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Adelina Patti
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Le Nozze di Figaro – Voi che sapete
Don Giovanni – Batti, batti O bel Masetto
Antonio LOTTI (1667 - 1740)

Arminio – Pur dicesti
Stephen FOSTER (1826-1864)

Old folks at home
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust – Ah! Je ris de me voir…O Dieu que de bijoux

Il Bacio
Frederick CROUCH (1808-1896)

Kathleen Mavourneen – two versions
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)

Martha– ’Tis the last rose of summer arr. Moore – two versions
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) – Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Ave Maria with Marianne Eissler (violin)
Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)

La Serenata – two versions

Robin Adair
Comin’ thro’ the rye
On the banks of Allan Water arranged Horn
Henry BISHOP (1786-1855)

Clari or The Maid of Milan – Home, sweet home – twp versions
Baroness Willy de ROTHSCHILD

Si vous n’avez rien à me dire
Adelina PATTI

On Parting

Within a mile of Edinboro’ town
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

Norma – Casta diva!
La Sonnambula – Ah, non credea mirarti
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon – Connais-tu le pays?

La Calesera
Adelina Patti (soprano)
Landon Ronald (piano)
Alfredo Barili (piano)
Recorded 1905-06


This is a release of some considerable importance. Patti was born in 1843. Madrid-born but raised in America her career was international in scope and she was singing at Covent Garden by 1863. After a gruelling operatic career she turned more and more to stage work, though much of the repertoire remained operatic. She lived in her famous Welsh residence at Craig-y-nos (where these discs were all made) until her death in 1919.

There are of course important considerations in discussing these 1905-06 discs, and naturally pitching is prominent amongst them. Decisions here have been taken with care. Not all of these discs were issued at the time and Symposium’s running order cum head note runs in matrix order – from the earliest 537f to the last, 684½c; not all the takes are here, some being omitted for reasons of repetition.

They represent a remarkable corpus of recordings, from the eccentricities and period practises in Mozart singing which include interpolations and all manner of rhythmic elasticities and we can also hear something of Patti’s major drawback, her habit of chopping up phrases to make the breaths (admittedly Voi che sapete was a very tough sing for her – but the interpolated top G really is something else). In her Don Giovanni aria we hear her trouble with breathing and that famous, astonishing speed up for the 6/8 section. But some things about her still amaze a full century on – the trills in the Lotti are stunning even though some floated tone doesn’t really convince and she does come from under the note rather too often. She can’t make all the notes of the Gounod but this is still characterful singing – Albert Spalding once told a witty story of how Patti used her fan so brazenly in her set piece aria Il Bacio that the audience was temporarily divested of its faculty of criticism and failed to recognise that she couldn’t make many, if any, of the top notes. In that respect I suggest you listen with a sympathetic ear to the Gounod, where her lower notes aren’t well supported and her erratic rhythm is matched by a wailing cat fiddle player (she was the leader of the local orchestra, I believe).

But she could certainly get those ballads across - try the two versions of Kathleen Mavourneen (actually try the later version which is less lugubrious) or her portamento style Bishop or the outstandingly beautiful second verse of On the banks of Allan Water. In the later session in 1906 we can sample the embellishments in the second verse of Casta diva – believed to be those of the original creator of the role. And don’t overlook the sheer colour – even at her age – and phrasing in Mignon, nor the La Sonnambula trill and verve. All this and a splendid disc to end – Yradier’s La Calesera where her sheer vivacity wins out over all technical obstacles.

A number of these copies have come from illustrious collectors’ shelves (including the late Sir Paul Getty’s) Symposium hasn’t subjected them to excessive filtering but has used their now well-known house-style of minimum intervention. Given the circumstances sharp listening will be required but otherwise apart from a rather rough Ah! Je ris de me voir practised ears will encounter no unpleasant moments. And the pitching decisions seem to have been judiciously made. An important disc.

Jonathan Woolf

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