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The McCormack Edition 2
John William CHERRY Dear Little Shamrock (5)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901) Bella figlia dell’amore from Rigoletto (1,2,3,7)
Charles GOUNOD (1818 - 1893) All’erta, All’erta from Faust (1,3,7)
George A BARKER The Irish Emigrant (5)
Frederick Nichols CROUCH Kathleen Mavourneen (5)
Charles MARSHALL I hear you calling me (5)
Traditional Believe me if all those endearing charms (5)
Liza LEHMANN (1862 - 1918) Oh Moon of my delight (5)
Traditional Molly Bawn (5)
Ernest R. BALL/Chauncey OLCOTT Mother Machree (5)
Victor HERBERT (1859 - 1924) I’m Falling in Love with Someone from Naughty Marietta (5)
Dermot MACMURROUGH Macushla (5)
Jacob BLUMENTHAL An Evening Song (5)
Traditional She is far from the Land (5)
Attilio PARELLI The Happy Morning Waits (L’Alba Nascente) (5)
Georges BIZET (1838 - 1875) Del tempio al limitar (Au fond du temple saint) from Les Pecheurs de Perles (3, 5)
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 - 1868) Li Marinari (No 11 from Les Soirées Musicales); Mira la bianca luna (No 12 from Les Soirées Musicales); O meglio mi scordavo from Il Barbiere di Siviglia (3, 4, 5, 6)
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834 - 1886) Badoer questa notte  from La Gioconda  (3, 6)
John McCormack (tenor)
Nellie Melba (soprano) (1)
Emmy Destinn (soprano) (4)
Edna Thornton (contralto) (2)
Mario Sammarco (baritone) (3)
Victor Orchestra (5)
symphony orchestra/Percy Pitt (6)
New Symphony Orchestra / Landon Ronald (7)
The Acoustic Recordings: vol. 2 - recorded 1910 -1911
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110329 [76:13]



John McCormack had two parallel singing careers. In the first he made a name for himself singing opera in London and New York. Though he made his operatic debut in Milan (in 1905), it was at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan that his career thrived; the weight and quality of his voice meant that he was not popular in Italy. He made his New York operatic debut in 1909.

Parallel to this was his career as a song recitalist, a singer of ballads and sentimental ballads. The wonderful lyric quality of his voice combined with his superb diction and sensitivity to the text and the music meant that, as a recitalist, he was a wonderful communicator. No matter what the quality of his material, his performances are always on a higher plane entirely. His success in this sphere eventually led him to drop operatic appearances altogether.

This is the second volume of Naxos’s McCormack Edition and it deals with his acoustic recordings from the years 1910 and 1911. McCormack recorded a mixture of operatic items and songs but it is songs which predominate. Of the 22 items on this disc, 13 are sentimental ballads and Irish songs and two are songs by Rossini. There are just seven operatic items and two of those are repeated.

I must confess that I find a little of this sentimental repertoire goes a long way. Despite McCormack’s lovely delivery, listening to all these songs at one sitting is not something I’d want to do regularly. But even if one cannot appreciate the songs, you can admire the wonders of McCormack’s technique; the lovely long spun lines, the haunting head voice in Ah Moon of my Delight and Macushla and the sheer beauty of tone. It must be admitted that the simple beauty of McCormack’s voice is something which comes over only intermittently in these recordings. Sometimes there are patches where he sounds rather too acid, but then in an item like Rossini’s Mira la Bianca luna you can be knocked sideways by the beauty of his voice and the sheer luxury of his phrasing. Another point to bear in mind is the simple directness of his technique, in these songs and ballads he never sounds particularly old fashioned.

The Quartet from Rigoletto and two versions of the trio from Faust come from McCormack’s only recording session with Nellie Melba. It was evidently a stormy one. In the quartet, McCormack displays his familiar long elegant phrasing and Edna Thornton is a rather perky, unmatronly Maddalena, but Melba is rather distant. This is not an ideal version of the quartet and only memorable for the novelty of the pairing of McCormack and Melba. In both version of the Faust trio Melba gets her revenge; here it is definitely her show and McCormack is relegated to the background. 

The duet from Bizet’s Les Pecheurs de Perles was recorded twice in the same year, both times in Italian. There is certainly much to admire here as this sort of tenor role is ideal for McCormack’s lyric voice.

The two duets from Rossini’s Les Soirées Musicales are charmingly done, making one wish for more. But in the duet from Il Barbieri di Siviglia Mario Sammarco impresses but McCormack’s passagework is rather inadequate. The final item on the disc is something of a novelty nowadays, the wonderfully dramatic duet from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.

The discs have all been re-mastered by the ever wonderful Ward Marston. Many people will want to collect this new McCormack Edition and as a record of some stunning singing this disc is ideal. Even if you are not taken with McCormack’s repertoire of sentimental songs, at Naxos’s super-budget price this disc is well worth acquiring as a record of one of the loveliest tenor voices of the early 20th century.

Robert Hugill

see also Review by Göran Forsling




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