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Nineteenth Century Italian Tenors
Leopoldo Signoretti, Giovanni Battista De Negri, Alfonso Garulli, Francesco Signorini, Edoardo Garbin, Fiorello Giraud, Fernando Valero
No texts
MARSTON 53018-2 [3 CDs: 75:55 + 77:30 + 78:59]

This characteristically fascinating 3-CD set investigates rare examples of the recorded vocalism of seven ‘pre-Caruso’ singers – all Italian except for the Spaniard Valero, though he enjoyed a long and successful career in Italy.

The earliest of the singers, Leopoldo Signoretti, was born in 1840 and the youngest was Fiorello Giraud (1874-1920). The recordings were made between 1902 and 1917. Signoretti was around 62 when he recorded a brief selection of discs for Zonophono in Milan in 1902 and his voice is a bit frayed, technical difficulties intruding somewhat. He has the curse of the early disc: a wobbily recorded piano accompaniment. Whilst he can’t quite sustain the end of the La Favorita aria he’s shown at his appreciable best in the Luisa Miller extract - two takes of the aria survive, one with the recitative. In both cases he is excellent, his declamation firm, the conception unimpeachable. He was clearly a front-rank Verdi singer as the sole example from La Forza reinforces, as it’s eloquent, direct, and possessing a grandeur and nobility.

Giovanni Battista De Negri is represented by six recordings but two of them are published alternative takes, which reduces his representation to a meagre number. Still, one should be grateful that anything at all has survived from this 1903 recording date. Born in 1851 he had been retired for some time before he was encouraged to record. Though the discs are noisy and the piano distant it’s heard clearly. De Negri has a still-attractive tone, albeit an unsteady musical line. Of particular importance are the Otello sides. ‘Niun mi tema’ is the pick of his sides and offers a strong stylistic insight into contemporary Verdi singing.

Great lyricism and vocal warmth flood from Alfonso Garulli, who shows that when Italian tenors of this period sang Wagner they invariably brought to the repertoire an unforced lyricism and tonal beauty. His ‘Vesti la giubba’, meanwhile, is stylistically fascinating – slow and constantly inflected. He sings a couple of duets with his wife, soprano Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli. Whilst she’s unsteady and excessively throaty in her lower register they blend well together. One of the by-products that reflect the times is the odd occasion when the studio announcer’s introduction to the song – it’s usually an announcer though sometimes the artist himself pre-announces his song – is broken into by an over-eager pianist, as happens here a couple of times. Retakes weren’t considered necessary for this kind of thing. Garulli is particularly effective in small scale pieces; his Tosti is excellent.

Francesco Signorini, virile but not always subtle, enjoys orchestral accompaniment rather than merely piano in his Milan sides of 1908. His ‘Celeste Aida’ is bumpily phrased but the arias from Chatterton, conducted by its composer, Leoncavallo, are historically very important. Anyone remotely interested should seek out the full extracts from the opera released a number of years ago on Marston 52016. Edoardo Garbin (1865-1943) was once described as possessing a ‘green’ voice. This may sound obscure but it is indeed most peculiar and it’s not simply a question of vibrato – each of the singers possesses a distinct vibrato – so much as a combination of tonal colour and vibrato. However he is one of the most interesting stylists of the seven singers and includes traditional embellishments in the Cavalleria rusticana Brindisi, which are of more than merely cursory interest. In 1905 he joined Mario Sammarco, Gina Camporelli and Adelina Stehle for ‘Addio, dolce svegliare’ from La bohème – this and another single track, also included, represent the only known surviving examples of Stehle’s singing.

Giraud has a bright, forward voice which accentuates his insistent vibrato – the one thing which modern day listeners may find problematic about most of these early singers on record – but his Wagner is elegant and lyrical, his Tosti sequence distinguished: ‘Ancora!’ and ‘Invano!’ are especially good but it’s hard to select favourites amongst so much that is excellent. Valero made his few recordings in Milan and London in 1903. He’s about the most youthful-sounding of all seven singers, even though not the youngest, and his singing – if one overlooks the lack of dynamic variation and vocal colour – is very attractive.

This scholarly three-CD box has a 51-page booklet with full biographies, recording details, and comments on repertoire and performance. In other words, it reflects the best standards one has come to expect from this label.

Jonathan Woolf

Full track-listing
CD 1 (75:55)
Leopoldo Signoretti, 1840-1915
ANGLO-ITALIAN COMMERCE COMPANY [DISCO ZONOPHONO]
1902, Milan / With piano
LUCREZIA BORGIA: Di pescator ignobile (Donizetti)
2:21
(10675) 10675
LA FAVORITA: Una vergine, un angiol di Dio (Donizetti)
2:47
(1171) 1171
LUISA MILLER: Oh! fede negar potessi ... Quando le sere al
placido (Verdi)
3:56
(1170-1) 1170
LUISA MILLER: Quando le sere al placido (Verdi)
3:25
(1170-2) 1170
ERNANI: Tutto ora tace intorno ... Solingo, errante, misero (Verdi)
2:56
(1814) 1814
LA FORZA DEL DESTINO: O tu che in seno agli angeli (Verdi)
3:29
(1173) 1173
Giovanni Battista De Negri, 1851-1924
ANGLO-ITALIAN COMMERCE COMPANY [DISCO ZONOPHONO]
1903, Milan / With piano
NORMA: Ah! troppo tardi (Bellini)
1:54
(1564-1) 1564
NORMA: Ah! troppo tardi (Bellini)
1:55
(1564-2) 1564
OTELLO: Ora e per sempre addio (Verdi)
1:27
(1566) 1566, Transposed down a semitone to G
OTELLO: Niun mi tema (Verdi)
2:48

