Enrico Caruso - The Complete Recordings, Volume 8
Some of Caruso’s richest and most thrilling performances on record are here. Several are of songs so little regarded in origin that‚ as Hugh Griffith‚ the notewriter for the series‚ observes‚ the New Grove gives their composers not so much as a mention. Others come from operas in Caruso’s repertoire‚ and all are crowned by the duet from Otello‚ which he studied but never sang on stage.
In them we follow the great tenor from April to April‚ 1913 to ’14. All the time‚ the increasing fullness and warmth of his middle register add to the impression of a baritonal timbre‚ and yet the high notes still ring out with brilliance and an exciting thrust of power. In Turiddu’s farewell to the mother in Cavalleria rusticana we hear him in glorious voice throughout the range‚ commanding respect as an artist too‚ for the phrasing is broad‚ and the emotion‚ deeply experienced as it is‚ is never cheapened by too lachrymose or emphatic a style. In the concerted numbers from Un ballo in maschera we admire his ability to become part of a welldisciplined ensemble. And while‚ by joining Ruffo in Otello‚ he risks the one vocal comparison that was said to worry him‚ he preserves the singingline with scrupulous care for its musical quality even in this most arduous and competitive of all his records.
Despite these operatic splendours‚ it is still in the Italian songs that one often feels closest to Caruso. The volume contains some of the best – Guardann’a luna‚ Fenesta che lucive‚ Manella mia and the adorable Amor mio which I see Mrs Artsay in her Caruso on Records (New York: 1965) describes as a Boston waltz. The only trouble is that the enveloping comfort of his middle register is so warm a pleasure one rather resents any interpolation of high notes. On some of these‚ in the present transfers‚ I get a slight rattle‚ probably inherent in the recording‚ the kind of thing that in the old days we would ascribe to a defective soundbox. Partly for this reason and partly in deference to those times (when every Caruso record was an event) I do recommend playing single tracks rather than using the CD as a continuous recital record.