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Beniamino Gigli - The Gigli Edition vol. 13 - London Recordings 1947-1949
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Das Veilchen, K.476;
Benjamin GODARD
Joselyn: Cachés dans cet asile (Berceuse);
Victor HERBERT (1859–1924)
Naughty Marietta: Ah! Sweet mystery of life;
(? - ?)

Song of songs;
(c 1670–1736)

Come raggio di sol; La Costanza in amor cince l’inganno: Selve amiche, ombrose piante;
Francesco DURANTE

Vergin, tutto amor;
Antonio CESTI
I casti amori d’Orontea: Intorno all’idol mio;

Mattinata siciliana;

L’Arianna: Lasciatemi morire!;
(c 1753–1798)

Caro mio ben, credimi almen;
Alessandro SCARLATTI

Il Pompeo: O cessate di piagarmi;

Don Juan de Mañara: Tu vedi in un bel ciel;
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863–1945)
L’amico Fritz: Ed anche Beppe amò ... O amore, o bella luce del cor;
Quattro miniature siciliane: ‘Carrettieri’: No. 3 Tango notturno;
George Frideric HANDEL

Atalanta: Care selve, ombre beate;
Giovanni BONONCINI (1670–1747)
Griselda: Per la Gloria d’adorarvi;
Antonio CESTI
(arr Parisotti)

Tu mancavi a tormentarmi;
Alessandro SCARLATTI
L’onestà negli amori: Già il sole del Gange;
Cangia, cangia tue voglie
Beniamino Gigli (tenor)
Orchestra/Rainaldo Zamboni (tracks 1–14), Vito Carnevali (tracks 15–20)
rec. Studio 1, Abbey Road, London 12 December 1947 – 18 March 1949
Producer and Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
NAXOS 8.111102 [64:11]


The thirteenth volume of the Gigli edition is lucky for lovers of aria antiche. After a somewhat lame series of miscellaneous discs in the London studios – in which, for instance, he reprised with complete lack of conviction some of John McCormack’s repertoire to salute the Count’s passing - he was back with a well chosen and this time sensible selection policy.

There was very little diminution in his technical powers and certainly none in his expressive arsenal, which is chock-full of the most subtle and effective shadings, half voice, pianissimos and tonal beauty. The Mozart song may be sung in Italian but the honey in the voice is still affectingly there. With the Godard one appreciates the harvesting of his vocal resources; the singing here is full of charm with Gigli’s legato unimpaired by the advancing years. His passionate Herbert with its characteristically deficient Gigli English is perhaps less impressive, but the inconsequential Moya song does show how artful and inspired his approach to trifles such as this could become. The head voice is supplemented by a dazzlingly quick downward portamento in true period style; it lifts, colours and gives life to otherwise forgettable music.

The heart of the disc however consists of aria antiche. These have been well transposed and Gigli sings them with great reserves of manliness and simplicity. Selve amiche is stately and nobly expressive and he even fights off the galumphing basses in Durante’s Vergin, tutto amor and manages to triumph. Better still is the upper voiced melancholy of the Cesti, with its grace and solicitous gravity wondrously deployed. The Mazziotti song was recorded on Christmas Eve and is rather soupy but the Monteverdi, then most unusual repertoire not least for Gigli, is lyric and affecting – Gigli’s timbral plangency in these arias is especially touching. His Caro mio ben, an aria sung with relish by many of the Golden Age singers, receives a reading of the utmost lightness of expression with a battery of inflexions to make it live, not least a breathtaking use the head voice in the divisions. It’s really only in the Scarlatti Il Pompeo that he misjudges things and applies a veneer of verismo that strikes a false note.

That the voice was still a clarion instrument can be heard in the Mascagni, one of the relatively few of the pieces here readily and immediately identifiable as Gigli territory.

As before the transfers are lifelike, open, unproblematic and most attractive; notes are pertinent and concise. The Gigli enthusiast will enjoy – maybe even come to love – his evocative and noble way with the aria antiche in particular.

Jonathan Woolf 

see also Review by Göran Forsling




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