(1561-1) 1561
OTELLO: Niun mi tema (Verdi)
2:58
(1561-2) 1561
Der Asra (Rubinstein)
2:27
(1563-1) 1563
Alfonso Garulli, 1866-1915
ANGLO-ITALIAN COMMERCE COMPANY [DISCO ZONOPHONO AND PATHÉ]
1903, Milan / With piano
LOHENGRIN: Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan (Mercè, mercè,
cigno gentil) (Wagner)
2:53
Disco Zonophono (1547) 1547
PAGLIACCI: Vesti la giubba (Leoncavallo)
2:33
Disco Zonophono (1549) 1549, Transposed down a semitone to E-flat Minor
MIREILLE: O Magali (Gounod)
2:59
with Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli, soprano
Disco Zonophono (1548) 1548
DIE MEISTERSINGER: Am stillen Herd (Nel verno al piè) (Wagner)
2:32
Pathé-AICC (84082) 84082
AIDA: La fatal pietra (Verdi)
2:38
Pathé-AICC (84086) 84086
MEFISTOFELE: Forma ideal, purissima (Boito)
2:11
Pathé-AICC (84088) 84088
Aprile (Tosti)
3:30
Disco Zonophono (1540) 1540
Ideale (Tosti)
3:09
Disco Zonophono (1545) 1545
Serenata (Sera di paradiso) (Composer unknown)
2:28
with Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli, soprano
Disco Zonophono (1543) 1543
Ovunque tu (van Westerhout)
2:47
Disco Zonophono (1542) 1542
Francesco Signorini, 1860-1927
THE GRAMOPHONE COMPANY, LTD.
May 1908, Milan / With orchestra, conducted by Carlo Sabajno
GUILLAUME TELL: Asile héréditaire (O muto asil) (Rossini)
3:51
(1493c) 052230
LE PROPHÈTE: Sous les vastes arceaux ... Pour Berthe, moi je soupire
(Sotto le vaste arcate ... Sopra Berta, l'amor mio) (Meyerbeer)
4:02
(1491c) 052229
IL TROVATORE: Ah sì, ben mio (Verdi)
3:32
(11235b) 2-52669
IL TROVATORE: Se m'ami ancor ... Ai nostri monti (Verdi)
4:26
with Carolina Pietracewska, mezzo-soprano
(14861/2c) 054210
CD 2 (75:55)
AIDA: Celeste Aida (Verdi)
3:57
(1478c) 052231
AIDA: Fuggiam gli ardori (Verdi)
4:21
with Ines De Frate, soprano
(1492c) 054213
CHATTERTON: Stanco, spossato, arresta il triste
pellegrino! (Leoncavallo)
3:45
with orchestra conducted by Ruggero Leoncavallo
(1469c) 052253
CHATTERTON: Tu sola a me rimani, o Poesia (Leoncavallo)
2:38
with orchestra conducted by Ruggero Leoncavallo
(11210b) 2-52668, Transposed down a semitone to A Minor
Edoardo Garbin, 1865-1943
GRAMOPHONE & TYPEWRITER, LTD.
November 1902, Milan / With piano, Salvatore Cottone
LA FAVORITA: Una vergine, un angiol di Dio (Donizetti)
2:18
(2843b) 52434
LA TRAVIATA: Un dì felice (Verdi)
1:55
(2841b) 52428
CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Intanto amici, qua ... Viva il vino
spumeggiante [Brindisi] (Mascagni)
1:54
(2840b) 52433
MANON LESCAUT: Donna non vidi mai (Puccini)
2:24
(2838b) 52429
MANON LESCAUT: Ah! Non v'avvicinate! ... Guardate, pazzo
son (Puccini)
2:18
(2844b) 52430
LA BOHÈME: Aspetti, signorina (Puccini)
2:59
(2842b) 52431
LA BOHÈME: Mimì è una civetta (Puccini)
2:54
(2839b) 52432
GRAMOPHONE & TYPEWRITER, LTD.
1903, Milan / With piano, Salvatore Cottone
MANON LESCAUT: Donna non vidi mai (Puccini)
2:41
(Con586) 052010
FONOTIPIA
1904-1905, Milan / With piano
LA FAVORITA: Una vergine, un angiol di Dio (Donizetti)
2:41
21 November 1904; (XPh61) 39029
LA FORZA DEL DESTINO: Solenne in quest'ora (Verdi)
3:54
with Mario Sammarco, baritone
May/June 190;5 (XXPh294) 69015
AIDA: Nume custode e vindice (Verdi)
4:08
with Oreste Luppi, bass; and chorus
May/June 1905; (XXPh91) 69016
MANON: En fermant les yeux (Chiudo gli occhi) (Massenet)
2:33
21 November 1904; (XPh59) 39038
CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: O Lola ch'ai di latti la cammisa
[Siciliana](Mascagni)
2:58
23 November 1904; (XPh86) 39039
CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Intanto amici qua ... Viva il vino
spumeggiante [Brindisi] (Mascagni)
3:19
with chorus
May/June 1905; (XXPh290) 69011
MANON LESCAUT: Donna non vidi mai (Puccini)
2:35
21 November 1904; (XPh62) 39116

