O Sole Mio, Canzoni, Volume 1
rec. 1907-1955
PREISER 90766 [72:39]

Torna a Surriento. Canzoni, Volume 2
rec. 1907-1955
PREISER 90767 [77:00]

Immersed as one is at the time of writing in the depths of winter, this two volume offering from Preiser - both discs are available singly - brings a warming blast of Italianate sunshine. The sunny postcard artwork reinforces the vigorous animation of the undertaking. The repertoire is Neapolitan canzone by such masters of the genre as Tosti, De Curtis, di Capua, Denza and their confreres. Collectors however should note that this is a very broad compilation, taking in recordings made between a rough half century span from 1907 to 1955.

O sole mio is the name of the first disc and Caruso sings the ‘title track’, very aptly. Don’t, however, overlook Lucien Muratore’s head voice in his 1915 Il pescatore pensa nor on any account the luminously fluid legato of Schipa’s O Marenariello. The earliest recording on this disc is Zenatello’s Vieni from 1907, passionately sung but somewhat destabilised by a plinking piano accompaniment. I often wish wholesale remedial work could be undertaken on the pitch defective or recessive piano accompaniments on sides such as this, albeit one concedes it would be time-consuming.

There are broader geographical horizons. Joseph Schmidt is the representative ‘German’ singer - though he wasn’t German. Smirnov represents the Russians. But in the main we have the tried and long tested superstars on home territory. The glamorous Andalucian Conchita Supervia’s characteristically fluttery vibrato charms in L'Ultima Canzone though elsewhere Alessandro Valente is a touch too muscular in Mascagni’s Serenata and is put in the shade by the following two offerings - by Gigli and Björling, no less. I happen to find Licia Albanese’s contribution somewhat woolly, though others may disagree, but have no reservations regarding Siepi’s recording of Tosti’s Malia - a wonderfully sonorous legato, indeed. Richard Tucker is forwardly recorded, to considerable advantage, and this first selections ends with Pizziche e vase, dispatched with fluid ease by the ever superb Tagliavini.

The second volume reprises some singers, among them Gigli, Schipa and Di Stefano, without whom any such selection would be naked. Early recording artists such as Florencio Constantino and Mario Ancona - recorded in the 1906-07 period - add resonance and historical breadth to a project that already scours widely, and selectively. One could hardly hope for a more splendidly purposeful and powerful start than that provided by Martinelli in Torna a Surriento. An enviable opportunity to hear the fresh voiced, passionate Lanza in his 1955 recording of Dicitencello vuje should not be spurned. Scion of the French school, Georges Thill, appeals in his nobly sung La Mia canzone.

Renato Zanelli shines La Spagnola where his bonhomie is a tonic. Pesca d’ammore a fine recording for 1926, and the lyrical blandishments of Schipa, are impossible to resist. Vorrei morir is enchantingly sung by Tino Pattiera. Dusolina Giannini’s O sole mio though is a touch matronly. No such quandary in the last track, Quanno a femmena vo’ where Gigli engages in the kind of buttonholing vivacity that never ceases to amaze.

Good notes in the sunny booklets offer more enjoyment.

