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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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The Great Singers
CD 1
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Turandot, ‘Nessun dorma’ (Jussi Björling. tenor)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Il Trovatore, ‘Mira d’acerbe lagrime’ (Rosa Ponselle. soprano)
Achille-Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

‘Trois Chansons de Bilitis’ (Dame Maggie Teyte. soprano)
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

L’Elisir d’amore, ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (Enrico Caruso tenor)
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon, ‘Leb’wohn a Mignon ihre Unschuld’ (Richard Tauber. tenor)
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Manon, Manon, ‘Il faut nous séparer’ (Ferruccio Tagliavini, tenor, and Pia Tassinari, soprano)
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

Pagliacci, ‘Un tal gioco, credetemi’ (Beniamino Gigli. tenor)
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

‘Serenade’ Jennie Tourel (mezzo-soprano)
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Il Penseroso ‘Sweet bird’ (Dame Nellie Melba. contralto)
Gustav MAHLER (1901-1973)

Das Lied von der Erde ‘Von der Schönheit’
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tristan und Isolde ‘Mild und liese’ – Liebestod. (Kirsten Flagstad. soprano)
CD 2
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Boheme, ‘Sí Mi chiamano Mimi’ (Licia Albanese, soprano, and Giuseppe di Stefano, tenor)
La Boheme, ‘O soave fanciulla’ (Renata Tebaldi. soprano)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Requiem, ‘Confutatis’ ((Ezio Pinza. bass)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Die Meistersinger, ‘Morgenlied leuchtend’ (Set Svanholm. tenor)
Parsifal, ‘Ich sah’das Kind’ (Kirsten Flagstad, soprano and Lauritz Melchior, tenor)
Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Fidelio, ‘Abscheulicher, wo eilst du hin?’ (Frieda Leider. soprano)
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Don Quichotte, ‘Oh mon maitre..Oui!, Je fus le chef’ (Feodor Chaliapin. bass)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ Elisabeth Schumann. soprano)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Die Entfuhrung, Die Entfuhrung, ‘Martern aller Arten’ (Erna Berger. soprano)
Giacomo OREFICE (1865-1922)

Chopin, ‘Grand Aria’ (Pia Yassinari. soprano)
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)

Die tote Stadt, ‘Gluck das mir verbliech’ (Lotte Lehmann, soprano and Richard Tauber, tenor)
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)

Martha, ‘M’appari’ (Ferruccio Tagliavini. tenor)
Various Orchestras and Conductors. Recorded 1902-1951
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110781-82 [2CDs: 65.54+76.06]

The introductory paragraph of the booklet states ‘The present anthology includes examples of the art and charisma of many of the greatest singers of the earlier ages of recording’. It is one of a Naxos series that includes ‘The Great Pianists’ and ‘The Great Violinists’ and is essentially a sampler of extracts from CDs the company has already issued in its ‘Historical Series’ and which are listed, alphabetically by surname, in the booklet (pp 10-17). I regret that the artist biographies (pp 2-9) are not similarly organized; as it is they seem completely random! After six counts I think the disc features twenty singers on the twenty three tracks, with Tagliavini and his wife, Pia Tassinari, each getting a solo aria as well as the ‘Garden Scene’ from Werther in duo CD1 tr.9. Contrariwise, Tauber gets a duet with Lehmann, CD2 tr.6, but only he gets a solo, CD1 tr.8, whilst the great Wagnerians Flagstad and Melchior share a duet from Parsifal, CD2 tr.9 and do not have the ‘honour’ of a solo.

What is true of the collection is that the repertoire chosen for each singer exhibits his or her strengths well. The repertoire covered is extensive and broadly based. Thus we can delight in Kathleen Ferrier’s Mahler with Bruno Walter on the rostrum, CD1 tr.6, being followed by Jennie Tourel’s idiomatic singing of Mussorgsky’s ‘Serenade’. Of the operatic items, Caruso’s early ‘Una Furtiva Lagrima’, CD1 tr.3, serves to remind the listener as to the range and sensitivity of the tenor’s ‘early period’ voice. It also highlights who is missing among the featured names, above all that of Tito Schipa whose rendering of that aria has never been equalled. One wonders why Schipa has not featured, so far, in the Naxos ‘Historical Series’ as he left a very rich legacy of recordings. However, that is to digress, I would simply point out three other outstanding diamonds among these gems. They happen to be the final three tracks of CD 2. First, Tagliavini’s distinctive honeyed tones in ‘M’appari’, tr.10, then Pinza’s sonorous and appropriately declamatory bass in the ‘Confutatis’ from Verdi’s Requiem, ‘tr.11’, and finally Renata Tebaldi’s ‘Si mi chiamano Mimi’ from her first recording of La Boheme and where her voice soars in youthful purity and vocal tenderness; wonderful!

Given the spread of recording dates, sound quality and characteristics vary, but none is less than satisfactory. This sampler, collection or whatever, is a serious temptation to wile away a couple of hours listening to all-time-great singers. Pity there’s no Toto Schipa though.

Robert J Farr



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