Look at this heading once (''Three Tenors! Surely we've had enough of these!'') and you might not feel inclined to look further. But if you do, it will not escape attention that at least two of the tenors are not such obvious choices and that both have commonly had less than their due of attention. That will probably suggest a third glance. What, for instance, is this BBC broadcast of 1949? Well, it is a previously unpublished Widdop, and an interesting one too, for we have (I believe I am right) otherwise no recorded Lieder by him. Strauss's Traum durch die Dammerung shows the best robust tenor England has produced within the century in the last year of his life (the recording was made in June and he died in September). His voice is beautifully controlled in a song which is notoriously liable to expose deficiencies in this respect, and he sings it with a gentleness worthy of his contemporary, the lyric tenor Heddle Nash. Then the list of composers might be noted also. Clutsam and Woodforde-Finden: that means one of Widdop's rarest records, a ten-inch HMV black-label E, with Clutsam's I know of two bright eyes quite unexpectedly moving and dignified in its simplicity when sung as it is here, in a manner which is as much of its period as is the song itself. As for Widdop's ''Lend me your aid'' (La reine de Saba) and his Lohengrin and Prince Igor arias, they-as everybody familiar with them knows-are simply magnificent.
Now, what the title information does not reveal is that we also have here, in a sense, four new Carusos. I must explain the 'sense'. The Siciliana has been put into context: the old Columbia set of Cavalleria rusticana under Alwyn Buesst is here taken out of storage and Caruso's solo inserted with the rest of the orchestral Prelude on either side of it. A new harp accompaniment has been dubbed in. Don't condemn without hearing! The same must be said for the ''Che gelida manina'', which acquires a new orchestra. In my view, this does a genuinely useful job. The Boheme aria has never ranked among my favourite Carusos, but hearing it with the voice placed against an orchestra which has a proper share in the proceedings reveals what imagination had failed to do: that the idiosyncrasies of the performance make much better sense when heard (comparatively of course) as in the opera house. It is a much more attractive performance than had previously appeared, and this recording has been a genuine aid to appreciation. I can't say that the cello brought in to help matters in the Rigoletto Quartet has provided comparable enlightenment.
With the third of the tenors, Richard Crooks, one observation is how much at his best he is in the Prize song from Die Meistersinger. Much is graceful and well-turned in his ''Una furtiva lagrima'' and ''Il mio tesoro'' (unissued in the UK), but the open tone and open vowel production in the danger areas is disquieting. The copies used are a bit crackly; fine Widdops, however.'