February 21, 2010


(Eugen Szenkar - in a word, Mystery)

I'm going out on a limb here. I am staring at a set of 78rpm discs from Argentina, pressed by RCA Victor in Argentina. It's a recording (I assume the first and only) of a work by a composer credited as Juan A. Garcia Estrada. So far so good. The orchestra is listed as Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, led by Alejandro Szenkar. The discs look to be from 1939-1943. They come with no other information.

Here's where the mystery starts. Alejandro or Alexander Szenkar pops up only in reference to the Teatro Colon Orchestra in Agentinian sites. The tip off is one Argentinian site lists him as "The Hungarian Conductor Alexanker Szenkar". Doing a google search on Szenkar I am immediately led to the legendary Hungarian conductor Eugen Szenkar who fled Germany at the rise of Hitler in 1933 and settled in Russia until 1937. He moved to Argentina and filed for citizenship in 1939 and stayed until roughly 1948 where he moved back to Germany to resume his career. During that time he was very active with Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and was once invited by Arturo Toscanini to guest conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Various sites claim very little, if anything was ever recorded by this conductor and nothing is mentioned at all about anything he may have recorded in South America, during his stay there or if the name change was the result of citizenship, clerical error or a surge of Nationalism on Szenkar's part.

So I am betting the Alejandro Szenkar listed on the label credit is the same as Eugen Szenkar the exiled German/Hungarian conductor. All indications point to yes, but I've had no substantiation from any source that proves me right. So I am throwing this out to the blogosphere.

The second part of this mystery has to do with which Juan A. Garcia Estrada is this? Wikipedia lists Juan Antonio Garcia as the one who composed this work, Ruralia Argentina. But then Bakers Biographical Encyclopedia lists Juan Agustin Garcia Estrada as the composer of Ruralia Argentina. Juan Antonio is listed as a composer of several pieces for stage and was active until his death in the 1960s. Juan Agustin is listed as having moved briefly to Paris to study with Jacques Ibert before moving back to Argentina and becoming an attorney and abandoning his career.

Needless to say, this one is confusing from the get-go. But one thing is certain - this recording has not been issued anywhere outside of Argentina and it has not seen the light of reissue anywhere in the world.

As a piece of music it's, well . . . . .bland. But as a historic document, it's something else entirely.

In either case, here it is.


(Alexander/Alejandro Szenkar. Coincidence? We think not)


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