Famous Italian Baritones
Only 60 years lie between the birth of Mattia Battistini and that of Giuseppe Taddei, and only 45 between the recordings that represent them in this collection. It is not really very long, and perhaps we expect to find greater differences of style than such a short period of time can offer. Certainly this anthology gives little support to theories of decline, progress or sag. The voices are fine ones, at the end of the journey as at the beginning, and if Magini-Coletti (first of the baritones heard here) sings with beautiful tone and a keen responsiveness to his aria, much the same could be said for Taddei, whose singing of “Vision fugitive” (Herodiade) has many of the graces which an illustrious line of predecessors had exercised in that very solo. Yet there is a difference. The facilities for comparison are not provided here, but we know well enough that no baritone of Taddei’s time or later would sing Donizetti as Magini-Coletti and Battistini do: their training does not allow them the freedom to shape the material their own way, or to present themselves and the music with such a combination of panache and lingering affection.
In between the earliest singers and the most recent come many whose style is neither quite modern nor yet distinctly antique. Of these, the most beautiful voice heard here seems to me to be that of Carlo Galeffi, who sings the prayer “Dio di Giuda” from Nabucco. The most creatively absorbed is Pasquale Amato, master of the caressing portamento and of a many-shaded emotional expression. Somewhat of his school in the next generation is Benvenuto Franci, particularly imaginative here in his treatment of William Tell’s “Resta immobile”. Increased respect for Scotti arises out of his scrupulously observant “Brindisi” from Otello. Stabile impresses with the wizardry of a vocal make-up which nevertheless cannot give him the voice for old fat-guts. The transfers are fine, the notes brief but businesslike. A rare photograph of Sammarco looking haughtily down his unaristocratic nose as Sir Henry in Lucia di Lammermoor graces the jewel-case.'