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  The Gigli Edition v. 8 - Beniamino Gigli: Milan, London and Berlin Recordings 1933-1935
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)

Andrea Chenier (1896) – Sì, fu soldatoa [2’36].
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana (1890) – Mamma, quel vino è generosob [3’59].
George Frederic HANDEL (1865-1759)

Serse (1738) – Frondi tenere e belle … Ombra mai fúc [4’04].
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)

Pagliacci – (1892) – No! Pagliaccio non son!d [3’02]. Pagliaccio, mio marito … O Colombinae [4’11]. Mattinataf [2’15]
Teodoro COTTRAU (1827-79)

Santa Luciag (c1848) [4’17].
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
L’elisir d’amore (1832) – Una furtiva lagrimac [4’24].
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca (1900) – E lucevan le stelleg [2’58].
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Rigoletto (1851) - La donna è mobileg [2’16].
Rinaldo di CAPUA (1864-1917)

O sole mioh [3’04]. Ernesto de CURTIS
Addio bel sognoi [3’12]. Senza nisciunoj [2’56]. Torna a Surrientok [3’18]. Non ti scordar di mel [3’21]. Cesare BIXIO
Solo per te, Luciai [3’13].
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen (1875) – La fleur que tu m’avais jetéem (sung in Italian) [4’05]. MARTINI
Plaisir d’amourn [4’11].
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-87)

Paride ed Elena (1770) – O del mio dolce ardoro [4’07].
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Élégiep [3’46].
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Mille cherubini in corol (Wiegenlied, D498, arr. Melichar) [2’32]. Alois MELICHAR (1896-1976)
Serenata Venezianaq [2’16].
Beniamino Gigli (tenor); eIva Pacetti (soprano); abefhijmnopLa Scala Orchestra/abCarlo Sabajno, efhmFranco Ghione, ijnopDino Olivieri; cdgorchestra/John Barbirolli (cwith Herbert Dawson, organ); lqBerlin State Opera Orchestra/Alois Melichar.
From HMV aDA1312, bDB1902, cDB1901, dDA1312, eDB3158, fDA1454, gDB1902, gDA1372, hDA1373, iDA1374, jDA1373, kDA1454, lDA1447, mDB2531, npDB2530, oDB2531, qDA1451. Rec. Conservatorio, Milan on abMarch 3rd,1933, eJuly 5th, ghMarch 26th, 1934, fmApril 26th, 1935, Kingsway Hall, London, on cdgMarch 20th, 1933, Pro Arte Studios, Milan, on April ij7th, n27th, o28th, 1934, Pro Salute Studios, Milan, on kApril 27th, p28th, 1935, Electrola Studio A, Berlin, on lqOctober 25th, 1935. ADD
NAXOS HISTORICAL GIGLI EDITION 8.110269 [74’06]

 

The last Naxos Gigli CD I reviewed was Volume 5 (New York 1927-38, 8.110266), which included multiple versions of the same piece for ease of comparison. No multiple versions here. The sides are presented in the order in which they were recorded. This is a remastering of Obert-Thorn's own Romophone transfers.

Caught at the height of his powers, as here, Gigli was magnificent, his voice strong but always rounded, sometimes beautifully 'honeyed'. Perhaps the Giordano Chenier excerpt is not the most exciting beginning to the disc, but there is no doubting Gigli's supreme confidence. It is good to report that Gigli just avoids sobbing in the Cavalleria 'Mamma'; who is the uncredited woman here, at 2'35?

Gigli's take on Handel and Gluck is, shall we say, of its time. From the opening of 'Frondi tenere' (leading in to 'Ombra mai fù'), there is no way one could guess this is Handel. Similarly, the strings just before Gigli's entrance at the aria proper move slowly and sluggishly, like so much lava. The music is here very much at the service of Gigli rather than the other way around. Similarly the Gluck Paride excerpt is unrecognisable as early music, although it is touching in its own right.

After the Handel - the Gluck comes much later in the programme - the 'Pagliacci non son!' is a positive homecoming, with Gigli completely at one with the role. He convinces here just as much as he does in the magnificent 'Una furtiva lagrima', where legato is simply jaw-dropping, the high register unbelievably beautiful and where a superbly managed crescendo on a single note (just before the vocal 'cadenza') is a model of its kind. A word of praise here for the orchestra also, especially the solo bassoon - the introduction to this aria is long.

The programming of this disc works extremely well, particularly between the dark Tosca ('E lucevan le stelle') and the extrovert 'La donna è mobile'. These tracks were recorded on the same day (March 26th, 1934), but it almost sounds like a different singer is used for each!

The Carmen excerpt is, as is to be expected, sung in Italian, but if you are not allergic to that there is supreme legato on display here.

Of course there are songs interspersed in this programme, a genre in which Gigli excelled. Sometimes there seems to be too much of an (initially) good thing – 4'17 is too long in the case of Santa Lucia, for example. But listen to the way Gigli makes the old pot-boiler 'O sole mio' come up fresh, full of lyrical charm as opposed to a wanton belting-out; similarly, 'Torna a Sorriento' could so easily be corny, but there is not a trace of that here.

Negatives? One hearing of the Schubert/Melichar is one too many for me, but one negative track out of 22 is not bad. And the track that impresses the most? The tender and gorgeous Massenet Elégie(sung in appealingly nasal French). I immediately listened again!

Transfers are of the highest standard.

Colin Clarke

 



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