I can give no better introduction to Edgardo Donato, the composer of A Media Luz, than these words of Ricardo Garcia Blaya, director of todotango.com:
In the early 30s Donato pushed a rhythm style that helps us understand a related style that was developed later by Juan D'Arienzo.
Donato's is certainly an orchestra with a lot of rhythm. Whilst D'Arienzo's rhythm was insistent, Donato's is joyful. He doesn't demand that we dance; his music simply dances, and charms us into dancing along with it. Be it tango, milonga or vals, he is always playful.
Edgardo Donato on CD
There are few CDs of Donato available, but luckily all are good.
We begin with this CD on Coleccíon 78rpm. Like all the discs on this label it has been transferred carefully from 78s in good condition and the fidelity is excellent. There are too many good Donato tracks to get them all on one cd, but this disc has a fair crack: El acomodo, A media luz, and the wonderful milonga Ella es así are all here.
If you want more, get the follow up on Coleccíon 78rpm 2 - fantastic milongas including El torito, and Sácale punta.
Listen also to La melodía del corazón - a Chopin etude arranged as a tango. Some of you may have heard the version with an English lyric, So deep is the night which first appeared in I think 1939.
Next, get the Donato CD on RGS's Tango Collection. This is where you can find all those classic tracks from the deleted El Bandoneón CDs. El huracán, Chiqué, Hácete cartel, and La cumparsita were completely unavailable, whilst Santa milonguita, El día que me quieras, Ruego, were only available on an expensive mp3 collection from Argentina. I could also add El chamuyo, only recently available once more on the 10 CD box on Membrán.
This album is not entirely classic 30s Donato cuts however; there are also 7 cuts from 1950-1951. Apart from the instrumental El acomodo, you can spot these on the listing from the vocalists, Adolfo Rivas and Carlos Almada. These are mostly forgettable, although the vals is fun and it's interesting to hear both versions of Donato's signature track, Se va la vida.
The fidelity is okay, but nothing outstanding, certainly no better than what we had from El Bandoneón. As so often with Argentine labels, the singer information on the back cover is incomplete. Nevertheless the album becomes essential by virtue of being the only player in a sparsely populated field. Great value at 25 tracks - full tracklist here.
Apart from the two El Bandoneón Donato CDs mentioned above, the real interest on El Bandoneón is the third disc (EBCD-139). The first half presents recordings from the Donato-Zerillo orchestra from 1928, whilst the second half of the cd has Donato tracks from 1929-1931 . The fidelity is disappointing, but the quality of the music is very high, revealing how innovative Donato was at this early time.
Looking for the tango Triqui-tra? Unusually, Lita Morales sang the vocals without the help of one of her male colleagues and it was included by El Bandoneón on this CD, Las damas del tango 1909-1946.
This is an excellent compilation although, quite naturally given the subject matter, mostly not for dancing. It focusses on the years 1926-1940 but with a couple of tracks going back to 1909 – the very first year that tango was recorded.