Tito Schipa - The Victor Recordings, 1922-25
Alan Blyth’s introductory essay points out that the acoustic Victors have been the least commonly reissued of Schipa’s recordings, and that, while this is perhaps understandable (because the most popular of the titles were remade electrically a year or two later), they also catch him at the peak of his career and in his prime. Sometimes, indeed, the earlier recordings are marginally preferable to the more familiar remakes: the Dream Song from Manon is rather more elegant, the Pagliacci serenade a shade more charming, and in the Traviata duets his partner, Amelita Galli-Curci, enjoys better vocal health. More importantly, some of the best items were never re-recorded, and these include the delightful Sonnambula duet and Mignon arias. Some of the songs, too, are charming,
1925 saw the advent of electrical recording, and roughly a dozen of Schipa’s first electricals are included. These are more ingratiating in the quality of the singing than in that of the recorded sound as reproduced here. One sympathizes with those who complained at the time that the microphone added an unnatural harshness; it is also true that the shellac used just then often produced a particularly high and gritty surface-noise. Whatever has been done to mitigate them, these are still features that limit pleasure in listening here to the recordings of that period. Better quality came in with some of the very latest, and among these are the solos from Werther and Lakme and the Death scene from La boheme with Lucrezia Bori, all among Schipa’s very best.
He is of course utterly special. Whether by art or personality (not always readily separable) he becomes instantly one of those singers who establish themselves in mind, memory and affections. He had in those days a voice that could ring out strongly as well as commanding the style and delicacy for which he was renowned. He also had the skill, taste and personal magnetism to make something magical out of some very third-rate music (it was a faculty that contributed to the restriction of his artistic growth), and there are plenty of examples here – such as one called Quiereme mucho, which veterans will recognize as a wartime hit over here called Yours. Still, he is Schipa: all who love singing will value his art, and all who value his art will want these records.'