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Ferruccio Tagliavini (tenor) Famous Cetra Recordings 1939-54
Cetra recordings made between 1939-54
WARNER FONIT 5050466-3295-2-3 [3 CDs 69.37 + 60.54 + 66.02]


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Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

L’Amico Fritz – Suzel, buon dì with Magda Olivero (soprano)
L’Amico Fritz – Suzel, buon dì with Pia Tassinari (soprano)
L’Amico Fritz – Ed anche Beppe amò
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

L’elisir d’amore-Una furtive lacrima
L’elisir d’amore- Quanto è bella quanto è cara
Don Pasquale – Sogno soave e casto
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)

L’Arlesiana – E la solita storia del pastore
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Rigoletto – Ella mi fu rapita
Falstaff – Dal labbro il canto
I Lombardi alla prima crociata – La mia letizia infondere
Luisa Miller – Quando le sere al placido
La Traviata – Parigi o cara noi lasceremo with Tassinari (soprano)
Un Ballo in Maschera – Teco io sto with Maria Curtis Verna (soprano)
Un Ballo in Maschera – Forse la soglia attinse
Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876-1948)

I quatro Rusteghi – Luceta xe un bel nome
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La bohème – Che gelida manina
La Bohème – Addio…dunque e proprio finita with Pia Tassinari (soprano), Maria Huder (soprano) and Enzo Mascherini (baritone)
Tosca – Recondita armonia
Tosca – E lucevan le stele
Tosca – O dolci mani
Tosca – Or lasciami al lavoro
La Fanciulla del West – Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)

Andrea Chénier – Come un bel dì di maggio
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

La sonnambula – Prendi. L’anel ti dono
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Il barbiere di Siviglia – Ecco ridente in cielo
Charles-Louis Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon – Addio Mignon
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Manon – Oh dolce incante
Werther – Dividerci dobbiam…Ma che sapete voi di me with Pia Tassinari (soprano)
Werther – Sogno! Incanto!
Werther – Ah! Tutto il core ho qui
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)

L’heure exquise (Chansons grises No 5)
Frederic von FLOTOW (1812-1883)

Marta – M’appari tutto amor
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

The Pearl Fishers – Mi par d’udir ancora
Giulio CACCINI (1550-1618)

Amarilli, mia bella
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)

Paride ed Elena – O del mio dolce ardour
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1868)

L’Africana – O paradiso
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918)

Mefistofele – No. Sta l’inferno with Pia Tassinari (soprano)

Malinconia d’amore
Ho messo il cuore nei pasticcio

Voglio vivere così
Tu non mi lascerai

Ninna Nanna in grigioverder
Osman Perez FRIERE

Ay. Ay, Ay

Amuri, amuri – transcribed Geni SADERO

Dolce sera

Notte a Santa Lucia
Ferruccio Tagliavini (tenor) with
Orchestra Sinfonica dell’EIAR di Torino conducted by Ugo Tansini
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI conducted by Mario Rossi
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI conducted by Arturo Basile
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI conducted by Angelo Questa
Orchestra Sinfonica dell’EIAR di Torino conducted by Tito Petralia
Unidentified Orchestra conducted by Cesare Gallino and Armando Fragna
Ermelinda Magnetti (piano) and Aurelio Arcidiacono (viola) in the Massenet Elegie


Born in Reggio Emilia in 1913 Tagliavini was one of Cetra’s star singers. He studied at the Conservatory in Parma and won first prize in the Florence May Festival in 1938. Clearly one of the new rising stars of the Italian tenor firmament he made an almost immediate operatic debut as Rodolfo in Florence in that year, progressing to La Scala in the same role. After the War he made the first of his American tours and it was as Rodolfo, once again his calling card, that he made the first of his many Met appearances. He remained of their books until 1954 and afterwards began a touring schedule that saw more heavy commitments in America throughout 1961-62 when he returned to the Met. He sang and recorded frequently with his wife, the soprano Pia Tassinari whom he married in 1941. Tagliavini died in 1985.

In the early days he was touted as Schipa’s successor but Tagliavini was more a tenore di grazia. He had a delicious mezza voce and a floated head voice that could be sustained seemingly indefinitely (though both were the product of rigorous training). Virility and heft were not lacking, nor was comic timing, but the overarching impression left by these Cetra recordings from the very start of his career until his early middle age is of an uncommonly sweet voiced tenor with a beautiful legato and a somewhat over deployed use of the head voice. This was later caricatured as a bit of a croon but there’s little sign of that here. Instead we have a glimpse of the youthful and very personable tenor in staples such as Cilea’s L’Arlesiana where his head voice takes on a voix mixte tinge whilst remaining strongly Italianate. His Wolf-Ferrari is sweet and delightfully inflected but his Che gelida manina has not only softness of expression but true grit as well. If he did succumb to mere beauty of tone he did so with commensurate passion, as here. A test case of the dilemma that surrounds him comes in a work in which he excelled, namely Bellini’s La sonnambula. There is real elegance here, a certain suavity as well, but detractors might point to the rather swoony beauty as evidence of the cultivation of tonal qualities and extremes (he was the master of extremes both at the top and bottom of his range) ahead of more musical virtues.

Nevertheless his Falstaff does have a superb legato, and his Recondita armonia is honeyed, emotionally ardent if rather gentlemanly (not bustly at all). Emotively he kept the sobbing to a bare minimum, though there are examples in E lucevan le stele where he gives us two discreet sniffles. He shows he is every inch the stage animal in O dolci mani and in Rossini’s Ecco ridente in cielo he combines elfin phrasing with increasing colour and declamation – albeit the cost is one of occasionally forced tone. We can also enjoy a sliver extracted from Mascagni’s conducting of his L’amico Fritz, a famous complete recording made in Turin in 1942.

In French repertoire (often sung in Italian) he doesn’t lack for power and passion – see Thomas’ Mignon whilst we find opposite virtues in the Massenet Manon aria – here we experience his floated half voice, those deep pianissimi and the fluid run of the voice, its perfect alignment with the text. In the1948 Donizetti Don Pasquale extract we can hear most of these virtues in concentrated form; mezza voce, lightening diminuendo with a portamenti floated step-wise upwards, its effect one of a sudden shake of a horse’s mane. There is a pre-taste of his complete 1953 Cetra Werther (conducted by Molinari-Pradelli) in the form of this 1948 aria led by Arturo Basile. There are rare examples of his classical repertoire in the third disc. The Caccini was a favourite of de Luca and Gigli – and Tagliavini is unexaggerated and quite affecting with it and strongly in the romantic tradition. In the Gluck aria from Paride ed Elena, another Gigli special, Tagliavini is plaintive and withdrawn and he sings it as rather more ballad than baroque aria. His Massenet Élégie is usually with violin or cello accompaniment. Here we have a compromise – it’s an unnamed violist – though Tagliavini does rather spoil the effect with a gratuitous sob. As the third disc comes to an end we have some curiosities. The startling eruption of the 1954 Verdi Un ballo in maschera comes as a shock after the 1940s sides. It’s extracted from the complete 1954 opera, on Cetra with Maria Curtis Verna (soprano) and conducted by Angelo Questa. The box ends with some film and popular song – at which he was an adept – though he is saddled with some hit and miss dance band arrangements.

Tagliavini’s Cetra recording career has been well documented here. There is a booklet with full texts in Italian but no notes. The honeyed tenor with the expressive extensions records well – the Cetra edge is well contained – and collectors of his early discs will find much to confirm their admiration in this three disc set.

Jonathan Woolf



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