As the title implies, this CD brings together, on 22 tracks, all the individual
recordings made by Gigli for the HMV Company between 1936 and 1938. (During
this period he also participated in recordings of two complete operas, Tosca
and La Bohème for the same company.) As Alan Blyth points
out in his characteristically informative notes, these recordings were made
when Gigli was at the height of his powers.
The music covers a wide range. There are arias by Cilea, Puccini and Verdi.
Also included are two art songs, one by Schumann (Die Lotusblüme,
sung in Italian) and one by Grieg, which is sung in French. There are also
'sacred' items by Gounod, Bizet and Franck. The remaining 14 tracks comprise
a variety of Italian songs.
Stylistically, the performances are of their time, of course (the Bach/Gounod
Ave Maria, complete with "heavenly choir" has to be heard to be
believed!). In addition, Gigli is a little too inclined to indulge in 'sobs'
for my taste.
However, it is the voice that matters. Track after track offers the listener
a demonstration of open-throated, golden-toned Italianate singing which puts
into telling perspective the efforts of several of today's much-hyped would
be successors to Pavarotti and Domingo. Inevitably, some of the recordings
show their age in that the orchestral accompaniments are rather relegated
to the background. No matter. Anyone investing in this disc will be doing
so in order to hear Gigli and they can be assured that his magnificent voice
rings truly and effortlessly out of the loudspeakers. The transfers are by
Mark Obert-Thorn, one of the leading specialists and are of uniformly excellent
quality. Surface noise is minimal and never mars enjoyment.
Only one thing mars this release. No texts or translations are provided,
an all-too-frequent omission these days. Some of the repertoire on the disc
will be unfamiliar to many of today's listeners. Since Gigli was such an
expressive singer I wish Romophone had paid him the compliment of letting
the listener know what he is singing.
However, despite this blemish, this is a disc which will be self-recommending
to all admirers of Gigli and which will delight lovers of great singing.