Notes and Editorial Reviews
A warming blast of Italianate sunshine.
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, MusicWeb International
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