Jonathan Woolf 

O Sole Mio, Canzoni, Volume 1
Eduardo di CAPUA (1865 - 1917)
O sole mio, for voice & piano (or orchestra) (1900) [3:21]
Enrico Caruso
rec. 1916
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Il pescatore pensa, for voice & piano/orchestra [2:41]
Lucien Muratore
Era de maggio, song  [2:44]
Fernando de Lucia and Salvatore di Giacomo
rec. 1909
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Luna d'estate, for voice & piano/orchestra (1880) [2:31]
Rosa Ponselle 
rec. 1926
O Marenariello, for voice and piano (or orchestra)  [2:29]
Tito Schipa 
rec. 1928
Luigi DENZA (1846 - 1922)
Vieni (Come to Me), song [2:26]
Giovanni Zenatello 
Arturo BUZZI-PECCIA (1854 - 1943)
Mal d'amore, for voice & piano [3:10]
Joseph Schmidt 
Renato BROGI (1873 - 1924)
Visione Venezina for voice & orchestra  [2:57]
Titta Ruffo 
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Pour un Baiser for voice & piano (or orchestra) [3:24]
Louis Cazette 
Gaetano LAMA (1886 - 1950)
Reginella  (2:41)
Giuseppe Di Stefano 
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
L'Ultima Canzone for voice & piano/orchestra [3:48]
Conchita Supervia 
Luigi DENZA (1846 - 1922)
Funiculi Funicula, for voice & orchestra (& chorus ad lib) (1880) [2:39]
Alessandro Ziliani 
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857 - 1919)
Mattinata ("L'aurora di bianco vestita"), song for voice & piano (or orchestra) (1904) [2:05]
Dmitri Smirnov
Pietro Adolfo TIRINDELLI
O Primavera for voice & piano (or orchestra) [2:50]
Hina Spani 
Ermenegildo RUCCIONE
Famme sunn'a cu'tte  (3:18)
Tito Gobbi 
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863 - 1945)
Serenata, song for voice & piano (or orchestra)  (1894) [3:10]
Alessandro Valente 
Rondine al nido for voice & orchestra  circa 1920 [3:20]
Beniamino Gigli 
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
L'Alba separa dalla luce l'ombra, for voice & piano (or orchestra) [2:24]
Jussi Björling
Piscatore 'e pusilleco for voice & orchestra  (1925) [3:01]
Licia Albanese 
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Malia for voice & piano/orchestra  [3:06]
Cesare Siepi 
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1865 - 1937)
Non ti scordar di me, for voice & orchestra (& chorus ad lib) (1935) [3:48]
Richard Tucker
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
T'amo ancora, for voice & piano/orchestra (1877) [3:54]
Giuseppe Valdengo 
Columbo ARONA
La Campana di San Giusto, for voice & orchestra (& chorus ad lib) [2:29]
Aureliano Pertile 
Napule Canta for voice & orchestra [2:25]
Giuseppe Taddei 
Pizziche e vase, for voice & piano [1:44]
Ferruccio Tagliavini 
PREISER 90766 [72:39]

Torna a Surriento. Canzoni, Volume 2
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1865 - 1937)
Quann'a Femmena Vo' [2:18]
Beniamino Gigli
rec. 1925
Eduardo di CAPUA (1865 - 1917)
O sole mio, for voice & piano (or orchestra)
Dusolina Giannini [3:44]
rec. 1928
Rodolfo FLAVO
Dicitencello vuje, for voice & piano (or orchestra)
Mario Lanza [3:27]
rec. 1958
Cesare Andrea BIXIO
La mia canzone al vento for voice & orchestra [3:08]
Giuseppe Lugo
rec. 1939
Gaetano LAMA
Silenzio Cantatore, for voice & orchestra [3:23]
Giuseppe Di Stefano
rec. 1957
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1865 - 1937)
Tu, ca nun chiagne!, for voice & piano (or orchestra) [2:27]
Paolo Silveri 1948
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
La Mia canzone, for voice & piano/orchestra [2:34]
Georges Thill
rec. 1931
Arturo BUZZI-PECCIA (1854 - 1943)
Colombetta for voice & piano (or orchestra) [2:10]
Claudia Muzio
rec. 1934
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Vorrei morir for voice & piano/orchestra [3:51]
Tino Pattiera
rec. 1927
Voi dormite, signora! [2:48]
Giuseppe De Luca
rec. 1923
Core 'ngrato (Catari), for voice & orchestra [2:32]
Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
rec. 1922
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Dopo, song [3:59]
Gianna Pederzini
rec. 1930
Pesca d'ammore [3:33]
Tito Schipa
rec. 1926
Vincenzo VALENTE
'A Sirena [3:33]
Pasquale Amato
rec. 1909
Vincenzo DI CHIARA
La Spagnola for voice & orchestra [2:38]
Renato Zanelli
rec. 1924
Ciribiribin, song for voice & piano [3:25]
Lucrezia Bori
rec. 1923
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Venetian Song, duet for 2 voices & piano or orchestra, C.S. 120 [3:25]
John McCormack
rec. 1915
Occhi di fata, for voice & piano (or orchestra) [3:20]
Riccardo Stracciari
rec. 1928
Tarantella Sincera for voice & orchestra [3:43]
Enrico Caruso
rec. 1912
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Mattinata for voice & piano/orchestra [2:51]
Mario Ancona
rec. 1907
Vorrei (Could I) [2:59]
Florencio Constantino
rec. 1906
La Serenata for voice & piano/orchestra [3:38]
Frances Alda
rec. 1910
Ammore e' Femmena [2:43]
Giuseppe Anselmi
rec. 1910
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1865 - 1937)
Torna a Surriento, for voice & piano (or orchestra) [3:39]
Giovanni Martinelli
rec. 1913
PREISER 90767 [77:00]