One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

The Gigli Edition - Volume 7: London, New York and Milan Recordings (1931-32)
Beniamino Gigli (tenor)
Orchestra conducted by John Barbirolli, Eugene Goossens, Nathaniel Shilkret and Carlo Sabajno
Recorded in Kingsway Hall, London. RCA Victor Studio No 2, New York and the Conservatorio, Milan
Restoration Engineer Mark Obert-Thorn
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110268 [72.44]

Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)

Goodbye. (Sung in English); Addio
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Manon, Instant charmant ... En ferment les yeux (Sung in Italian)
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)

The Lost Chord. (Sung in English)
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Bohème, Che gelida manina
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust, Quel trouble inconnu... Salut, demeure (Sung in Italian)
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)

Les Pecheurs de perles, Je crois entendre encore. (Sung in Italian)
Issac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909). Quisiera olvidar tus ojos
DE CRESCENZO. Triste maggio
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)

Sadko, Chanson Hindoue. (Sung in French)
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana, Tu qui, santuzza?,, No, no Turiddu, (with Dusolina Giannini, sop)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828). Ständchen
Louis NIEDERMEYER (1802-1861) (attributed) Pieta, Signore
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Stabat Mater, Cujus animan
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1875-1937)

Iímíarricordi Ďe te (Lucia, Luci) (Sung in Neapolitan dialect)
ĎA canzona Ďe Napule.(Sung in Neapolitan dialect)


As I noted in my review of Volume 6 in this series (Reviews: R Farr J Woolf), Gigliís time at the Met was drawing to a close. The circumstances of his somewhat acrimonious departure are outlined in Graeme Kayís admirable four CD ĎA Life in Words and Musicí which draws extensively Gigliís own perceptive autobiography. Gatti Casazza, the manager of the Met, proposed a pay cut to all artists as the theatre shared the worldís economic downturn after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Gigli (1890-1957) rather impetuously refused to accept and was summarily dismissed. Alan Blythís booklet note suggests Gigli had already lost enthusiasm for the house and had decided to leave and work more in Europe. As a consequence he began to record in London for HMV although he had to fulfil the remainder of his Victor contract. The five items of that contract are the rather inconsequential pieces contained on tracks 8-11 in music by Simons, Albeniz, Sandoval and De Crescendoís Triste maggio (tr. 11). Of more substance is the Chanson Hindoue (tr. 12) that Gigli sings in French with good tone and legato. The RCA recordings have the singerís voice more forward than the HMV London recordings. Perhaps more to the interpretive point is that the London producers allow him much greater self-indulgence in respect of his use of that honeyed head voice and soft pianissimos that were his hallmark. This is particularly evident in Instant charmant ... En ferment les yeux from Manon (tr. 2) and the Faust (tr. 6). I must not let that sound condemnatory because I, like all listeners to the 78s, used to glory in the beauty of the singing and not worry too much about the characterisation. His singing, in English, of Tostiís Goodbye and Sullivanís Lost Chord (trs. 1 and 3) has rather drawn-out vowels. The Tosti song sounds much better, and the singer more comfortable, in the Italian version (tr. 4). Incidentally, in a producerís note, Mark Obert-Thorn, who is also the excellent restorer, states that the Italian version is making its first appearance. On the track details it is stated as being previously unpublished. The remaining London recordings include Gigliís bestseller, Che gelida manina from La Boheme (tr. 5). At the peak of his career and popularity he opens the aria with classic gentle phrasing, softly on the breath, and then lets his voice open out into the lyric tones that thrilled in the opera house. What Mimi would not be tempted by these deeply-felt and ardently expressed words? The concluding notes are sung beautifully sotto voce. That track is the highlight of this issue.

The remaining tracks (trs. 14-19), including the two duets from Cavalleria Rusticana, were recorded in Milan. The first thing to say is that the recording characteristics of these tracks is not of the clarity of those recorded in London or New York. The sound is more recessed generally and particularly that of the accompanying orchestra. In summary they lack something of the impact that is present from the other venues. Gigli sings the two Mascagni duets (trs. 14 and 15) with full-throated passion with the American-Italian soprano Dusolina Giannini matching him note for note. Although not well known in the UK Giannini had a considerable career in the theatre and on disc. More of her singing can be heard on a Naxos CD devoted to her. Gigliís Ständchen, sung in Italian, (tr. 15) is not one that would readily be recognised by the composer but the singerís expressiveness shines through. I found Gigliís Cujus animam from Rossiniís Stabat Mater disappointing (tr. 17). He enjoys the rhythm of the piece and sings with open voice and elegant phrasing without seeming to be involved. Nor does the high note ring out in the way I had expected. The final two tracks of Tosti songs (trs. 18 and 19) are sung in Neapolitan dialect which Italian speakers will find interesting. Gigli does sing these two songs with particular feeling. I wonder how well they sold as 78s.

This period marked a turning point in Gigliís career and so it is for this series. Those following that career and this series need not hesitate in purchasing this disc. They will find much singing of the quality that made the singer world famous in the concert hall, the opera house and on record.

Robert J Farr


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

(short month)

Orphic Moments

Metamorphoses Books I & II


Donizetti - Le Convenienze ed Inconvenienze Teatrali

Chamber Symphonies 2 & 4

French Cello Concertos





Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.