REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » CARUSO, Enrico: Complete Recordings, Vol. 9 (1914-1916)
Complete Recordings, Volume 9
Caruso’s career at the New York Met, his artistic home, was
little affected by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In Europe, however,
things were soon to be very different. Without even being aware of it, Caruso
sang a final farewell to Covent Garden in Tosca on 29th June, the day after the
assassination in Sarajevo that lit the fuse for war. There would be no more
appearances in Germany or Austria. After 1915, when Italy entered the conflict,
it became increasingly difficult for Caruso to make any contact with his two
sons, who were educated in England but spent summer holidays on the Caruso
estate at Bellosguardo, near Florence.
ever in Caruso’s life, there was no shortage of work. Leaving New York in February
1915, while the season still had two months to run, he sailed to Monte Carlo,
where he sang during March and April. There followed a punishing season in
Argentina and Uruguay, during which the tenor made 52 appearances in 104 days.
It would be unimaginable for any star performer nowadays to agree to such a
schedule, entailing not just enormous physical strain but also inevitable
anxieties over the need to fulfil the expectations of each new audience; Caruso
was increasingly weighed down by the realisation that for anyone standing on
the summit there is nowhere to go but down. A further test awaited him on his
return to Italy in September, when he sang two performances of Pagliacci under
Toscanini in Milan. He had not appeared there since 1902, when his singing had
impelled the visiting representative of the Gramophone Company to make an
immediate offer of a recording contract. The critic of the Corriere della sera
gave an appreciative summary of how things had changed in the intervening
returns after many years’ absence with a voice whose high notes are appreciably
enhanced, its timbre become fuller and more manly, with a much greater breath
span and greater expressive resources. In sum, his singing has a highly
dramatic quality which contrasted vividly with Milanese memories of a graceful
tenor with an almost feminine delicacy in ‘Amor ti vieta’ from Fedora and other
celebrated pieces of the same type.”
would be interesting to know how truly that listener actually recollected the
quality of the voice as he had heard it thirteen years before. For of course by
now it was possible for anyone to mark the changes that had taken place simply
by comparing the recordings Caruso had made over the years. As if to make the
task even easier, early in 1915 Victor were helpful enough to issue a new
version of Tosti’s La mia canzone (track 6), one of the songs that Caruso had
recorded during the second visit of the Gramophone Company to Milan in 1902
(Complete Caruso vol. 1, Naxos 8.110703).
one is struck by the vastly increased assurance of the later version and the
fuller, rounder tone of the voice, no less obvious is a complete change in
approach on the part of everyone concerned in the recording. In the Milan
version, the piano accompaniment was rushed and flurried, the interlude an
unhappy mess. No one seems to have minded: the important thing was that Caruso
was singing into the horn in that hotel room and they were cutting some discs.
Within a few years that attitude had disappeared. Sessions were properly
rehearsed and nothing sub-standard would ever see the inside of a record shop.
Not only that, but Caruso was now learning from his competitors. The two
numbers with violin obbligato by Mischa Elman (tracks 11 and 12) were almost
certainly prompted by the example of John McCormack, who over many years
produced a steady stream of marvellous recordings in partnership with the
incomparable Fritz Kreisler.
this stage of his career Caruso had already recorded almost all the big
operatic numbers that suited his voice. What remained was mostly odd little
gems from operas that have since disappeared without trace – Il Guarany, Le
Cid, La Reine de Saba. There were exceptions, however: an aria from Verdi’s
Macbeth and the classic ‘Angelo casto e bel’ (track 10), a severe test of pure
bel canto singing which shows Caruso still able to draw out the sweetest amd
most lyrical tones when the occasion demands. On more familiar ground,
‘Ingemisco’ from Verdi’s Requiem and the Brindisi from La Traviata (track 1) filled
two remaining gaps in the catalogue. Two versions survive (tracks 4 and 5) of
the duet ‘Parle-moi de ma mère’ from Carmen, though no recording was ever
issued: it had always been supposed that only take 3 had been preserved, in the
form of a test pressing made before the masters were destroyed, but a similar
pressing of take 2 was recently found languishing in a barn in New Jersey by
the producer, Ward Marston.
half the items on this CD are in French, a language in which Caruso was now
well practised; but his first allegiance was to the popular song tradition of
his own country, and especially his birthplace. Michele Ciociano, Eduardo Di
Capua, Gaetano Pennino and the cosmopolitan Paolo Tosti were just four of a
small army of composers who flourished in Naples during the decades leading up
to World War I, creating a world of love and yearning for which Di Capua’s
immortal ’O sole mio stands as a universal symbol. This song, with its
unquenchable zest for living, seems incapable of ever growing stale, and
Caruso’s performance of it is a classic (track 16), the top notes so easy and
rich that they seem to come from the middle of his voice.
doubt, the strangest item on this CD is ‘Vecchia zimarra’ from La Bohème (track
20). This was never intended for public sale, and the few copies made were
given to Caruso’s friends, to commemorate an extraordinary feat he had once
performed on stage in Philadelphia. The real Colline in that 1913 production,
the bass De Segurola, on one occasion had a throat infection, and by Act 4 his
voice had gone completely. Caruso, who had jokingly said earlier in the day
that he would help him out by singing the aria for him, did just that.
Curiously, the Philadelphia press made no mention of the incident the following
day; is it possible that no one in the audience had even noticed that the
showpiece bass number was sung by the star tenor?
In 1997 Ward Marston was nominated for the Best Historical
Album Grammy Award for his production work on BMG’s Fritz Kreisler collection.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Marston’s name is ‘synonymous with tender
loving care to collectors of historical CDs’. Opera News calls his work
‘revelatory’, and Fanfare deems him ‘miraculous’. In 1996 Ward Marston received
the Gramophone award for Historical Vocal Recording of the Year, honouring his
production and engineering work on Romophone’s complete recordings of Lucrezia
Bori. He also served as re-recording engineer for the Franklin Mint’s Arturo
Toscanini issue and BMG’s Sergey Rachmaninov recordings, both winners of the
Best Historical Album Grammy.
blind in 1952, Ward Marston has amassed tens of thousands of opera classical
records over the past four decades. Following a stint in radio while a student
at Williams College, he became well-known as a reissue producer in 1979, when
he restored the earliest known stereo recording made by the Bell Telephone
Laboratories in 1932.
the past, Ward Marston has produced records for a number of major and
specialist record companies. Now he is bringing his distinctive sonic vision to
bear on works released on the Naxos Historical label. Ultimately his goal is to
make the music he remasters sound as natural as possible and true to life by
‘lifting the voices’ off his old 78 rpm recordings. His aim is to promote the
importance of preserving old recordings and make available the works of great musicians
who need to be heard.
Last Albums Viewed
CARUSO, Enrico: Complete Recordings, Vol. 9 (1914...