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Len Mullenger:

Collection: CARUSO 2000
The original Caruso recordings with a modern orchestral accompaniment.

BMG 74321 69766 2 [64:28]
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Rigoletto - La donna e mobile. Aida - Se quel guerrier io fossi… Celeste Aida. Macbeth - O figli o figli miei… Ah la paterna mano. Il Trovatore - Ah si ben mio. Il trovatore - Di quella pira. La Juive - Rachel quand du Seigneur. L'Africaine - Mi batte il cor… o paradiso! Manon - Je suis seul… Ah fuyez douce image. Le Cid - Ah! Tout est bein fini!.. O Souverain o Juge o Pere! Martha - M'appari tutt' amor. I Pagliacci - Recitar!.. Vesti la giubba. La Gioconda - Cielo e mar. Tosca - Recondita armonia. Petite messe solennelle - Domine Deus. La Danza Tarantella Neaploitana. I Pagliacci - Recitar!.. Vesti la giubba (original version).  

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

Len Mullenger adds

Over-recording the orchestra is not a new idea but was used when electrical recordings were introduced in the 1930s. Because these were still issued as 78s the experiment was relatively successful and I happily listened to the discs in my collection. How you find this latest attempt will depend on whether you can accept a voice so obviously recorded via an acoustic horn superimposed on a full stereo orchestral image recations are likely to be polarised. The comparison trach is surely not the copy used for the recording - it is in awful condition and lessens the value of the comparison. I am told the disc has been immensely successful in the States. Do let me have you views and I will append them to this review.


Ian Lace

Len Mullenger

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