Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809 – 1847)
Overture: The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave), op.26 (1829/1835) [9:14]
Symphony No.4 in A, Italian, op.90 (1831/1833) [27:44]
Incidental Music: A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Wedding March, op.61/9 (1843) [4:14]
Felipe BOERO (1884 – 1958)
excerpts from El Matrero (1925) [25:46]
Pedro Mirassou (tenor), Nena Juarez (mezzo), Apollo Granforte (baritone), Orchestra of La Scala, Milan/Ettore Panizza (Mendelssohn); Orquestra del Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires/ Ettore Panizza (Boero)
rec. April 1928 (Fingal’s Cave); 5 and 10 January 1931 (Italian Symphony and Wedding March); August 1929, Buenos Aires (Boero). ADD
Re–issues of La Voce del Padrone AW 3984 (Fingal’s Cave); AW 245/248 (Symphony and March); Argentine Victor 9574/9576 (album S–2) (Boero)
Not being an opera-lover the name of Ettore Panizza was unknown to me until I received this CD. I imagine that I am not alone here so a little biographical information might be useful. Born in Buenos Aires in 1875, Panizza made his debut as assistant conductor at the Rome Opera when only 22. He was most closely associated with La Scala, Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, New York’s Met and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Interestingly, when Toscanini conducted the premiere of Puccini’s Turandot he stopped at the point where Puccini ceased writing, thus allowing Panizza to be the first to conduct the opera as completed by Alfano. Panizza was also a composer of four operas: Il fidanzato del mare (1897), Madioevo Latino (1900), Aurora (1908) reportedly his most successful work, and Bizanzio (1939). He published an autobiography (Medio Siglo de Vida Musical) in 1952 and died in his home town as recently as 1967.
According to the brief notes, by Mark Obert–Thorn, on the rear inlay, it appears that Panizza made very few records, as was fairly typical at the time. His complete recorded output could be contained on less than three CDs. Almost all his recordings were made at La Scala and were of operatic music. This CD contains the sole exceptions – concert music and a recording made at the Teatro Colón.
So to the Mendelssohn. It is obvious from these few performances that Panizza was a fine conductor for here are well rehearsed and performed interpretations of two masterpieces of the concert repertoire and a delightful trifle. The Hebrides Overture receives a fine reading, full of a salty sea tang and with a very tempestuous climax as the waves beat against the shore. This is a very good performance, with very little portamento. I would have expected more for this period, and apart from the occasional rather dull thud, which is the timpani, the sound is very good indeed. The Italian Symphony really sparkles here. The first movement races along at a reasonable tempo, and despite a couple of moments of scrappiness in the strings, no doubt brought about by the tempo, this is good stuff. The pilgrims’ march of the second movement is nicely paced, and the third movement has a delightfully restrained swagger, making it perfect for dancing. The final saltarello is taken at a slower speed than is usual, but it is still full of Mediterranean fire, and after the side join the tempo increases slightly. I found his to be a most satisfying account of this wonderful Symphony, and it’s as good as any, historical or otherwise, because it has such a marvellously musical logic to it. The Wedding March from the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream receives a solid performance. There’s not much more you can do with this piece.
What’s going to draw listeners to this CD is not the Mendelssohn, good though it is, but these six excerpts from Felipe Boero’s opera El Matrero, recorded within weeks of the world premiere, with the original cast. Mark Obert–Thorn believes that one reason for this recording was that the great Italian baritone Apollo Granforte was making his debut at the Teatro Colón in this season. I don’t think that we need worry about the plot. Pristine Audio doesn’t give one with the CD but a synopsis is available on their website, and it probably isn’t important anyway. The first excerpt – La Media Caña – is almost entirely orchestral, a kind of dance interlude, and it’s quite delightful, reminiscent of the music for film which later composers were to create for the wild west. The sung excerpts show an opera written in a very straightforward style, with moments of delightful Americana and passages of obvious Italian influence. Whilst it probably was the availability of Apollo Granforte who brought about this recording, I have to admit to having more than an admiration for the glorious mezzo of Nena Juarez, a rich and fruity voice, free from affectation and a fine melodic instrument.
The transfers are excellent, only a very slight amount of surface noise has been retained throughout all the recordings. I am sure that this is essential in order to keep the upper register fresh and full of bloom, as it is here. This is a fascinating disk and not just for the collector of historical re–issues or the opera fanatic. Here is the work of an almost forgotten conductor whose meagre catalogue has been overlooked for too long. I welcome this chance to celebrate the work of Ettore Panizza.

Bob Briggs
Welcome this chance to celebrate the work of Ettore Panizza ... see Full Review