Alfred Piccaver The Complete Electric Recordings 1928-1930

Author: 
Patrick O'Connor

Alfred Piccaver The Complete Electric Recordings 1928-1930

  • Fidelio, ~, Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!
  • Fidelio, ~, In des Lebens
  • Lohengrin, Nun sei bedankt
  • Lohengrin, ~, Das süsse Lied verhallt
  • Lohengrin, In fernem Land
  • Lohengrin, Mein lieber Schwan!.
  • (Die) Meistersinger von Nürnberg, '(The) Masters, Am stillen Herd
  • (Die) Meistersinger von Nürnberg, '(The) Masters, Morgenlich leuchtend (Prize Song)
  • Martha, ~, Ach so fromm (M'appari tutt'amor)
  • (Il) trovatore, ~, Ah! sì, ben mio
  • (La) forza del destino, '(The) force of destiny', ~, Oh, tu che in seno
  • Aida, ~, Se quel guerrier
  • Aida, ~, Celeste Aida
  • Messa da Requiem, Ingemisco
  • Faust, ~, Il se fait tard!
  • (L')Africaine, '(The) African Maid', ~, Pays merveilleux
  • (L')Africaine, '(The) African Maid', ~, O Paradis
  • (La) Gioconda, Cielo e mar!
  • Manon, ~, En fermant les yeux
  • Manon, ~, Je suis seul!
  • Manon, ~, Ah! fuyez, douce image
  • Werther, ~, Pourquoi me réveiller?
  • Cavalleria rusticana, O Lola ch'ai di latti fior di spino (Siciliana)
  • Cavalleria rusticana, ~, Viva il vino (Brindisi)
  • Cavalleria rusticana, Mamma, quel vino è generoso.
  • Pagliacci, 'Players', ~, Recitar!
  • Pagliacci, 'Players', ~, Vesti la giubba
  • Andrea Chénier, ~, Come un bel dì di maggio
  • Fedora, Amor ti vieta
  • (La) Bohème, 'Bohemian Life', Che gelida manina
  • (La) Bohème, 'Bohemian Life', O soave fanciulla
  • (La) Bohème, 'Bohemian Life', ~, Sono andati?
  • Tosca, Recondita armonia
  • Tosca, E lucevan le stelle
  • Tosca, ~, Ah, quegli occhi!
  • Tosca, ~, Amaro sol per te
  • Madama Butterfly, ~, non v’avvicinate
  • (La) Fanciulla del West, '(The) Girl of the Golden, Ch'ella mi creda libero
  • Turandot, Non piangere, Liù!
  • Turandot, Nessun dorma!
  • Mattinata, '(L')aurora di bianco vestita'
  • Pour un baiser
  • Di te
  • Addio
  • Ideale
  • Torna a Surriento
  • (The) Rosary
  • (4) Indian Love Lyrics, Kashmiri Love Song (Less than the dust)
  • For you alone

What a prize British opera missed, when Alfred Piccaver’s parents moved to the USA. The Piccavers were Lincolnshire farmers, though they claimed Spanish ancestry going back to the time of the Armada. As a child, Piccaver heard Caruso at the Metropolitan and it was his example that fired him to study singing, initially in New York and then after his first season in Prague in 1907, moving on to Milan. His career, however, was almost entirely devoted to Vienna, where from 1913 until 1937 he was the idol of the Viennese public, singing opposite Lehmann and Jeritza. Sadly, as far as I have been able to research, he does not seem to have recorded with either of them. The soprano, Margit Angerer, who joins him in six duets on these Polydor records (made between 1928 and 1930), while obviously a talented singer, does not impress with much character.
No such accusation could be levelled at Piccaver. His is one of those outgoing, all-embracing personalities, with a voice of apparently inexhaustible warmth and power. (The Vienna State Opera is a big theatre.) Piccaver phrases in a splendidly healthy way – listen to the opening of “E lucevan le stelle”: even an aria as well-known as this jumps out afresh when given the relaxed outpouring of sound, the unbroken legato. It’s quite easy to imagine the thrill in the theatre. “The caressing velvet of his voice was so unbelievably beautiful,” wrote Lotte Lehmann, “that it was sufficient, whatever he did, however he moved.” She did not rate him at all as an actor, and recalled that she had to lead him through his steps on the stage.
He certainly can act with the voice, though: the farewell to the swan in the passage from Act 1 of Lohengrin, Florestan’s aria (Fidelio), and the absolutely glorious account of Vasco da Gama’s “O Paradis” from Meyerbeer’s L’africaine (in Italian) all suggest a singer of such strength and presence that it is a wonder that Piccaver’s name is not better known. Of course, to collectors and opera buffs he has always been a known quantity, but compared to his contemporaries Gigli, Tauber and Martinelli, I do not think Piccaver’s name is much touted. Perhaps the reissue of these recordings, and others that have appeared on Nimbus and Pearl, will alter that.
Lehmann recalled that despite living in Vienna for 25 years, Piccaver never mastered the German language, and this probably accounts for a certain lack of engagement where individual words are concerned. His Italian is better; he really conveys the sadness of Pinkerton’s “Addio fiorito asil”, and the anguish of “Mamma, quel vino e generoso” from Cavalleria rusticana. Marcel Prawy wrote that Piccaver relished the fermate that were the joy of the Viennese public, lingering on high notes. Perhaps he doesn’t indulge in this so much on disc; what impresses over and over again is the cleanness of his phrasing, never resorting to strained bellow or sob.
Piccaver returned to England before the outbreak of the Second World War. He made a few records for Decca (reissued long ago on a charming LP, 12/59), including an impassioned I’m in love with Vienna. This was true, for he returned there in 1955 for the reopening of the Opera, and could never bear to leave again. He was given a State funeral, the Vienna Philharmonic playing the second movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony in the pouring rain in front of the Opera. His voice communicates so directly that one understands immediately why he was so beloved. It is a tribute to his singing that one can listen to both these CDs without tiring of his voice.'

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