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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Enrico CARUSO (tenor) (1873-1921)

The Complete Recordings Volume 10 (1916-1917)
Caruso accompanied by the ‘Victor Orchestra’. cond. Walter B Rogers and Josef Pasternack
Recorded in New York and Camden, New Jersey, in March 1916, January 1917 and April 1917.
Bargain Price
Great Singers Series

NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110751 [76.59]

 


Gabriel FAURÉ (1875-1947)

‘Sancta Maria’
CARUSO

‘Tiempo antico’
Folk Song, ‘Santa Lucia’
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Eugene Onegin, ‘Pour moi ce jour est tout mystère’ (Lensky’s Aria).
‘Pourquoi’
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Andrea Chenier, ‘ Come un bel di maggio’
Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila, ‘Vois ma misère , hélas'
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)

Les Pecheurs de perles, ‘Je crois entendre encore’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rigoletto, ‘Bella figlia del’amore’ (quartet)
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

Lucia di Lamermoor, ‘Chi mi frena in tal momento’ (sextet)
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)

Martha, ‘M’appari’
GASTALDON

‘Musica probita’
DE CRESCENZO

‘Uocchie celeste’
Francesco Poalo TOSTI (1846-1916)
‘L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra’
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1830-1894)

Néron, ‘Ah! Lumiére du jour’

As Hugh Griffith points out in his sleeve note to Vol. 9, reviewed elsewhere on this site, Caruso had by 1916 recorded all the major tenor arias, duets, etc. from the operas in his stage repertoire as well as others that suited his voice. Needless to say he himself, and his record company, Victor, were eager to meet public demand for discs by the great tenor and more varied repertoire was explored. This collection includes several such items, particularly the Tchaikovsky (trs. 4 and 5), sung in French, a language in which Caruso was comfortable. Even without knowing these works were outside the singer’s normal repertoire, one senses a lack of involvement, even a sameness; a feeling that also pervades the Fauré item (tr. 1). Whilst Caruso had prepared Bizet’s ‘Les Pecheurs de Perles’ for the Met in 1916 it was not a success. Here, singing a semitone down, he sounds too heavy for the part (tr. 9), particularly when compared with his 1904 recording, in Italian, which features in Vol. 2. The singer’s timbre, and weight of tone are far better suited to Samson’s aria from ‘Samson et Dalila’ (tr. 8).

Elsewhere, this issue presents songs by Caruso’s fellow Italians. These he clearly relishes (trs. 16-19). There is also a ‘take’ (tr. 20) of the Rubinstein never issued on a 78 disc. This opportunity to hear an alternative ‘take’ is repeated with the famous sextet from ‘Lucia’ (tr. 13). Frankly the difference from the published version is not audible. What is eminently listenable is the quality of the singing. This was Caruso’s third recording of the piece, Victor wishing to partner him with the best of each period. Here they do so with a vengeance; quite magnificent! The same can be said of the quartet from ‘Rigoletto’ (tr. 11) Caruso’s fourth recording, this time featuring the new star sensation Amelita Galli-Curci, as well as the great de Luca and Marcel Journet. Interestingly track 12 gives an alternate ‘take’ of the introduction, ending abruptly at the entrance of the mezzo. There Caruso’s tone is distinctly lighter than in complete piece; interesting.

A few days before the third recording session included on this disc, 25 January 1917, America entered World War I. Travel to Europe, and home, was out for Caruso. He had taken a voluntary break in 1916, feeling the pressure of a punishing schedule, but went back to South America in the summer of 1917. Whether this resumption of a hectic schedule hastened the crisis of 1920 must remain conjecture. Certainly in the Italian pieces on this disc he is in glorious voice, with the high B flat of ‘M’Appari’ (tr. 15) particularly fine. The sleeve-note states that all the items except the two alternate ‘takes’ have been transferred from ‘master pressings’. I have not noticed that statement before in this series and certainly the sound is most impressive. This disc further enhances Ward Marston’s reputation for fine restorations in the Caruso series: ‘the tenor who made the gramophone’. Highly recommended.

Robert J Farr

 



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