Notes and Editorial Reviews
It may be true that memory believes before knowing remembers, as Faulkner wrote, but in some cases they both come to the same conclusion: After hearing dozens of recorded performances of Aida over the years, it was somehow necessary to return to the first I’d ever heard, recorded in 1955, a classic even by the time I heard it, many years later.
The triumverate of Milanov-Björling-Warren was and remains unbeatable. Jussi Björling always had a phonogenic voice, but here he is at his absolutely most brilliant and attentive: the tone remains pure silver, the phrasing immaculate, the use of mezza voce natural and beautiful, and the heroic outpourings, despite a voice that was not heroic, have such placement and presence that compared to him The Three Tenors sound like, well, three tenors.
Zinka Milanov exhibits all of her strengths and only occasionally a weakness—a matronly attack can show up among the gorgeously placed phrases, but then there’s her impeccable sense of line, unflagging grandeur, and, of course, lovely pianissimos. Leonard Warren’s gigantic sound always was a surprise when he sang quietly; his Amonasro is towering whether bullying or insinuating. Fedora Barbieri’s Amneris is positively top drawer, the voice is in fine shape from top to bottom, and the attention to line and text to be appreciated. Boris Christoff’s Ramfis impresses despite the less-than-idiomatic quality of his sound. Kudos to the leadership of Jonel Perlea, whose no-nonsense approach manages to give his great singers leeway without sacrificing any of Verdi’s great art. The mono sound is remarkable for its time. This is the Desert Island Aida.
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com