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The Gigli Edition - Volume 4: Camden and New York Recordings 1926-27.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca – Recondita armonia
Manon Lescaut – Donna non vidi mai
La bohème – O Mimì , tu più non torni with Titta Ruffo (baritone)
La bohème – O Mimì , tu più non torni with Giuseppe De Luca (baritone)
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918)

Mefistofele – Dai campi, dai prati!
Giunto sul passo estremo
Riccardo DRIGO (1846-1930)

I millioni d’Arlecchino – Notturno d’amore
Enrico TOSELLI (1883-1926)

Serenata – two recordings, one unpublished on 78s

Torna amore
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Stornelli marini

Santa Lucia luntana

Rondine al nido
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La forza del destino – solenne in quest’ora with Titta Ruffo (baritone)
La forza del destino – solenne in quest’ora with Giuseppe De Luca (baritone)

O bei nidi d’amore
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)

La Gioconda – Enzo Grimaldo, Principe di Santafior! with Titta Ruffo (baritone)

Addio a Napoli
Beniamino Gigli (tenor)
Orchestras conducted by Josef Pasternack, Nathaniel Shilkret and Rosario Bourdon
Recorded New York and Camden, 1926-27
NAXOS 8.110265 [67.15]


As with previous issues in this series, owners of Romophone’s Gigli editions will recognise this selection, which derives from the Complete Victor Recordings Volume II 1926-28. As before the songs and arias are in chronological sequence. By now we have left behind the occasional gaucheries of his earlier discs and reach the voice in its full, unforced beauty. The top is produced and sustained with unequivocal beauty; the lower voice capable of almost baritonal extension and evenness. With electric recording came the opportunity to remake some of his earlier acoustics. Recondita armonia (his third recording of it) is genuinely thrilling and unsullied by any strictly non-musical emotionalism and his Donna non vidi mai is powerfully ardent if with a few intrusive catches in the throat. For the Drigo and Toselli songs – in the latter’s Serenata we have an unpublished second take to join the issued third - he’s joined by an unnamed violinist whose woefully slow vibrato in no way threatens Gigli’s sovereign legato. His way with light material can best be savoured in the issued sides resulting from Gigli’s visit to the New York studios on 9th December 1926. He was in truly beautiful voice and the songs, though light and airy, are perfect vehicles for Gigli’s exceptional powers of communication, sitting perfectly for the voice. Torna amore is full of romantic declamation and Stornelli marini, the gem of the session, sees Gigli’s legato supported by a core of steel.

The duets with Titta Ruffo were not issued immediately. Ruffo’s star had waned and the voice was no longer the stentorian instrument of old, but instead now seriously frayed. In the unsatisfactory sides he made with Gigli it sounds as if Ruffo was standing farther from the microphone than his colleague – in any case the tonal imbalance between voices is considerable – and the remade sides with De Luca are a considerable improvement. Note-writer William Ashbrook prefers this later version of Boito’s Dai campi, dai prati! from Mefistofele to the 1921 acoustic but I still find it a shade too lachrymose for comfort and whilst he aspirates too much in Verdi’s Solenne in quest’ora he’s still full of warmth and a superb body of tone and makes a notable teaming with Met colleague De Luca.

Once more, those who have the Romophone discs can rest easy; the difference between transfers is minimal. The pleasure of Gigli’s voice, heard in all its resplendent youthful ardour, never pales.

Jonathan Woolf

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