Sunday, 18 July 2010

Gardel and Goyeneche

NuclearGirl set me thinking a while back when she commented that Gardel was her late-night listening: mine is usually Pugliese, like a good many people I expect. But there is another name, Roberto Goyeneche, who I know primarily from the wonderful Sur album, which is the soundtrack to Solanas' film of that name. It's an album I often come back to, and usually late at night. I wrote about the film earlier.

Listening recently to Sur I was struck that Goyeneche speaks rather than sings, speaks in tune, but it's hardly singing. It's said his voice deteriorated as he aged, but it has such emotional depth I'd not call it deterioration. & I couldn't help thinking how strongly this contrasts with Gardel sixty years earlier, whose passion for bel canto gave tango a new direction. By the time Sur was made, the cultural background of opera and the ordered, prosperous world that supported it must have been a distant dream. The music is so full of anguish, tenderness and loss, and so beautiful, that I never tire of it. It's music that aches with nostalgia for the whole nostalgic tango tradition of the golden age, and speaking, rather than singing, seems appropriate to this new, brutal and impoverished world, 1988, the years after the dictatorship. Goyeneche's style was always a bit declamatory: his voice was rich, expressive and powerfully direct, and his diction wonderfully clear, helped no doubt by better recording technology.

The performers were mainly Nestor Marconi on bandoneon, and Roberto Goyeneche. Marconi plays three solo pieces. The voices of the bandoneon and of Goyeneche complement each other emotionally. Sur, 'South', a tango from the 1940s, is a highlight of the soundtrack and the film, the archetypal tango topic of lost love. It's a beautiful poem and the last line, 'y amargura del sueño que murio' – 'bitterness for the dream that died' – seems to have an added poignancy, given the date of this recording. It's a very potent poem: when talking about emotions in tango, Pedro Sanchez quoted the opening lines of Sur...

'On the corner of San Juan and old Boedo, and all the sky,
Pompeya, and in the distance, the flood,
memories of your loose bride's hair
and your name floating in farewells...'

… and said how he'd identified with this when he was young, and that he dances to it with all his own emotions. I felt he was suggesting that a non-porteno couldn't relate to it, but I'm not sure: we all share emotions of love and loss, and the more we understand the words, the more our own memories and emotions are involved too. (The castellano, and a translation, with a link to Troilo's recording with Edmundo Rivero, are here: I re-worded that verse above from it.)

The album is ascribed to Piazzolla, but it's not performed by him: at most there are a few tracks by him. Most of the songs, such as Sur and Naranjo en Flor, are standards that Troilo recorded much earlier with Goyeneche and others. The film came out in 1988, five years after the end of military rule, when the revival was only just beginning. Troilo and Piazzolla had both been affected by the decline in dancing from the 1950s onwards: in the mid-50s, Troilo started to record as a quartet, while Piazzolla, like Pugliese, began to concentrate on playing listening music rather than dance music. Musicians have to make a living, and perhaps there was no longer the money in dance music. Albums were still being made but the future of that amazing 20th century tradition of Argentine tango can't have looked good at that time.

Roberto Goyeneche, 1926 - 1994.

I checked out YouTube to find if there was a track there of Goyeneche singing Sur, and found that someone has uploaded the entire film, Sur, in 12 10-minute segments. & it's the Spanish version with English subtitles; the songs are partially subtitled. I've seen it only in a version dubbed into German, which regrettably I don't understand. This segment is the opening credits: the music itself, Goyeneche singing Sur, begins about 1:56. Sadly, the uploader has screwed up the aspect ratio, making Goyeneche unrecognisably overweight, and the visual quality is rather poor. The credits attribute the arrangements to Nestor Marconi, and the incidental music to Piazzolla.

I bought the album from Digital 7 (search under Piazzolla) as a download, but Sur is also available for listening on Spotify, which has expanded hugely since I last looked. It now has some 40-odd Troilo CDs you can listen to, ten of them released this year, about 20 Goyeneche albums, most of them released this year, and up to a dozen each of the Golden Age orquestas: some are compilations so they overlap a bit. i-Tunes has even more for purchase. Some of it isn't really music for dancing, but that's the era Goyeneche lived through: some of Goyeneche's albums seem over-generous with strings, and the crisp rhythms of tango aren't really there, unlike the albums he made with his close friend Anibal Troilo.


fernando said...

I am sorry I have to keep correcting your spelling. I enjoy reading your column, but I don't understand why you can't copy a few words in Spanish carefully.
It's Goyeneche; it's Naranjo en Flor, not naranja. Naranja is the fruit, naranjo is the tree, which is blossoming (en flor) in the tango.
By the way, the last Goyeneche is superb, although very avant-garde. I made the mistake of playing it at a milonga, and everyone hated me. He has the craziest version of Garua, he just mumbles the song

Tangocommuter said...

Many thanks for your trouble, Fernando, and apologies for my carelessness. & I'm glad if the only errors in my blog are spellings, since I'm trying to think about tango, a subject with a complex and sometimes contentious background, and not a background that I grew up with.

I too think that late Goyeneche is superb, but my view in the blog is that he probably wasn't recording for dancers since there wasn't a lot of dancing going on. I can understand that this kind of music doesn't go down well at a milonga. Nevertheless, I think some of the tracks from Sur, where the compas from Marconi's bandoneon is very clear, could be very interesting to dance to. But I also think that you might not want to dance to it, despite the compas, because it's really overwhelming to listen to.