Obsession of the week: La última | Aníbal Troilo c. Ángel Cárdenas

Tango Is Alive!

Do you ever meet a song that you just can't get out of your head afterwards? I bet you do. As a DJ, I try to keep my musical relationships casual and uncommitted. Despite my best efforts however, some songs do occasionally drill deep into my memory circuits and keep flooding my consciousness for days on end.

Last week it was Biagi's Bélgica as performed by Collectif Roulotte Tango. This weekend, Troilo's La última did that to me.

I find the opening utterly compelling: the piano presents the leading theme, quite calmly yet with a clear lyrical potential that will be exploited later, accompanied by violins painting long legatos, and into this, bandoneons invade on the beat with sharp staccato chords.

That was a mouthful, wasn't it? Hit that play button and experience it yourself. And then tell me it did not break you heart.

No, this isn't an attempt to wax lyrical about this beautiful piece of music; I find writing about music as problematic as attempting to "dance about architecture", as one of my friends joked a long time ago.

Instead, I'll attempt to put together a tanda that I could test on human subjects sometime soon. And try to rationalize it here in public.

Full disclosure: I am not yet very familiar with Troilo's work in the 1950s and later, a gap that I intend to bridge promptly. Thus, I worked with a limited set of choices here.

One thing that hits me right away is that this is either a perfect opener or closer, depending on what else I can find. Troilo wastes no time here and pulls you into a whirlwind of emotions right away; he then develops a dramatic arch and Cárdenas paints on it with his mighty voice.

Here's the problem, though: there just aren't that many recordings available with Troilo and Cárdenas, and those I possess have a different character. For this tanda, I want to make the signature opening of *La última *to be what binds the tanda together.

After a while, I find Te llaman malevo. The piano opens with the theme, again, and we hear sharp staccatos of violins and double bass giving the beat. And, it sounds like this tune will lighten up the mood a bit, which might be handy. I don't want to build a tanda that only tells of tragic things.

And I get stuck. I have just purchased "Qué risa!" off Google Play that I could perhaps justify in this tanda. I fear that the sheer volume of drama would be overwhelming here, however. I want to continue in the same direction but with some restraint. There needs to be space for the last song in the tanda.

How about another singer? I browse a few songs where Troilo joins forces with Roberto Goyeneche. And I find what I need in Lo que vos te merecés.

We have bandoneóns opening here in a staccato fashion, accompanied by a wall of violins, and the piano only joins to finish the main theme. The difference does not break the pattern, however, at least not in my view. We are again led to join a more serious story with a pulsing dramatic potential.

In terms of the singers compatibility, I find it pleasing. Both are clear, lead without overpowering the orchestra, and their timbre is close enough to not distract anyone but the pedantic Puritan.

Interestingly, both Te llaman malevo and Lo que vos te merecés were recorded on the same day, October 7, 1957. Not that this fact alone would guarantee anything other than, perhaps, the overall sound of the orchestra.

How do I close here, then? I wish to provide some relief at the end, and so I want a tune with a good balance of lyrical and upbeat moods, and perhaps a slow ending. And I find it in Un boliche.

The piano opens again, with violins and bandoneons attacking with staccatos on the beat. Perfect! The major chords suggest that it won't be tragic throughout, and it isn't. In fact, the first chords in a minor key strike at 1 minute 10 seconds into the song. And boy, do they count!

My preference is for concilliatory endings, and Un boliche delivers, even as it finishes on a lyrical note.

Then again, I could probably reverse the tanda and go from here all the way to La última if I wanted to achieve the opposite effect, and please excuse me while I listen to it again and again because I have to.

I was hoping I would cure my obsession by writing it all out, and I just can't, not yet. Hopefully you'll find the music enjoyable none the less. It sounds way more demanding of the dancer's attention than the standard 1940s repertoire while offering a lot more potential for intense lyrical experience.

When there's time to open up the valves and let the corazóns beat a lot faster, Troilo with Cárdenas and Goyeneche know what to do.

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