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Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

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Symphonies 1, 2, 3


Brian Cheney (tenor)
see end of review for track listing
MiGL Productions Orchestra/Franz Vote
rec. no dates, venue or timings details supplied
MiGL (no number)

Production values for this issue are very low indeed. In a simple jewel-case a CD without catalogue number is housed, on the front a picture of the singer, on the back another photo of him and the titles of 14 arias. There are no composers’ names, no indications from which operas the arias came, inside the jewel-case a photo of the conductor, under the disc another session photo, no playing time of the individual tracks, no total playing time. There are no liner-notes and no sung texts enclosed. There are links to MiGL Productions, but there I was automatically transported to Brian Cheney’s homepage, where I found some photos, some rave quotations from reviews and a bio, from which I learnt that his mentor was the late lamented Jerry Hadley. Hadley has for many years been one of my favourite tenors and this information made my expectations rise a little.
The opening Recondita armonia from Tosca was sturdily sung at an ear-splitting forte fortissimo and made my heart sink again. OK, the voice is powerful and has brilliance and his enunciation is excellent but one has the right to expect some nuances. The Martha aria opens at something like forte, a rather soft nuance in other words, and he finds room for some sensitive phrasing, but otherwise it’s full throttle. Un aura amorosa is much better. Here he finds a lot of shading, even though he has no true pianissimos and the tone at softer levels seems to have an upper layer of something neither gold nor silver - cast iron perhaps. He is more comfortable at forte and above - but he has a trill.
In the Faust aria - there is a beautifully played cello solo - he delivers a glowing and confident high C and sings the final phrases at at least mezzo forte. The aria from Un ballo in maschera is dramatic, intense, engaged and thrilling but lacks finesse. This also goes for the Lucia aria. He is never bland, which is a blessing, but one wishes there was more elegance.
He begins Che gelida manina rather moderately and finishes it with a diminuendo to pianissimo. It’s beautifully done. Il mio Tesoro gets a full-blooded reading - too much so, for it lacks Mozartean elegance, but it is refreshing to hear it sung with such energy. In Una furtiva lagrima the English horn soloist should have been credited in the booklet - had there been one. The robust singing is hardly stylish but he sings a beautiful pianissimo near the end. Dein ist mein ganzes Herz has been maltreated by many a tenor with leather lungs and it can stand some powerful over-singing. Cheney is far from the worst offender I have heard but the song is better when performed with the refinement of Tauber, Gedda or Bezcala.
He sings the Flower Song from Carmen with some restraint, which is welcome, but it is in the Pagliacci aria that he is at his most winning with intensity aplenty. There is no laughter, which is just as well, but he seems well inside the role. This is emphatically his repertoire.
He has some glorious moments in Nessun dorma as well and rounds off the recital with Victor Herbert’s I’m falling in love with someone, trying to out-sing Mario Lanza.
Cheney is a tenore robusto who obviously is in great demand but, to judge from this disc he is considerably lacking in refinement. All the arias recorded here can be heard to greater advantage from many other singers.
Göran Forsling 

Track listing
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 - 1924)
1. Recondita armonia from Tosca
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812 - 1883)
2.M'appari tutt'amor from Martha
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
3. Un'aura amorosa from Cosi fan tutte
Charles GOUNOD (1818 - 1893)
4. Salut! Demeure chaste et pure from Faust
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)
5. Ma se m'è forza perderti from Un Ballo in Maschera
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 - 1848)
6. Fra poco a me ricovero from Lucia di Lammermoor
7. Che gelida manina from La Bohème
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
8. Il mio tesoro intanto from Don Giovanni
9. Una furtiva lagrima from L'elisir d'amore
Franz LEHÁR (1870 - 1948)
10. Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from Das Land des Lächelns
Georges BIZET (1838 - 1875)
11. La fleur que tu m’avais jetée from Carmen
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857 - 1919)
12. Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci
13. Nessun Dorma from Turandot
Victor HERBERT (1859 - 1924)
14. I’m falling in love with someone from Naughty Marietta