Three Tenors Björling, Gigli & Tauber
We know what 'Three Tenors' means nowadays. The idea behind this collection is to devise an earlier counterpart. So Hyde Park in 1938 or 1939, between the euphoria of ''Peace in our time'' and the outbreak of war, might have resounded to the concerted O sole mio of a trio rather more disparate than today's in voice, background and appearance. Gigli, well-rounded in figure as in timbre, would vie with the monocled Tauber for central place which would therefore have to be ceded to the youngster, this newcomer from Sweden whose debut was such an auspicious feature of the 1939 season at Covent Garden. Inevitably, however fraternal the bonhomie, however affectionate the hugs, a spirit of competition is in the air, and if Bjorling has youth on his side, the others have experience and a well-established following. Back in Italy Giacomo Lauri-Volpi would have been wondering why he had not been invited, and over in Ireland John McCormack might be congratulating himself on having retired in time.
The selection here certainly shows Bjorling to his best advantage. A flawless legato in the opening ''O paradis!'' and then the near two minutes of Der Bettelstudent packed with zest and stamped with that ringing top D flat set him off to a winning start. Gigli is warmer in tone and manner, tearfully affronted by his prospects on the battlements of Sant' Angelo, chuckling merrily over the leaping, circling couples in Rossini's tarantella. Tauber, heard first in Tosca in German rendered all the odder by his peculiar vowel-sounds, catches up on the other two with Mischa Spoliansky providing a piano accompaniment as winsome as his singing in the folk-song Kommt a Vogerl geflogen. He hardly has a winner in his Martha aria, transposed down a full tone, and though ''Nessun dorma'' (slightly sharp in the pitching) has much in its favour, the skilful flick he gives to the high B in unlikely to impress those for whom Pavarotti's prolonged second syllable of ''vincero'' was the climax of the whole event. Never mind: he's Tauber, and very ''Tauberish'' (to quote Tony Watts's insert-note quoting William Mann). The transfers are clear rather than ingratiating (which may be in their favour). Playing-time being just under the hour, it should be possible, and would certainly be advantageous, to have allowed a little more breathing-space between items.'