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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Amedeo Bassi
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Vesti la giubba - I Pagliacci [3:02]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La mia letizia infondere - I Lombardi [2:49]
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918)
Giunto sul passo estremo – Mefistofele [3:02]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tra voi belle - Manon Lescaut [2:14]
E lucevan le stelle – Tosca [2:15]
Ch´ella mi creda - La fanciulla del west [2:44]
In poverta mia - La Bohème [2:16]
O Mimi tu piu non torni - La Bohème [2:04]
Recondita armonia – Tosca [1:56]
O dolci mani – Tosca [1:59]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Orride steppe – Siberia [3:13]
T´incontrai per via – Siberia [1:42]
Amor ti vieta – Fedora [2:09]
Un di all´azzurro spazio - Andrea Chenier [2:01]
Si, fui Soldato - Andrea Chenier [2:18]
Come un bel di di maggio - Andrea Chenier [2:20]
Canzone guerresca  [2:04]
Frederic D’ERLANGER (1868-1943)
Stanotte ha fatto un sogno... Il sogno è la coscienza – Tess [5:09]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Questa o quella – Rigoletto [2:13]
Luigi DENZA (1846-1922)
Occhi di fata [3:09]
Titta Ruffo (1877-1953) – 1904 Pathés

Giacomo MEYERBEER
(1791-1864)
Sei vendicata assai – Dinorah [2:16]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Stammi ad udir – Faust [2:12]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
O vin, discaccia la tristezza – Amleto [3:04]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Per me giunto - Don Carlo [2:59]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Buona Zazà – Zazà [2:17]
Zazà, piccola zingara – Zazà [2:39]
Tu sola a me rimami – Chatterton [2:05]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
La donna russa – Fedora [2:14]
O bella mia – Siberia [2:13]
Augusto ROTOLI (1847-1904)
La mia sposa sarà la mia bandiera [2:17]
Amedeo Bassi (tenor)
unnamed accompaniments except the Giordano sides, accompanied by the composer, rec. 1904-12
Titta Ruffo (tenor), last ten sides, with unnamed accompaniments, rec. 1904
PREISER 89685 [75:10]

 



With a name like Amedeo Bassi you might expect a sonorous and powerful Italianate bass. What you get is actually a real verismo tenor, a contemporary of Caruso, and a warm proponent of Giordano whose music he recorded with the composer at the piano. He was born near Florence in 1874 and was making successful debuts in important Italian opera houses before the turn of the century. By 1900-01 he was a guest at the Met in New York – though it didn’t lead to much at the time – and travelling to South America. He premiered Mascagni’s Amica with Farrar in 1905, was a member of the Met (at last) between 1906 and 1908 and finally sang at La Scala. This was the high point of his professional life with calls coming from all points – notably Covent Garden to alternate with Caruso and Bonci. He gravitated to the Chicago Opera where he gave a number of local premieres, as indeed he had in London – and was to do again in the case of the role of Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del west in London in 1911.

But still the career progressed. He was a strong presence with Toscanini at La Scala in the first half of the 1920s, where he often sang Wagner, and was greatly in demand. But he soon scaled down performances, retiring from all stage work in 1926, at the age of fifty. But he did sing recitals intermittently until 1940 before teaching – his most famous pupil was Ferrucio Tagliavini. Bassi died in Florence in 1949.

That’s the biography – what of the voice? Well if you start with Vesti la giubba and you probably will, as it’s the first track, you will find the verismo in all its trenchant superficiality – maniacal laugh, sobbing, and a vibrato which widens at phrase endings. Bassi was also clearly an exponent of metrical stretching – or loose rhythm if you prefer. Examples abound. The Fedora extracts show it graphically, but so does the Tosca, which is rather coarse interpretatively. And yet the La fanciulla del west extract is much better and an important document given his involvement with it in local premieres. His singing with Giordano at the piano is much more subtle than the blowsier orchestrally accompanied examples – even if the wind and mini-string bands of the time on disc hardly conformed to “orchestral accompaniment.”

He was also associated with d’Erlanger’s Tess and sings Stanotte ha fatto un sogno... Il sogno è la coscienza with commendable artistry. These 1906 Pathé sides are better suited to him musically than the sometimes self-indulgent 1904 selection – listen to the floridly open vowel sounds in the 1904 La Bohème which are not under perfect control. His Recondita armonia makes surprisingly little impression. O dolci mani is taken from a poor copy plagued with detritus and pitch instability though the Denza is suddenly much better.  There’s a primitive sounding side with Ruffo in 1904.

Talking of Ruffo there are ten sides by him to complete the collection. These are tough sounding 1904 Pathés complete with lamination thumps, inherent pressing faults and very rough starts – as is the case with some of the Bassi sides which begin and end abruptly to try to limit this kind of thing. These sides don’t flatter the Ruffo voice; sonorous and outsize it may be but the granitically dramatic Gounod extract sounds unwieldy. His Giordano is decidedly less sensitive than Bassi’s – there’s a fair amount of  “brio and bawl” in La donna russa. These sides are for specialists only.

Nevertheless it’s for the Bassi selection that collectors will want this disc. They will be rewarded with some uneven but at its best stylish and cultured musicianship. The Giordano extracts in particular are valuable but what a pity that there is no surviving evidence of his later singing.

Jonathan Woolf

 


 


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