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The Gigli Edition - Volume 7: London, New York and Milan Recordings (1931-32)
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 (1838-1875)
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)
I’m’arricordi ‘e te (Lucia, Luci) (Sung in Neapolitan dialect)
‘A canzona ‘e Napule (Sung in Neapolitan dialect)
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]


As before in this long running series – we’re up to volume seven now – the overwhelming majority of tracks here derive from Romophone’s Gigli edition. The exception is the previously unpublished Tosti Addio, recorded at the same session in June 1931 that gave us The Lost Chord, Tosti’s Goodbye and the Manon En fermant les yeux. Though Mark Obert-Thorn has worked on his transfers the differences certainly won’t warrant investigation if you have those Romophones; others however will welcome another slice of Gigli spanning recording studios in London, New York and Milan. This chronological survey takes us to October 1932.

The programme falls conveniently into entertaining genres, from parlour Tosti, through Gigli’s famed operatic assumptions to Spanish and Neapolitan popular songs and not forgetting inter alia an orchestrated Schubert and the Cujus animam from Rossini’s Stabat Mater. It certainly offers an interesting view on priorities vis-a-vis Gigli’s recording career after the Depression.

His English is well nigh incomprehensible in the Tosti and Sullivan but what a wealth of tone and panache he brings to the difficult–to-shape Goodbye. He doesn’t better Caruso here – no one can – but the climax is wonderfully virile, even if he has been over-forceful earlier. The next take in that session was the Manon and here he deploys that exquisite mezza voce before launching into the religiosity of The Lost Chord with all the fervour of a true believer. I don’t think you’ll be convinced by the Gigli sob at the end or by the more-is-less orchestral accompaniment but you’ll admire the sheer gall of it. Maybe.

Of course it’s in the Puccini that we hear the core of his repertoire, here laced with more mezza voce, hardening middle voice, mini sobs, and a wickedly naughty portamento (up a third I think) to end. Of course he wasn’t always the adroit stylist. I happen to find his Gounod Faust rather disappointing and with an excessive widening of the vibrato but the Bizet atones – in Italian, again, of course but executed with a thread of silken legato and if there’s a smidgen of sentimentality about it, who’s counting. The Spanish songs feature such as guitar accompaniment and his Schubert is quasi-operatic, almost a sob-laden verismo aria. The Neapolitan songs are echt Gigli and recorded in Milan.

The transfers have utilised good originals and noise reduction hasn’t dampened the higher frequencies. Good transfers then and followers of the series will be well satisfied with No.7.

 Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Robert Farr

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