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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    


Dame Eva Turner. The Collected Recordings.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Aida - Gloria al Egitto
Aida – Rittorna vincitor 3 recordings
Aida – Qui Radames vera! 3 recordings
Il Trovatore – D’amor sull’ali rosee
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)

La Gioconda – Gia ti veggo
La Gioconda – Suicidio! 3 recordings
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria Rusticana – Voi lo sapete, O mama 2 recordings
Guy D’HARDELOT (1858-1936)

Because
Sometimes in my dreams
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca – Vissi d’arte 2 recordings
Tosca – Love and Music (in English) 2 recordings
Turandot – In questa reggia 2 recordings
Turandot – In questa reggia and Riddle Scene
Madama Butterfly – One fine day (in English) 2 recordings
Extracts from Puccini – the man and his music BBC regional Programme 1937;
Madama Butterfly – Whisky? Ancora un passo?
Madama Butterfly – Un bel di vedromo
La Bohème – O soave fanciulla
Turandot – In questa reggia
Landon RONALD (1873-1938)

O lovely night
Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)

Goodbye
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tannhäuser – Elizabeth’s Greeting
Lohengrin – Elsa’s Dream
Granville BANTOCK (1868-1946)

The Songs of Egypt – Lament of Isis (incomplete)
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

I love thee (in English) – 2 recordings
Teresa DEL RIEGO (1876-1968)

Homing – 2 recordings
John BULL (1562-1628)

God Save The King
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)

Serenade to Music
With various singers including Rubadi, Ciniselli, Paci and Carmassi, La Scala 1926; Martinelli, Favero, Albanese and Dua, Covent Garden 1937;
Dino Borgioli, George Hancock and John Tomery BBC Regional Programme1937;
Baillie, Stiles-Allen, Suddaby, Balfour, Desmond, Brunskill, Jarred. Nash, Widdop, Jones, Titterton, Henderson, Easton, Williams and Allin in the Serenade to Music, 1938.
With Orchestras conducted by Lorenzo Molajoli, Stanford Robinson, Thomas Beecham, John Barbirolli, Joseph Batten and Henry Wood
Recorded 1926-1938
PEARL GEMS 0094 [3CDs: 200.44]

 

It’s one of the more regrettable features of the inter-War 78 catalogue that Eva Turner, the most seismic vocal force in British operatic life, was an almost invisible, or more properly inaudible, name. In her earliest discs, made in Italy, she recorded concerted selections alongside such native stalwarts as Rubadi, Ciniselli, Paci and Carmassi but her greatest fame resides in the solo arias she recorded, principally with Beecham, and in the live Covent Garden 1937 extracts. Because of the paucity of this surviving material there is a great deal of duplication here – and a look at the head note will reveal multiple performances of certain items. Certainly Columbia thought well enough of her to re-record some of the September 1926 Italian sides – which incidentally she stoutly denied ever having made – a couple of years later in London. There are also some popular parlour ballads here – D’Hardelot, Ronald and Tosti – as well as some exciting, unpublished Columbias and these include Wagner, some Puccini and infinitely less likely - but true - a surviving fragment of a Bantock song. A corollary to the sheer bulk of repetition is that the sound is generally good and rises to a peak of excellence in the BBC Regional programme excerpt from November 1937 which was saved from the skip by annotator Richard Bebb, whose account of a BBC chuck out of similarly unique acetates of broadcasts makes the grimmest of reading. To round off the set, itself indicative of the small body of her recordings, is Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music. She did record after this, in 1942 especially, but these discs were never issued and showed the voice in decline. Bebb has accordingly, respecting her own wishes, refrained from including them in this otherwise most comprehensive and impressive collection.

Turner’s vibrant power is unleashed on most of these discs. She can scintillate but she can move as well, though not invariably. Vissi d’arte is a special disc – the earlier Italian performance is good but the Beecham-accompanied London remake two years later is remarkable. In these 1928 sessions she is at something like her early peak; the voice has matured from the striking but occasionally overused instrument in the Italian Columbia studios. She is now coiled and steeled with dramatic intensity; this was always a voice that stretched recording mechanisms to the limit but now there is an extra layer of subtlety to it. She projects better – the top F sharp in the Turandot extract is shot out with unstoppable intensity. And when one moves to the 1937 live Covent Garden extracts one can finally and fully appreciate her in congenial repertoire unfettered by the artificial constraints of the recording studio or microphone. When she turned to the lighter repertoire she reveals obvious limitations. This battleship voice was hardly suited to the dandelion charm of Landon Ronald’s O lovely night, much less D’Hardelot (Italian, orchestrally accompanied discs from 1926) and in Grieg there is rather too much of the redoubtable matron about her delivery.

No, this was an operatic voice and one can appreciate its development from the issued performances Suicidio from La Gioconda – both excellent, the second and slightly later recording evinces just that bit more dramatic continuity and subtle drama. The Regional programme is in remarkable aural shape even if the performances of Turner and her partner Dino Borgioli in Madama Butterfly, La Bohème and Turandot are a little way off the highest standards of her very best incarnations. And above all there is the Coronation Season Barbirolli-conducted Turandot where all are eviscerated by Turner’s convulsively dramatic singing. Martinelli may be uneven – even if marvellously so – and the chorus and orchestra do become separated at times but the sense of visceral engagement Turner here generates is quite enough to promote her to the front rank of dramatic sopranos.

This three-disc set is all one would wish for. Despite broken 78s and some worn test pressings Roger Beardsley has done an award-winning job on the sound and the booklet is attractive as well as historically informed.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 



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