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Early French Tenor Recordings: Volume 1: Émile Scaramberg, Pierre Cornubert, and Julien Leprestre
CD 1 [78:47]
Émile Scaramberg (tenor)
Fonotipia, Paris ca. 1905–1906:

With piano accompaniment
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
Manon - opéra-comique in 5 acts (1884) - Je suis seul…Ah! Fuyez, douce image [3:06]
Manon - opéra-comique in 5 acts (1884)  - Je suis seul…Ah! Fuyez, douce image [take 2] [3:26]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
La Reine de Saba, opera. (1864) -  Inspirez-moi, race divine [3:00]
Georges BIZET (1838 - 1875)
Carmen - opéra-comique in four acts (1875) - La fleur que tu m’avais jetée  [3:27]
Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883)
Lohengrin (1850) - Ah, respirons tous deux (Atmest du nicht) [3:15]
Sigurd -  Prince du Rhin  [2:38]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Werther (1892) - Dieu de bonté…J’aurais sur ma poitrine  [3:06]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Mireille  (1865) - Anges du paradis [3:23]
Leo DELIBES (1836–1891)
Lakmé (1883) - Fantaisie aux divins mensonges  [3:44]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Faust, opera (1859) - Salut! Demeure chaste et pure  [3:03]
Faust, opera (1859) - Laisse-moi contempler ton visage…Ô nuit d’amour  [5:19]
With Georgette Bréjean-Silver (soprano)
Roméo et Juliette (1867) - Ange adorable  [3:54]
With Georgette Bréjean-Silver (soprano)
Roméo et Juliette (1867) - Ah, lève-toi, soleil [3:23]
Roméo et Juliette (1867) -  Salut, tombeau [3:40]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
La Favorite (1840) - Ange si pur  [3:16]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
L’africaine (1865) - Pays merveilleux!...Ô paradis  [3:23]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Rigoletto (1851) - Qu’une belle (Questa o quella)  [2:05]
Rigoletto (1851) - Comme la plume au vent (La donna è mobile)  [2:14]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)
Pagliacci (1892) -: Me grimer!...Pauvre Paillasse (Recitar!...Vesti la giubba) [3:08]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana (1889) - Ô Lola [Siciliana]  [1:48]
Cavalleria Rusticana (1889) - Ô Lola [Siciliana] [2:31]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Fedora - opera in three acts (1898) - Le ciel te livre (Amor ti vieta)  [2:10]
Fonotipia, Paris ca. 1906
With orchestral accompaniment
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
Mignon (1866)- Elle ne croyait pas [2:41]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Si J'étais Roi (1852) - J’ignore son nom [3:12]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Roméo et Juliette (1867) - Ah, lève-toi, soleil  [3:41]
CD 2 [79:39]
Émile Scaramberg
Fonotipia, Paris ca. 1906:

With orchestral accompaniment
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Mireille  (1865) - Anges du paradis  [3:44]
Leo DELIBES (1836–1891)
Lakmé (1883) - Fantaisie aux divins mensonges  [3:27]
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
Manon - opéra-comique in 5 acts (1884) -  Je suis seul…Ah! Fuyez, douce image [3:36]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Werther (1892) - Un autre est son époux… J’aurais sur ma poitrine  [3:49]
Werther (1892) - Pourquoi me réveiller?  [3:14]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana (1889) - Ô Lola [Siciliana] [1:58]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Fedora - opera in three acts (1898) - Le ciel te livre (Amor ti vieta) (Giordano) [1:57]
Pierre Cornubert
Fonotipia, Paris 1905:

With piano accompaniment
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Les Huguenots (1849) - Sous le beau ciel de la Touraine [2:14]
Les Huguenots (1849) - Ah, quel spectacle enchanteur…Plus blanche que la blanche hermine  [3:28]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
L’africaine (1865) - Pays merveilleux!... Ô paradis! [3:10]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Roméo et Juliette (1867) -  Salut, tombeau [3:18]
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
Manon - opéra-comique in 5 acts (1884) - Je suis seul…Ah! Fuyez, douce image [2:57]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Werther (1892) - Pourquoi me réveiller? [2:28]
Sigurd - Hilda! Vierge au pâle sourire  [2:34]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walküre - music drama in three acts (1870) - Plus d’hiver [Winterstürme]  [2:57]
Disques Ultima (Etched-label) Paris ca. 1905
With piano accompaniment
C’est mon ami [2:06]
Jean-Paul MARTINI (1741-1816)
Plaisir d’amour [2:10]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Ouvre tes yeux bleus  [2:00]
La chanson du baiser  [2:13]
Ton sourire [1:54]
Edison Two-Minute Cylinders, Paris 1908
With orchestral accompaniment
François Adrien BOIELDIEU (1775-1834)
La Dame Blanche - Opéra-comique in 3 acts (1825) - Ah, quel plaisir d’être soldat  [2:25]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Le Trouvère - Dieu que ma voix implore [Tenor solo from Miserere] [2:15]
Julien Leprestre
Odéon, Paris ca. 1905 – 1906:
With piano accompaniment
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)
Martha - opera in four Acts (1847) - Lorsqu’à mes yeux [2:58]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
La Bohème (1896) - Que cette main est froide (Che gelida manina) [3:11]
Georges MARIETTI (1852-1902)
Strophes [3:26]
Odéon, Paris ca. 1905–1906
With orchestral accompaniment
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
Manon - opéra-comique in 5 acts (1884) -  Je suis seul…Ah! Fuyez, douce image [3:16]
Louis-Aimé MAILLART (1817-1871)
Les Dragons de Villars, operetta (1856) - Ne parle pas  [3:10]
Francois BAZIN (1816–1878)
Le Voyage en Chine - La Chine est un pays charmant [3:28]
All tracks are sung in French
MARSTON 520592 [79:39 + 79:48]


