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Tito Schipa: Schipa Edition 1 - The Complete 1922-1924 Recordings, Vol. 1
Emigrantes: Granadinas
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)
Pagliacci: O Columbina (Harlequin’s Serenade)
José PADILLA (1889-1960)
La Corte del Amor: La de ojos azules (Princesita ‘Mariposa’)
Ay, Ay, Ay (A sóma te a la ventana)
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Manon: Chiudo gli occhi (En fermant les yeux)
Richard BARTHÉLEMY (19th/20th Cent)
Chi se une scorda ‘cchiù
Pasquale Mario COSTA (1858-1933)
Gonzalo ROIG
Quiéreme mucho
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
A la orilla de un palmar
A Granada ‘Canción andaluza’
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Ecco ridente in cielo
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
La sonnambula: Son geloso del zefiro (with Amelita Galli-Curci, soprano)
Gioachino ROSSINI
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Se il mio nome saper (Serenade)
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
Mignon: Ah! non credevi tu (Elle ne croyait pas) – Addio, Mignon, fa core (Adieu, Mignon, courage)
Mi viejo amor
Serenata medioevale (2 versions)
DE FUENTES Rosalinda
Manuel De FALLA (1876-1946)
Jota (from Siete canciones populares españolas)
Emil PALADILHE (1844-1926)
Comme un petit oiseau
Tito SCHIPA (1888-1965)
A Cuba
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La traviata: Un di felice eterea – Parigi, o cara (both with Amelita Galli-Curci, soprano)
Tito Schipa (tenor), Victor Orchestra/Joseph Pasternack (tracks 1 – 5), Nathaniel Shilkret (6, 7, 10, 11), Rosario Bourdon (8, 9, 12, 14 – 19, 23, 24), Charles Adams Prince (20 – 22); Tito Schipa (guitar) and anonymous pianist (track 13)
Recorded February 1922 – September 1924
NAXOS 8.110332 [77:42]



When these songs and arias were recorded Tito Schipa was around 35 years old and at the height of his powers. Not that he ever had a very powerful voice; his was a lyric tenor with none of the brilliance of, say, Gigli and not a very wide range either. He didn’t reach high C very often. But he was the most aristocratic tenor of his, or any time; always elegant, always tasteful, with fluent runs, no intrusive Hs and never condescending to the lachrymose tone and the sobs that were part and parcel of Gigli’s style. He also excelled in the most perfect diminuendos and pianissimos and his rubatos - an art that seems more or less extinct nowadays - were so perfectly judged that one often can’t imagine a certain song being sung in any other way. The Creole song Ay, Ay, Ay (track 4) is a perfect example. This song, like almost half the numbers on the disc, is sung in Spanish, Schipa obviously having an affection for Iberian music. His own composition, A Cuba (track 22) is also set to a Spanish text and is very Spanish in character and it seems that he has a natural feeling for the Spanish rhythms. The originals are of course late acoustical recordings, but his voice is reproduced with astounding clarity and presence, and maybe, as has sometimes been stated, this recording technique was perhaps superior when it came to representing the human voice. The orchestral sound is still rather primitive, and there the electrical process, introduced just a year later, was a great leap forward. Anyway Ward Marston’s restorational work has once again resulted in sound that could be appreciated not only by die-hard historical freaks but also by general lovers of great singing. There are some plops and clicks and all the mechanical background noise from the old shellacs has not been eliminated, but so immediate is the reproduction of Schipa’s voice, and so agreable is his singing that one soon forgets it. When the electrical process was launched many of these numbers were re-recorded and they are also the most well-known and most often reissued but, as Alan Blyth states in his comments, these earlier efforts probably catch Schipa at his very best.

And which are the highlights? The answer is simple: all of them! There is not one number here that doesn’t show Schipa’s mastery. Take Arlecchino’s Serenade (track 2) for instance: has it ever been more seductively sung? Take the Manon aria (track 5), sung in Italian but that is about the only objection one can have. Quiéreme mucho (track 8) by the (to me at least) unknown Roig, turns out to be a lovely song and Ponce’s A la orilla de un palmar (track 9) has a final diminuendo that makes one go into a trance. The two Rossini arias are of course exemplary, especially the Serenade (track 13) where Schipa also provides his own guitar accompaniment. The final diminuendo could be a lesson to any modern singer, and the two arias from Mignon – again sung in Italian – have probably never been challenged, unless it be Leopold Simoneau on his DG recordings from the 1950s.

The three duets with Galli-Curci, the leading coloratura soprano of the period, are instructive. In the Sonnambula excerpt Schipa colours his voice and caresses the phrases while Galli-Curci is more monochrome and sounds only mildly interested, but of course she is technically utterly secure and her voice has that bell-like clarity that was her hall-mark. The same goes for Un di felice eterea from the first act of La traviata where Schipa is audibly in love with Violetta, while Galli-Curci is a rather cold and impersonal canary, just twittering her notes. In the last act duet Schipa is just as caring and caressing and here it seems that the soprano is more inside the role and has realized Violetta’s predicament.

There is full documentation in the insert and with generous playing time this issue can be strongly recommended. There isn’t much better – and tasteful - tenor singing anywhere in recorded history!

Göran Forsling

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf







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