Monday, September 27, 2010

Enrico Caruso - The Digital Comeback







...what these recordings do enable the listener to hear, perhaps more clearly than before, because of both the clarity and proximity of the tracks, is the changes in the timbre of Caruso’s voice over time and particularly after the operation for the removal of nodules on his vocal chords in 1908. The heroic tenor voice rendering of Mi batte il cor.. O paradiso! recorded in 1907 (CD 1 tr. 8) becomes the more baritonal tenor voice of Recondita armonia of 1909 (CD 1 tr. 10). Better examples are to be found in the two arias from Pagliacci, Vesti la giubba (CD 1 tr. 13) recorded in 1907 and No! Pagliacci non son (CD 3 tr. 3) recorded in 1910. The characterization is the same, the beauty of tone and depth of expression likewise, but the timbre has become more mahogany than teak. That deepening of the tone reached its apotheosis on record in the 1920 recording from La Juive included here (CD 1 tr. 7) and the aria from Samson and Dalila recorded in 1919. Two particularly interesting tracks not mentioned previously are contained on the third CD engineered by Robert Pavlecka. The first is of Giordano’s Fedora (CD 3 tr. 1). The composer accompanied the original recording, made by Fred Gaisberg in Caruso’s hotel in November 1902, on the piano. It is the only example of the original Milan recordings included here. This digital version is with orchestra. The quality of the source used in Vol. 1 of the Complete Caruso was very poor indeed with very noisy surfaces. Here the voice comes over clearly, albeit with added bloom, a quality more prevalent on CD 3 than the other two discs. But this is the voice that Fred Gaisberg heard over 100 years ago and which convinced him that Caruso and the gramophone were made for each other. That original recording, and this issue, prove Gaisberg to have been a very far-sighted man indeed. This issue allows for a far greater enjoyment of Caruso’s formidable voice than many other previous issues from his parent company. On that basis I view the enterprise as a success. My only regret is that the collection does not include any example of Caruso together with colleagues in say one of the recordings he made of the Lucia sextet or Rigoletto quartet. Maybe that omission is for technical reasons but Caruso was a renowned team player and both sparked colleagues and was in turn lifted to greater vocal heights by them.--Robert J Farr



ape, cover

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