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A Survey of European Zonophone Recordings 1901-1903
Cathérine Mastio (Paris 1874–?) (soprano) – Lakmé (Leo DELIBES) – Pourquoi dans les grands bois – X-1295
Antonio Magini-Coletti (1855–1912) (baritone) – Rigoletto (Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) – Pari siamo – X-1509
Bice Silvestri (soprano) – La Bohème (Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) – Addio di Mimi – X-1530
Antonio Magini-Coletti (1855–1912) (baritone) La Gioconda (Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886) – Pescator, affonda l’esca –X-1539
Giovanni Battista de Negri (1851–1924) – Otello (Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) – Niun mi tema – X-1561
Alice Cucini (1870–1949) (mezzo-soprano) – Samson et Dalila (Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) – S’apre per te – X-1579
Giulietta Wermez (soprano) – La Sonnambula (Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835) – Ah non credea mirarti – X-1596
Paulo Wulman (1863–1918) – Mefistofele (Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918) – Ave Signor – X-1762 Paulo Wulman (1863–1918) – Simone Boccanegra (Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) – Il lacerato spirito – X-1766
Tieste Wilmant (1859–1937) (Baritone) – Otello (Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) – Credo di Jago – X-1870
Antonio Magini-Coletti (1855–1912) (baritone) – La Damnation de Faust (Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) – Canzone della pulce – X-1897
Aïno Ackté (1876–1944) (soprano) – Faust (Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893) – Air des bijoux – X-1999
Lucien Fugère (1848–1935) (baritone) – La Joconde (ISOUARD) – Dans un délire extrême – X-2013
Jean-François Delmas (1861–1933) (baritone) – Faust (Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893) – Ronde du veau d’or – X-2023
Jean-François Delmas (1861–1933) (baritone) – Don Giovanni (Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) – Serenade – X-2025
Léon Melchissèdec (1843–1925) – La Marseillaise (DE LISLE) – X-2060-2
Pol Plançon (1854–1914) (bass) – Les Huguenots (Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)– Piff, paff, piff, paff – X-2061
Pol Plançon (1854–1914) (bass) – Faust (Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893) – Vous qui faites l’endormi –X-2062
Pol Plançon (1854–1914) (bass) – Carmen (Georges BIZET (1838-1875) – Chanson du Toreador –X-2064
Pol Plançon (1854–1914) (bass) – Les Rameaux (J.-B. FAURE) –X-2065
Pol Plançon (1854–1914) (bass) – Philémon et Baucis (Gounod) – Au bruit des lourds marteaux –X-2066
Pauline Agussol (1863– ?) (soprano) –  Manon (Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)) – Je suis encore tout étourdie –X-2074
Rose Caron (1857–1930) (soprano) – Sigurd (REYER) – Des présents de Gunther – X-2094
Léon Laffitte (1875–1938) (tenor) – Manon (Jules Massenet (1842-1912) – Ah! Fuyez douce image – X-2174
Léon Laffitte (1875–1938) (tenor) – Les Huguenots (Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864) – Plus blanche que la blanche ermine – X-2177
Giulio Rossi (1862–1934) – Simone Boccanegra (Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) – Il lacerato spirito – X-2534
Giulio Rossi (1862–1934) – Parsifal (Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) – Racconto di Gurnemanz – X-2551
SYMPOSIUM 1281 [79.11]



Over a century has passed since these operatic discs were first made. They were all recorded by Zonophone between 1901 and 1903 and, as a competitor to the Gramophone & Typewriter Company, they had a strong roster of artists on whom to call – some household names, others of more local fame. Today some names still burn with lustre whilst others have dimmed almost to oblivion. The discs are in some cases very rare so Symposium’s caveat about condition is merited though the wonder is that, after the initial aural shock, that so many were so well and forwardly recorded. Antiquarians start here but more delicate souls, reared on DDD, had better pass by this roll call of past glory for the latest mezzo whiz kid or soprano saviour.

Antonio Magini-Coletti makes a real impression. He premiered Puccini’s Edgar and was selected by Toscanini as a front rank singer; he did stints at La Scala and the Met though his career was centred in Italy. His Verdi is elegantly phrased and the voice is strikingly natural and well supported. An important singer, no doubt. PaoloWulman, who’d made his debut in Naples, has a sonorous if unsubtle voice and Giulietta Wermez, another Italian, is guilty of an impossibly fast vibrato. But this is nothing when set against the goatish bleat of Tieste Wilmant in Otello – a freakish sound if ever there was one. Such conjunctions occur frequently throughout the disc. We hear for example Aïno Ackté, who caused a sensation but whose career trailed off. It’s a shame that there’s quite a lot of blasting on her sole disc here because it shows personality. Lucien Fugère and Pol Plançon are here of course – two huge names. The former has been well covered, by Malibran for example and by Symposium itself, and the solitary example here is characteristically fine. Plançon is represented by five, consistently superior sides and though one or two were recorded at a slightly lower level than the other Zonophones we can still admire the best singing on the disc; elegance, imagination, refinement, style, audible intelligence of usage of dynamics. The Massenet runs are splendid and the Gounod an adornment of the French style.

Besides Plançon Delmas sounds stately (if acceptable) and Pauline Agussol sounds old before her time – she was only forty so overuse must have contributed to the state of wear and tear of her voice. Rose Caron sounds equally elderly but even more wobbly – this is probably the least well-preserved disc as well. Then there were the almost-but-not-quites. Lafitte has a good voice and sounds a fine artist but ruins his Mignon through unremitting attacks (was he like this on stage or was he over compensating for the acoustic horn and posterity?). And there’s Giulio Rossi whose Verdi is just a shade immobile but whose Parsifal is all wrong.

There are potted biographies of the singers and as usual Symposium provides full discographic information. Billed as A Survey it does precisely that for these Zonophones. Plenty of incident, local and national styles, varying degrees of excellence – and in the main good transfers, given the provenance.

Jonathan Woolf

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