The mystery of El adiós

El_adiosOn a warm summer night at the very beginning of 1938, a young lady was absentmindedly playing random chords with unmistakably Gipsy flavor on her piano, accompanying the movements of a light curtain on a window, wide open to the garden. Her mother, who was knitting in the same room, suddenly exclaimed: “But this is so beautiful! You must make this into a tango!”

Maruja Pacheco Huergo, and that was the name of the young lady was by no means a stranger to the tango world. She was a classically trained pianist with over 500 recordings of different rhythms, a lyricist, a composer and a script writer. Later in the same year she will be also awarder a prestigious title Miss Radio. But this night, as her mother suggested, she was working on an elusive melody, which, by the first rays of the morning sun has been shaped into her most famous tango – “El Adiós”.

245px-Maruja_Pecheco_HuergoIn a few days the new tango was presented to Ignacio Corsini. Corsini suggested a lyricist, Virgilio San Clemente, who wrote the first lines of the lyrics as soon as he heard this tango, and Corsini premiered it in February of 1938. In March, Francisco Canaro recorded it with Roberto Maida, and in April Edgardo Donato added his recording with Horacio Lagos.

…In the tango universe the moods in the music and in the lyrics do not necessarily match. Just as an example, beneath the anthem like chords of Corrientes y Esmeralda lies rather light, almost satirical lyrics. But this was not the case of “El Adiós”. The music and the lyrics seem to come from the same person, perfectly tuned to the same mood, and, if even always cheerful and festive Donato could keep the solemn mood for the whole length of his recording, there must have been something very special about this tango… Could it be that he somehow foresaw the events of 1942? (see “Carnaval de mi barrio“)

Let us listen to Donato’s recording:

En la tarde que en sombras se moría,
buenamente nos dimos el adiós;
mi tristeza profunda no veías
y al marcharte sonreíamos los dos.

or, in English,

In the afternoon as it died in shadows
We said our fond farewell,
You could not see my deep sadness
And as we left, we both smiled.

Jerzy Petersburski 1Jerzy Petersburski, a resident conductor of a prestigious Teatro El Nacional in Buenos Aires, who immigrated to Argentina in 1949 was born in Poland to a Jewish family with rich musical traditions. By the mid-30s he was quite popular as an author of numerous songs and musicals, as well as a director of a jazz orchestra.  In 1936, the European afternoon was indeed dying in the shadow of the upcoming war, and in this year Jerzy Petersburski wrote his immortal tango, “To ostatnia niedziela” (“The last Sunday”). This tango was premiered by Mieczysław Fogg, and became an instant hit not only in Poland, but also in Soviet Union, where, with new lyrics, under the name “Utomlennoe solnce” (“The tired Sun”) it was recorded by three major orchestras in just one year.

Here is the original recording by Mieczysław Fogg, 1936:

And here is the most popular Soviet recording by Alexander Cfasman, 1936:

In the original, Polish lyrics, the hero asks his lover to give him just one more Sunday, before their partying, thus the name of the tango. Russian lyrics is quite different:

The tired Sun was fondly saying farewell to the sea,
And in this hour you admitted that there is no more love.
Sad, but without so much of a sorrow,
I was listening to your words in this hour…

Even if you did not notice how close to each other is the music of “El Adiós” and “The Tired Sun”, born well over 10,000 kilometers one from another, the similarity of Castellano and Russian lyrics is quite obvious.

Was it a pure coincidence? Or Maruja Pacheco indeed overheard “The Tired Sun”, or “The Last Sunday” on the radio, and Virgilio San Clemente somehow got the translated Russian lyric? Personally, I think that neither is true. I’d dare say that mysterious connection between “The Tired Sun” and “El Adiós” is a case of artists being so attuned to each other that they could perceive each other feelings even across the Atlantic, defying the boundaries of time and space… After all, they all spoke the universal language of Tango…

Here are another, modern recording of “The Tired Sun”, or, this time, “El Sol Sueño” in Gidon Kremer arrangement (often mistakenly attributed to Astor Piazzolla):

And, finally, smashing recording of “El Adiós” by Osvaldo Pugliese with Jorge Maciel:

2 thoughts on “The mystery of El adiós

  1. A seminal rendition of El Adios was created by Ruben Juarez that expresses the utter desolation in those words and tune like no other. If this tango doesn’t make you cry you have no heart.


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