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Beniamino Gigli: The Gigli Edition, Vol. 9
Ernesto De CURTIS (1875 – 1937) Soltanto tu, Maria
Alois MELICHAR (1896 – 1976) Anima mia
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750)/Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893) Ave Maria
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875) Agnus Dei
César FRANCK (1822 – 1890) Panis Angelicus
Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856) Il fior di loto (Die Lotosblume)
Edvard GRIEG (1843 – 1907) Un rêve (En dröm)
Francesco CILEA (1866 – 1950) L’arlesiana È la solita storia
BECCE Tu sei la vita mia
CURCI Notte a Venezia
BLANC Giovinezza
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924) Inno a Roma
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901) Aida Se quel guerrier io fossi … Celeste Aida
Giacomo PUCCINI La bohème O soave fanciulla
Cesare A. BIXIO (20th Century)
Ninna nanna della vita
Paolo TOSTI (1846 – 1916) La serenata
CINQUE Mattinata veneziana
De CURTIS Ti voglio tanto bene
Paolo TOSTI L’ultima canzone
Paolo TOSTI Marechiare
Luigi DENZA (1846 – 1922) Occhi di fata
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868) La danza
Beniamino Gigli (tenor), Maria Caniglia (soprano) (track 14), Berlin State Opera Orchestra/Alois Melichar (tr 1-3), Bruno Seidler-Winkler (tr 4-10), La Scala Orchestra and Chorus/Giuseppe Antonicelli (tr 11-12), Orchestra/Walter Goehr (tr 13-14, 19-22), Orchestra/Dino Olivieri (tr 15-18) Recorded 24th May 1936 in Electrola Studio A, Berlin(tr 1-4); 2nd June 1936 in Electrola Studio A, Berlin (tr 5-10), 8th March 1937 at the Teatro della Cannobiana, Milan (tr 11-12), 28th May 1937 in Studio 1, Abbey Road, London (tr 13-14), 24th February 1938 at the Pro Salute Studios, Milan (tr 15-18), 4th June 1938 in Studio 1A, Abbey Road, London (tr 19-22)
NAXOS 8.110270 [73 29]



The Naxos Gigli series, which collectors will know first appeared on Romophone, has now reached volume nine. It takes us to the years 1936-1938 when Gigli was in his mid-forties and comprises the fruit of recording sessions in Berlin, Milan and London. The repertoire is varied as well, as if in analogue to this geographical spread. There are operatic assumptions, naturally, as well as popular song and there are also some of those inelegantly salon-ish lieder arrangements that some singers essayed around this time.

Being a chronological series we can follow the individual sessions as they unfold; it makes listening somewhat quixotic but one can always programme a preferred sequence I suppose. Taking the twenty-two tracks as they come, as it were, offers it own pleasures. The De Curtis is ringing, fervent and gutsy. Conductor Alois Melichar – always in and out of the Berlin studios during these years – contributes what I assume is his own offering, a rather pleasingly undistinguished song. The Berlin session in May 1936 then continued with three syrupy, choir-and–harp arrangements of religious songs. I rather deplore, in my flinty Northern European way, the sobs Gigli inflicts on the Bach-Gounod and the air of verismo that he imports, perhaps with an air of mounting desperation. He tends to bleat at phrase endings in the Bizet and is simply too butch for the Franck – too emotive and too much gestural gear changing. Still, he had a tough assignment here as he did in the Schumann and Grieg, both similarly accompanied by celestial forces. The former sounds uncomfortably like Mascagni and the latter is so deliciously overheated it turns Un rêve into operatic overdrive.

No, the most purely Gigli-esque things here, the ones that capture voice and vocal gesture in the most intimate and rewarding way, are the things one would expect. His Cilea is a model of mezza voce, of refined coloration and a truly passionate climax. The little Becce song is strongly characterised and his Curci sports superb dynamic control. Two of the sides recorded in Milan have garnered some reputation for their affiliations with Italian nationalist sentiment but of considerably more interest are the later 1938 Milan and London sessions. These gave us a fine O soave fanciulla with the elegant Caniglia, a warm and superbly controlled Bixio song and Rossini’s La Danza, which has all the requisite rhythmic attack and dynamism required.

The transfers don’t differ especially from the earlier Romophones; they’re excellent and the booklet notes are concise and helpfully uncontroversial.  

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Göran Forsling







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