suggestive of the sexual act. Highly characteristic is the very active male and the most passive female. J.M. Taylor, in his 1976 publication Tango: Theme of Class and Nation, interpreted this as "a danced statement of machismo, confidence, and sexual optimism." By that time it had been legalized in Argentina.
Musically, the tango has a fascinating construction. It has the habit of five notes, often of equal value, sometimes a dotted 16th note, a 32nd note, and a triplet of 16th notes against four notes in the accompaniment--and sometimes just the opposite! Certainly other varieties of similar nature are used, combined with the Spanish harmonic styles of composition. Structurally, the original tangos were in three-part form, but by 1915, the two-part form began to dominate. Delfino (1895-1967), who was to the tango what Gershwin was to jazz, laid down the generally accepted form for the tango: two parts of equal length (14-20 bars), the second usually in the dominant or relative minor of the main key.
The first ensembles to perform tangos were trios, usually consisting of violin, guitar, and flute. In 1900 the newer trio comprised violin and piano, and bandoneon: a diatonic accordion with 38 keys for the high and middle notes and 33 for the lower register. Add a bass violin to this and the most thrilling sound is produced.
Such is the result with Quartango. Nine thrilling, fascinating, authentically played and beautifully recorded tangos are offered here. Among them are at least three you almost certainly know: "La cumparsita," "Jalousie," and "El choclo," popular here in the I 950s as "Kiss of Fire." If I gush over this release I do so unashamedly. Indulge yourself in the lasciviousness and decadence of the tango. Go ahead, don't be afraid-all MHS releases are sent in plain brown wrappers.