September 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Caruso 2000  
  The original Caruso recordings with a modern orchestral accompaniment
  BMG 74321 69766 2   [64:28]

  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

You are either going to love this recording or hate it. Caruso's original recordings were made at the beginning of the last century between 1906-1920 in New York. They were clearly acoustic recordings made even before the advent of the early electrical recording process (and I am referring to shellac -- pre-LP vinyl). Therefore the orchestral accompaniment was necessarily thin and primitive.

The concept of this disc was therefore a marriage of old and new technology spanning a century. The Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra has recorded a modern full symphonic accompaniment to 16 Caruso arias. Not so simple for balancing problems had to be surmounted in respect of the actual recording process (different speeds between the old and new recording practises) not to mention the fine adjustments that the players had to (often intuitively) make to pitch and tempi. They also had to adapt all their instruments to the pitch of Caruso's New York recordings (approx. 438 Hz). This proved difficult enough for some instruments but impossible for the organ in 'Manon' which had to be replaced by a synthesiser.

Six Verdi items are in the collection including arias from Il Trovatore, Un Balo in Maschera and Aida. Puccini's 'Recondita armonia' from Tosca is here so too are the famous numbers from Cav… and Pag… Rossini is represented by arias from the Petite Messe Solennelle and 'La Danza' (Tarantella neapolitana). From Massenet there are arias from Manon and Le Cid.

As an intriguing comparison the original version of 'Recitar!…Vesti la giubba' from I Pagliacci is included at the end of the collection.

An interesting experiment. No rating is applicable.

Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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