Nazzareno de Angelis (1881-1962)
Here is one of the most regal and sonorous voices on record. De Angelis never sang at Covent Garden or the Metropolitan; nor, when I look back to my first Columbia Celebrity Catalogue (1938), do I find any of his solo recordings, but only the Church scene from Faust listed under Cigna. Several of them were issued here, and Herman Klein reviewed them in
De Angelis is heard at his magnificent best in the first of these excellent transfers, the aria from Rossini's Mose. The power and authority of utterance are almost immediately modulated, with a more veiled tone and an intense private emotion taking their place. The cantabile phrases have much, though by no means all, of the needful grace, and the solo is rounded off with a genuine, finely spun trill. The fault (which he presumably never recognized as such, for it is consistent in all these recordings) is the failure to maintain legato in the gruppetti—not that the notes are grossly aspirated, but they are not 'bound', and this goes also for paired notes and for others (the middle notes of ''veggenti'', for instance, in ''Tu sul labbro'') where we would hope for smoothness and find disruption. Stylistically, De Angelis also exaggerates his effects in ''La calunnia'', and the emotion is probably too immediately overt in the great solo from Don Carlos.
Even so, these are real performances: imaginatively conceived, vividly communicated. Despite the tendency, endemic in his time, to sing marcato, imbuing nineteenth-century music with the manners of the more recent verismo school, there is an underlying classical soundness in his method: the voice has no beat or spread, and the singer preserves his mastery over it from top to bottom of the wide range. Some years ago I wrote a book about singers on record in which the name of De Angelis occurs not once. Black mark: the only slight mitigation being that, as far as I can recall, none of the reviewers or other readers who remarked on the omission of some Russians and French drew attention to this particular failure.