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Enrico CARUSO: The Complete Recordings Volume 11
MICHELENA A la luz de la lunaa [4’05]. COSTA Sei morta ne la vita miab [3’31]. ALVAREZ La Partidac [4’45]. A Garanda [3’48]. Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) La forza del destino – Nè gustare m’è dato .. Sleale! Il segreto fu dunque violate?d [4’17]. COHAN Over Theree [2’58]. Louis NIEDERMEYER (1802-61) Pietà, Signoref [4’30]. BILLI (arr. Malfetti) Campane a sera ‘Ave Maria’f [3’56]. OLIVIERI Inno di Garibaldif [2’34]. ARONA La Compana di San Giustog [4’37]. Robert PLANQUETTE (1848-1903) Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuseg [4’16]. FUCITO Sultanto a Tteh [3’05]. Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Samson et Dalila – Je viens célébrer la victoirei [3’34]. Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) L’elisir d’amore – Venti scudi!d [4’10]. Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916) ‘A vicchellaj [3’00]. TRADITIONAL Vieni sul marj [3’36]. Ernesto De CURTIS (1875-1937) Tu, ca nun chiagnej [2’39]. Teodoro COTTRAU Addio a Napolik [3’21].
Enrico Caruso (tenor); iLouise Homer (mezzo), aEmilio de Gogorza dGiuseppe De :Luca (baritones); iMarcel Journet (bass); bVincenzo Lellezza (piano); a,c-jVictor Orchestra/Josef Pasternack.
Rec. in Camden, N. J. on abApril 16th, July cd10th, e11th, fSeptember 26th, 1918, gJanuary 6th, hiFebruary 10th, September j8th, k9th, 1919. ADD
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110752 [66’43]

Recorded in his mid-forties, these (First World) war-time recordings show Caruso at a time of much personal strain. The military numbers in the present compilation are a reflection of the prevailing Zeitgeist. Perhaps, musically, only Over There was a mistake. It is sung in English, although play it ‘blind’ to your next door neighbour and they may or may not guess it (maybe some would guess some sort of hybrid Scandiwegian?). On very first listening, and not at that point following the track listing, it took me a little while to realise just what was going on, especially as it follows an excerpt from Forza. Still, it is stirring stuff, lusty and powerful and sung with real belief. Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse has a most amusing side-drum part (interestingly, the composer, Robert Planquette, was himself a tenor). The two patriotic songs in Italian, Inno di Garibaldi and La Campana di San Giusto are involving in their own short-lived way. The lustiness of Inno di Garibaldi (Caruso’s lungs get plenty of exercise here) gives way to the thoroughly facile introduction of Campana – one really appreciates Caruso when he comes in!

The other songs in this collection get the full Caruso treatment, and it is particularly enjoyable to hear him when he is joined by another singer at the very start of the ‘recital’ – he seems to have a natural empathy for others. Emilio de Gogorza joins him in Michelena’s A la luz de la luna. They make a well-rounded pair that happens to phrase together in the suavest of fashions.

Caruso seems entirely at home and to be enjoying himself – La partida, which has what must be a very rewarding castanet part, is superb (if, at 4’45, a bit long for itself). Similarly, in the (probably) universally recognisable Vieni sul mar, he swings along infectiously, while Tu, ca nun chiagne is unmistakably De Curtis and Caruso sings it as if he was born to do so.

Even with the (for Naxos) relatively low playing time, perhaps the producer realised that an hour of unrelieved song, even from Caruso, would be too much for most. So, there is some meatier stuff around. Giuseppe De Luca joins Caruso in an excerpt from Forza, and it is marvellous. De Luca adds spice to Caruso’s silky-smooth legato. Towards the end of the disc, we are treated to two operatic excerpts in a row. ‘Je viens célébrer la victoire’ from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila is simply beautiful. Marcel Journet is marvellously focussed and Louise Homer phrases most affectingly, but it is Caruso who sounds the most involved of the three.

Perhaps surprisingly, De Luca sounds uninvolved in the Donizetti while Caruso negotiates the difficult vocal manoeuvres excellently.

Caruso lovers will snap up this disc anyway. For me, it is all too much starter and not enough main course, but that is just personal taste and Caruso is rarely less than magnificence personified.

The sound restoration is by Ward Marston, so by now perhaps little needs to be said. We are used to his high standards. Some hiss is left on, so that depth remains with us from the orchestra. A little proof-reading error on the booklet should not detract – Naxos state on the last page of the booklet that ‘All tracks recorded … with the Victor Orchestra, conducted by Josef Pasternack’, ignoring the fact that track 2 is for voice and piano.

Caruso completists will not hesitate. Those looking for a celebration of the lighter side of life shouldn’t either.

Colin Clarke



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