Ezio Pinza (1892-1957)
There can surely be few dissenting voices where the quality of Pinza’s singing is concerned. Play a record of his to a hardened old collector or a green newcomer and they will undoubtedly join in praising his golden, vibrant tone, seamless legato, the evenness of his vocal emission through a couple of octaves. I have heard it said in adverse criticism that he seldom sings below forte: that is wholly negated here by a performance of the lullaby from Thomas’s Mignon, sung almost entirely mezza voce, a lulling and soft-grained song that would send any child into blissful slumber. Another French item, the famous Tambour-major air from Thomas’s lesser-known Le caid, not only confirms Pinza’s excellence in French enunciation, but also shows quite another side of his personality: jocular, a smile in the tone, exuberance in the delivery; different from Plancon’s legendary reading (Romophone, 12/94) but no less attractive.
The RCA Victors of Italian opera are so well known that they hardly need any fresh encomium from me, yet one does marvel anew at the easy command of Pinza’s Oroveso, Procida, King Philip and Ramphis, the character of each nicely etched in, even in extract. To complement these there is his grave Sarastro, his warmly sighing Colline. All the phrases where other basses either exaggerate or lose focus in reaching a high or low note are done quite effortlessly. His Giovanni, heard in the solos from 1930, before he had become the interpreter of his day, already suggests a formidable personality, and we end with him in the distinguished company of Rethberg and Gigli for their glorious account of the Attila trio.
All the electrics are transferred carefully from RCA Victors in good condition. Where the six 1923-4 HMV acoustics are concerned you hear Nimbus’s much-discussed additional resonance, room or otherwise, come into play. It is an acceptable procedure if you understand that you are not hearing exactly what the original sound is like. The most persuasive title here is “Cinta di fiori” from Il puritani, where the cantabile rolls out with fabulous ease. Pearl (2/89), Preiser (3/92) and EMI (5/92 – nla) have overlapping selections, but if you’re a Pinza enthusiast you will want them all. If you are starting from scratch you might well express the hope that the peerless Romophone will issue a complete Pinza in due course – something they should consider.'