Experience Classicsonline

This bids fair to be the start of a mandatory collection for vocal collectors. It’s the first of a French tenors series from Marston, and this inaugurating volume includes the complete recordings of two important figures - Émile Scaramberg and Pierre Cornubert, and selected recordings made by Julien Leprestre. All were made in a roughly two-year period between 1905 and 1906.

Scaramberg (1863-1938) studied in Paris and made in his debut in 1893 and was soon singing at the most important French houses. By 1896-97 he was partnering Melba at Nice and making his Covent Garden debut. He sang new repertoire, Wagner, the first modern revival of Gluck’s Armide and much else besides. His career ended in early 1907 with the onset of what the booklet notes describe as ‘vocal difficulties’ so we are fortunate that he made as many recordings as he did in his prime. 

Curious to see what Michael Scott had to say about Scaramberg in his book, and remembering vaguely that it wasn’t pleasant, I discovered that he’d actually called him ‘pedestrian…and provincial’. Since the tenor was a major figure and his records are collectable it would have been educative to know how many sides Scott listened to before coming to this utterly dismissive and frankly wretched summary. It’s hard to know what could lead one to such an assessment. Scaramberg’s Manon is actually quite scrupulous – there are two takes of Ah! Fuyez. Since Scott also alleged that the tenor had no legato it’s necessary to cite the aria from Gounod’s La Reine de Saba for just this quality – and for an impressive theatrical presence as well, unforced and dramatic. On this evidence he was a natural and unaffected Wagner singer suffering not at all from German-Wagnerian-tenorial barks such as afflicted a number of his colleagues across the border. His Faust is cultured and in the best French style full of a strong narrative sense and a vivid head voice. In the extracts from Roméo et Juliette his soprano partner is the uncommunicative and rather noncommittal Georgette Bréjean-Silver. His Rigoletto may not be technically watertight but it has a raffish air and is stylish and not done down by any gauche gestures. He sounds like a born studio artist in fact. We are faced with small abundances here as there are multiple recordings of the Siciliana from Cavalleria Rusticana – two takes with piano accompaniment, one with instrumental. 

Pierre Cornubert (1863-1922) was a Parisian. His debut came in 1887 and though he sang principally in France, in the 1899-1900 season he sang in Havana and Mexico City, followed by appearances at the Met  (in L’Africaine and Roméo amongst others). Other performances are noted at Covent Garden, Warsaw and Antwerp. His was perhaps not as dramatic or strong a voice as Scaramberg’s but on the evidence of these fifteen sides (two on cylinder) he was just as stylish an exponent of the French repertoire in particular. The phrasing and compass of his Pays merveilleux!...Ô paradis! are both very fine and if there’s a touch of strain in his Roméo compensation comes from its idiomatic strength. True his exploration into aria antiche is not a success  - Plaisir d’amour is lugubrious. But he is back on safe ground when he essays Massenet’s Ouvre tes yeux bleus which he sings with considerable subtlety sand stylistic assurance. The more heroic and dramatic side of his singing can be gauged from Boieldieu’s charmingly spick and span Ah, quel plaisir d’être soldat from La Dame Blanche which is conveyed with real élan. 

The third tenor is Julien Leprestre (1864-1909). He died only three years after making these sides – we have a selection of six from the eleven he made. He sang frequently at the Opéra-Comique and indeed being the least well known of the triumvirate booklet writer Vincent Giroud goes into extensive detail as to the performances throughout his sadly truncated career. The notes by the way are fully up to the usual exalted biography-and-analysis standard set by this company. Leprestre has the warmest and perhaps most immediately appealing of the three voices documented. His vibrato was quite quick but the timbre of the voice is, I think, preferable to Cornubert’s. He sings with finely characterised intelligence, is personable, and immediately attractive. It’s clearly an injustice that he has been so relatively forgotten in relation to his better-known contemporaries. 

As long as Marston choose so wisely and so well, annotate with such generosity, transfer with such assiduous intelligence and package their product with such well chosen photographs then they will have ready adherents for what are some of the most consistently inspiring historical discs now before the public. 

Jonathan Woolf


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