Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Various composers: Arias and songs.
de Curtis
: Solanto tu, Maria;
Melichar: Anima mia;
Bach-Gounod: Ave Maria;
Bizet: Agnus Dei;
Franck: Panis Angelicus;
Schumann: Il fior di loto (Die Lotusblume);
Grieg: Un Reve (En Drom);
Cilea: E la solita storia (from L'Arlesiana);
Becce: Tu sei la mia via;
Curci: Notte a Venezia;
Blanc: Giovinezza;
Puccini: Inno a Roma;
Verdi: Se quel guerrier io fossi…Celeste Aida (from Aida);
Puccini: O soave fanciulla (from La Boheme)*;
Bixio: Ninna nanna della vita;
Tosti: Serenata;
Cinque: Mattinata Venezia;
de Curtis: Ti voglio tanto bene;
Tosti: L'ultima canzone;
Tosti: Marechiare:
Denza: Occhi di fata:
Rossini: La Danza.
Beniamino Gigli (ten) with various orchestral accompaniments.
ROMOPHONE 82020-2 [73.25]
 £10.99  AmazonUK  £12.99 AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations

As the title implies, this CD brings together, on 22 tracks, all the individual recordings made by Gigli for the HMV Company between 1936 and 1938. (During this period he also participated in recordings of two complete operas, Tosca and La Bohème for the same company.) As Alan Blyth points out in his characteristically informative notes, these recordings were made when Gigli was at the height of his powers.

The music covers a wide range. There are arias by Cilea, Puccini and Verdi. Also included are two art songs, one by Schumann (Die Lotusblüme, sung in Italian) and one by Grieg, which is sung in French. There are also 'sacred' items by Gounod, Bizet and Franck. The remaining 14 tracks comprise a variety of Italian songs.

Stylistically, the performances are of their time, of course (the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, complete with "heavenly choir" has to be heard to be believed!). In addition, Gigli is a little too inclined to indulge in 'sobs' for my taste.

However, it is the voice that matters. Track after track offers the listener a demonstration of open-throated, golden-toned Italianate singing which puts into telling perspective the efforts of several of today's much-hyped would be successors to Pavarotti and Domingo. Inevitably, some of the recordings show their age in that the orchestral accompaniments are rather relegated to the background. No matter. Anyone investing in this disc will be doing so in order to hear Gigli and they can be assured that his magnificent voice rings truly and effortlessly out of the loudspeakers. The transfers are by Mark Obert-Thorn, one of the leading specialists and are of uniformly excellent quality. Surface noise is minimal and never mars enjoyment.

Only one thing mars this release. No texts or translations are provided, an all-too-frequent omission these days. Some of the repertoire on the disc will be unfamiliar to many of today's listeners. Since Gigli was such an expressive singer I wish Romophone had paid him the compliment of letting the listener know what he is singing.

However, despite this blemish, this is a disc which will be self-recommending to all admirers of Gigli and which will delight lovers of great singing.

John Quinn

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