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Tito Schipa - Schipa Edition 2: The Complete Victor Recordings 1924-1925, Vol. 2
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901) Rigoletto: È il sol dell’anima*; Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848) Lucia di Lammermoor: Verranno a te*; Don Pasquale: Tornami a dir che m’ami*; Richard BARTHELEMY (19th/20th Cent) Pesca d’ammore; Tito SCHIPA (1888–1965) Ave Maria; Vincenzo De CRESCENZO (1875-1964) Ce steve ‘na vota; CAMPERO (?) Madrigal español; Giuseppe VERDI Rigoletto: La donna è mobile; Manuel De FALLA (1876–1946) Jota (Siete canciones populares españolas); Eduardo Di CAPUA (1865-1917) O sole mio; Franz LISZT (1811–1886) Liebestraum (arr. Schipa)§; Tito SCHIPA A Cuba; Trad. La farfalletta (arr. Schipa)§; Anon. La girometta (arr. Cibelli)§; Arturo BUZZI-PECCIA (1854–1943) La niña querida; Mal d’amore; Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883) Martha: M’appari; Gaetano DONIZETTI L’elisir d’amore: Una furtiva lagrima (take 2 and 3); Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924) La bohème: Sono andati?#; Oh! Dio, Mimi!#; Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Werther: Pourquoi me réveiller?; Leo DELIBES (1836-1891) Lakmé: Fantasie aux divins mensonges
Tito Schipa (tenor)
Amelita Galli-Curci (soprano)*, Lucrezia Bori (soprano)#, Victor Orchestra/Rosario Bourdon (except items marked § with piano accompaniment by José Echániz)
Recorded 1924–1925
NAXOS 8.110333 [72:14]
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When I reviewed Volume 1 some time ago I named Schipa "the aristocrat among tenors". That also goes for this issue. His was never a large voice, he didn’t have an easy high C and many other tenors had more beautiful voices, but no one used his voice in a more beautiful way. He never forced, he phrased everything and coloured his tone to perfection. He used rubato in a way rarely heard since and his pianissimo singing was beautiful. Moreover he possessed that indefinable thing charm, which made him communicate through his singing, even the many ditties that he recorded and of which there are several on this disc. Gigli also had charm, and a more glorious voice, but he also had some bad manners that Schipa was completely devoid of – in one word: Schipa had taste.

There is evidence of that on every track on this disc, which includes his last acoustic recordings (tracks 1–4) as well as his earliest electricals. Starting with his Duke of Mantua in the first act duet with Gilda, E il sol dell’anima, we hear all these attributes: the tone, slim and elegant, the rubato, the shading from a forte seamlessly down to pianissimo. This is a lesson to latter day tenors – and some of them learnt it: Cesare Valletti did, Alfredo Kraus did and it seems that Joseph Calleja also has - see my review of his latest recital disc. An added attraction to this and the following two tracks is the pure tone of Amelita Galli-Curci in roles that fitted her as a glove. Her Lucia is fabulous (track 2) and listen to Schipa’s tasteful embellishments; so graceful. In the Don Pasquale duet their voices blend to perfection and there is no wonder that this disc survived in the catalogue until the end of the 78 rpm era in the early 1950s. The last of the acoustical items, Barthelemy’s Pesca d’ammore is worth a listen just to hear how Schipa relishes the text. There and in several other songs (e.g. tracks 6, 13 and 14) it’s a joy to hear every consonant so clearly articulated.

When the electrical recording method was introduced in 1925 it was of course a gain, most of all for the reproduction of the orchestra, where for the first time the strings could be heard with something approaching real life sound. It was still a constricted sound but for the listeners in the 1920s it must have been little short of a revelation. The voice is of course also fuller and with more air around it. It must have been a special pleasure for Schipa that his very first electrical recording was of his own composition Ave Maria, which is affectionately sung – is it only my imagination that hears an extra glow, an extra beauty in his voice with a hint of an emotional extra vibrato? Anyway, the end is magical by all standards.

His Duke of Mantua appears once again on track 8. There he delivers La donna è mobile with such elegance and ravishing diminuendos that even the listener who doesn’t know it already realizes that this is an aristocrat, however callous and mean, which his little chuckle in the second stanza reveals.

Every piece on the disc has something to offer, and irrespective of how many times you have heard O sole mio, Schipa, with fiery castanets in the background, sings it with such restrained glow that it feels like a new song. No bawling and no glass-shattering top notes, just unforced beautiful singing.

Liszt’s Liebestraum, in Schipa’s own arrangement, was a song from the beginning and is recorded here with piano accompaniment. Rather closely miked, the voice leaps out of the speakers with amazing presence and the reproduction of the piano is impressive. Maybe his singing is a shade too forceful but the last stanza, sung in half-voice, is magical.

After some charmingly sung songs he is back in the operatic field for the last seven tracks, with an inward M’appari from Martha and with two takes of Una furtiva lagrima, both splendid and challenged only by a mere handful of other recordings, one of them his own remake from 1929. Partnered by the divine Lucrezia Bori in the last act duet from La Bohème he is an impassioned Rodolfo. He rounds off the recital with wonderfully nuanced readings (in French) of arias from Werther and Lakmé. The end to both arias is so exquisite.

Restored by Ward Marston and previously released on Romophone with notes by Alan Blyth this second volume can be confidently recommended. It is a disc to return to over and over again and savour the delicacies – not perhaps in one continuous sitting but one or two titles at a time, the way people did before the advent of the long playing record.

Göran Forsling



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