LA BOHÈME: Addio, dolce svegliare (Puccini)
4:41
with Adelina Stehle, soprano; Gina Camporelli, mezzo-soprano; and Mario
Sammarco, baritone
May/June 1905; (XXPh265) 69014
LA BOHÈME: Che penna infame! ... O Mimì, tu più non torni (Puccini)
3:03
with Mario Sammarco, baritone
15 May 1905; (XPh254) 39223
ZAZÀ: È un riso gentil (Leoncavallo)
1:57
21 November 1904; (XPh60) 39075
TOSCA: E lucevan le stelle (Puccini)
2:45
21 November 1904; (XPh57) 39043
ADRIANA LECOUVREUR: Ma, dunque, è vero? (Cilèa)
3:03
with Adelina Stehle, soprano
23 November 1904; (XPh95) 39117
ADRIANA LECOUVREUR: Mi basta il tuo perdono ... No, più
nobile (Cilèa)
3:21
21 October 1904; (XPh54) 39036
Sento che t'amo (Fatuo)
2:27
21 November 1904; (XPh56) 39065
CD 3 (78:59)
Fiorello Giraud, 1870-1920
GRAMOPHONE & TYPEWRITER, LTD.
April 1904, Milan / With piano, Salvatore Cottone
TANNHÄUSER: Dir töne Lob! (Sia lode a te!) (Wagner)
2:37
(2190h) 52047
DIE MEISTERSINGER: Am stillen Herd (Nel verno al piè) (Wagner)
3:31
(2191h) 52048
DIE MEISTERSINGER: Fanget an! So rief der Lenz in den Wald
(Appena il mite aprile) (Wagner)
3:29
(274i) 052071
CARMEN: La fleur que tu m'avais jetée (Il fior che avevi a me tu
dato)(Bizet)
3:29
(272i) 052069
LUISA MILLER: Quando le sere al placido (Verdi)
3:29

(273I) 052070
ANDREA CHÉNIER: Come un bel dì di maggio (Giordano)
2:42
(2188h) 52046
Oblio! (Tosti)
2:47
(2192h) 52049
Ancora! (Tosti)
4:04
(271i) 052067
THE GRAMOPHONE COMPANY, LTD.
1916-1917, Milan / With orchestra
Rosa (Tosti)
3:47
16 March 1916; (6439ae) 7-52081
Sogno (Tosti)
2:48
16 March 1916; (6440ae) 7-52082
Io ricordo, madonna, quella sera (No. 1 from Per Lei) (Tosti)
3:02
16 March 1916; (6441ae)7-52084
Invano! (Tosti)
3:30
16 March 1916; (6443ae) 052085
Serenata (Toselli)
2:48
18 March 1916; (6445ae) 052091
Lungi (Tosti)
3:12
18 March 1916; (6446ae) 052088
Primavera (Tosti)
2:43
18 March 1916; (6447ae) 052089
Oblio! (Tosti)
2:57
1 April 1916; (6488ae) 7-52083
Ave Maria (Grigolata)
3:27
1 April 1916; (6489ae) 052090
Non m'ama più (Tosti)
3:31
1 April 1916; (6490ae) 052086
JOCELYN: Berceuse (Godard)
2:48

18 July 1917 (20092b) 7-252182
Sérénade d'autrefois (Serenata medioevale) (Silvestri)
3:26
18 July 1917; (20093 1/2 b) 7-52133
Fernando Valero, 1856-1914
GRAMOPHONE & TYPEWRITER, LTD.
1903, Milan / With piano, Salvatore Cottone
Mattinata (Leoncavallo)
3:30
(Con672) 052022
RIGOLETTO: La donna è mobile (Verdi)
2:18
(Con280) 52009
GRAMOPHONE & TYPEWRITER, LTD.
16 June 1903, London / With piano
23.
Dormi pure (Scuderi)
3:16
(3922b) 52716
CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: O Lola ch'ai di latti la cammisa
[Siciliana](Mascagni)
2:23
(3924b) 52717, Transposed down a semitone to E Minor
CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Intanto amici qua ... Viva il vino
spumeggiante [Brindisi] (Mascagni)
2:04
(3925b) 52718
El amor es la vida (De los Moteros)
2:28
(3926b) 52719
Languages: All tracks on all three CDs are sung in Italian except CD 3, Track 26, which is sung in Spanish.

 

 




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