> Enrico Caruso - The complete recordings, Vol.8 [RDB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Enrico CARUSO (1873-1921)
The complete recordings, Vol. 8
Leoncavallo, Lasciati amar; De Crescenzo, Guardann’a luna; O’Hara, Your eyes have told me; Cottrau, Fenesta che lucive; Rossini, Cuius animam (Stabat mater); Faure, Les rameaux; Mascagni, Addio alla madre (Cavalleria Rusticana); Verdi, Oh mostruosa colpa (Otello); Tchaikovsky, Sérénade de Don Juan; Ricciardi, Amor mio; Valente, Manella mia; Faure, Les rameaux; Gartner, Trusting eyes; Ronald, Sérenade espagnole; Tosti, Parted; Verdi, La rivedrà (Un ballo in maschera); Verdi, Ò scherzo od follia (Un ballo in maschera); Alvarez, La Partida; Chapi, El milagro de la Virgen: Flores purisimas
All tracks recorded 1913-1914 in New York. Tracks 1-17 with the Victor Orchestra, tracks 16-17 with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus.
NAXOS 8.110726 [69.18]


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Caruso was one of the few great singers of his time whose recordings made him famous in homes all over the world. In 1901 shellac discs replaced wax cylinders and records could be mass-produced. Playing times for ten-inch records were about three minutes, but shellac is easily damaged by steel needles; all the more remarkable, therefore, that today we can hear such treasured performances as those on this newly registered CD transfer, not, of course, to present-day standards, but nevertheless impressive enough. Surface noise is rarely obtrusive and, though the orchestra sounds predictably feeble, at 40 Caruso’s voice has retained a youthful, virile quality that makes this disc a remarkable achievement, and well worth its budget price. Singers who risked the cramped conditions and unreliable technology of early recording studios had to be prepared to modify their interpretations to suit the recording equipment, and there are moments where, on stage, Caruso would surely have given more spacious interpretations.

On track one, Leoncavallo’s Lasciati amar, the excessive portamento tenors used to use to stir their audiences is rather obtrusive, but these pieces, all less than five minutes in length, display a voice that thrilled even wider audiences than today’s idols. (In a recent article in the Sunday Telegraph the music critic Alexander Chancellor judged Pavarotti’s operatic career as being "almost as glorious as Caruso’s"). Virtually all these recordings exploit the accurate, steady, unforced upwardly extended range of Caruso’s voice (C-sharp and higher!) especially impressive in the O’Hara and Rossini excerpts. There are two interpretations of Faure’s Les rameaux on this disc, the first released only in Europe, the second being made for release in both Europe and the USA. Both reveal Caruso’s subtlety of phrasing, but for me the most impressive track is the short excerpt from Verdi’s Otello where, matched with the magnificent baritone Tita Ruffo as Iago, the duet rises to an impassioned intensity that overcomes the age and technical limitations under which it was made.

Those who have found much to admire in the forerunners of this worthwhile project will need no encouragement to acquire the latest addition to the series.

Roy D.Brewer

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