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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 (1849–1895)
Joselyn: Cachés dans cet asile (Berceuse);
Victor HERBERT
(1859–1924)

Naughty Marietta: Ah! Sweet mystery of life;
MOYA (? - ?) Song of songs;
Antonio CALDARA (c 1670–1736)
Come raggio di sol; La Costanza in amor cince l’inganno: Selve amiche, ombrose piante;
Francesco DURANTE
(1684–1755)

Vergin, tutto amor;
Antonio CESTI
(1623–1669)
I casti amori d’Orontea: Intorno all’idol mio;
MAZZIOTTI (?) Mattinata siciliana;
Claudio MONTEVERDI
(1567–1643)

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

Caro mio ben, credimi almen;
Alessandro SCARLATTI
(1660–1725)
Il Pompeo: O cessate di piagarmi;
Franco ALFANO
(1876–1954)

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; GIBILARO (?)
Quattro miniature siciliane: ‘Carrettieri’: No. 3 Tango notturno;
George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
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;
FASOLO (?) 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]

 

 

With the thirteenth volume of Beniamino Gigli’s complete “single” recordings this series takes on a new direction. To date his 78s, including some previously un-issued takes, have been presented chronologically. The remaining volumes, to quote the producer’s notes, “will be devoted to those commercial recordings issued during the singer’s lifetime, which are not already available in the Testament series”. The reasons are twofold: firstly EMI had, by the end of the 1940s, begun to record on magnetic tape, sources that are not available to Naxos and thus the sound-quality would not be as good as on the Testament discs; secondly much of the material recorded was not published until after Gigli’s death in 1957 and is consequently not out of copyright. Some of them will not be until the year 2032.

The present issue reflects new directions in Gigli’s recording career in terms of repertoire. He had always mixed arias with Neapolitan songs and other “light” material. Towards the end the latter became ever more dominant. This also mirrored his “live” career, which was mainly devoted to concerts. An strand of this activity was his singing of what are generally known as arie antiche, songs and arias by Italian composers of the early and middle baroque. Arranged and transposed to comfortable keys these hardly qualify as “authentic”. Gigli’s way of performing them further removes them from what must originally have been heard. Nevertheless he lavishes all his customary care and devotion on whatever material he chooses, making them attractive listening, even though the predominant minor keys, slow tempi and gloomy atmosphere result in a sameness that makes it advisedly to digest them one or two at a time. On this disc we get a full dozen of them and Scarlatti’s Già il sole del Gange (track 19) is the one that sticks out by being lively and springy. Gigli is here at his most ebullient. Among the others Monteverdi’s Lamento di Arianna (track 10) is given a deeply felt reading, Giordani’s Caro mio ben (track 11) is caressed with his most honeyed tone and Care selve (track 16) is sung at a ravishing pianissimo all through.

He also squeezed in a couple of Sicilian songs (tracks 9, 15) of which the latter, Tango notturno, is an atmospheric, very slow tango, hardly danceable. Here he sounds uncharacteristically strained and adds some very audible sighs. In general though he retains the high standards of his vocal armoury, wisely employing his still very beautiful and perfectly controlled mezza voce. When more heroic singing is required he shows his mettle with top notes still ringing out brilliantly – not as effortlessly as ten or more years earlier but there is practically no widening of the vibrato. A remarkable voice!

The disc opens with Das Veilchen, sung in Italian. In spite of not being a Mozartean Gigli sings the song with light tone, much of it in his most suave half-voice – unidiomatic but lovely! Godard’s Berceuse, sung in French - sort of - is endearing, one or two near-sobs apart. Ah! Sweet mystery of life, in his best (?) English, is heroic and Moya’s Song of songs is a nice piece, sung with Gigli’s normal whole-hearted commitment and well-judged dynamic shadings. The final note, albeit thrilling, is a bit over the top.

Opera lovers may feel a bit short-changed with this issue. True, there are no less than seven excerpts from baroque operas among the arie antiche, but the “real” opera singer is limited to two arias. Track 13 offers an excerpt from Don Juan de Mañara by Alfano, who is best known as the one who completed the final pages of Puccini’s Turandot. He was also a competent composer in his own right. This Don Juan opera was first played as early as 1914 but Alfano reworked and renamed it. Gigli sang the role in 1941 after having studied the work with the composer and also suggested changes to the score, one of them being this aria, which was originally a duet. He sings it with affection, as he does the aria from L’amico Fritz, a role that he first essayed in 1937. He later declared L’amico Fritz to be his favourite Mascagni opera. This is possibly the best proof on the disc that he could still, in 1948, muster the required heroic tone. The famous Cherry duet, by the way, will appear on the next volume in this series, recorded in 1951 with Gigli’s daughter Rina.

With good sound, excellent transfers, insightful notes, as usual, from Alan Blyth and discographical details a model of their kind this is another worthy addition to the series. Gigli completists will need it but so will anyone interested in good singing, especially when so impressively delivered by a tenor approaching sixty years of age who had been singing for 35 years!

Göran Forsling

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