An afterthought to the previous post. I knew that tango was recorded from 1910 onwards, and read names of recorded artists – Juan Maglio, Eduardo Arolas, Agustín Bardi, Genaro Expósito – but never thought I'd come across the recordings. But recently I did.
The career of Eduardo Arolas started around 1911. He played guitar and then bandoneon, and became known as the 'bandoneon tiger' at a time when the bandoneon was supplanting the guitar. Here's a (literally) old favourite he recorded in 1913, Lagrimas y sonrisas. 1913: just short of a century ago. It sounds like a quartet: guitar, bandoneon, violin and flute. I love the controlled accelerando. Perhaps these are the performers: that's Arolas with the bandoneon.
By 1917 he had his own orquesta and invited Julio de Caro to join him. He had a head full of tunes and arrangements: with incredible melodic creativity in a few years he wrote over 100 tangos, including Adios Buenos Aires. It's still wonderfully fresh.
[These links open .mp3 tracks in another site, but two of the best antivirus programmes both assure me there are no dangers in the site.]
But his great success didn't last. He was a 'troubled artist': she ran off with his elder brother, and he descended into drink. He died of TB, an alcoholic, in Paris, in 1924. He was just 32.
You have to be patient with the recording quality. Microphones didn't begin to be used until the mid-1920s, the technology that lead quickly to the talkies. Arolas and his band must have played in front of a big horn, as a needle transcribed his music onto a wax disk.