A party in the hospital
El once ("the eleventh") was written in 1924 by Osvaldo Fresedo (music) and his brother Emilio Fresedo (lyrics) for the eleventh and last "Baile del internado"; alternative title is "A divertirse" ("Have fun!"). El baile del internado was a party held every year by the students of medicine - the most advanced ones, who already worked in the hospital, "los internados". These parties were very popular, and the best orchestras invited; but they were also notorious for macabre jokes, and in 1924 they were eventually forbidden by the authorities.
Here is more to read about these bailes:
There are a lot of recordings of El once, but I concentrate on versions by Osvaldo Fresedo and Carlos Di Sarli. Fresedo recorded the song six times between 1927 and 1979, and Di Sarli three times between 1946 and 1954.
These are the versions I want to present:
Osvaldo Fresedo, 25th of August in 1927:
Osvaldo Fresedo with Teófilo Ibañez, 14th of Novembe in, 1931
Osvaldo Fresedo with Roberto Ray, 5th of April in 1935
Carlos Di Sarli, 25th of December in 1946
Carlos Di Sarli, 23rd of October in 1951
The melody is simple and rhyhtmic, first staccato and then legato, and it invites for countermelodies.
Fresedo's interpretation from 1927 starts with the tutti in strong marcato, and already in the repetition of the first A part a solo violin enters with a countermelody in nice phrasing, with the rhythm group and the bandoneons playing along; the piano with playful extra notes from time to time. This pattern is played throughout the piece with the structure ABABA: a simple and sweet countermelody played by one or two violins in the repetition; with the tango-typical dirtiness when the two violins play a little bit different in timing and vibrato.
In 1931, Osvaldo Fresedo lived and recorded in the USA; the recordings of this time have a particularly romantic touch, mainly by the way the violins play - like weeping. We hear it from the beginning in the tutti. The countermelodies - the same as in 1927 - start in the first B part. Everything sounds warmer than in the 1927 version. Teófilo Ibañez sings in a gentle and romantic way, calling the people to have a good time. The whole piece is like velvet.
The 1935 version is faster, but still with a very romantic sound, underlined now by the vibraphon, one or Fresedo's special instruments introduced in the thirties. No countermelodies, no solos, just the sweet and elegant sound of the tutti, where the bandoneons are integrated in the "sound carpet". Roberto Ray's incredibly sweet voice, congenial to the orchestra, is accompanied by the harp and a gentle violin.
Eleven years later, in 1946, Carlos Di Sarli creates a new interpretation. The first three parts are just the main melody played by the tutti for the staccato part and the violins for the legato part, with the maestro's well-placed piano rhythmical accents and decorations. And then, for the last two parts, it's pure countermelody, played by the violins in a way that we can distinguish the single players. Yes, there are bandoneons in Di Sarli's orchestra, but we hardly hear them.
From the two versions from the fiftiies, I chose the recording of 1951 which is the best in my opinion. The arrangement is the same as 1946, but it's slower and more solemn. The piano is incredibly strong and creative. And we can hear the double bass! As 1946 we have countermelodies in the last two parts, but this time played by the violin section divided into two voices: 2-3 violins in dialogue with the rest; and in the last part they play all together again.