Vanni Marcoux (1877-1962)
One of these discs should be extracted straight away and given a less equivocal welcome than it is possible to bestow on the others. This is the Adamo Didur recital, a splendid one in that it contains some of the best bass singing ever recorded, much of it from very rare originals, and almost all (as far as I have been able to check) transferred at the correct pitch. The sound of that voice in its prime, as on the first Fonotipias heard here, is an absolute joy. So is the solo from Leopold Mugnone's Vita brettone with solo violin accompaniment. The Pathes include a high-spirited buffo performance of Dulcamara's sales patter in L'elisir d'amore, a superlative Porter song from Martha and a harrowing account of the finale of L'oracolo, in the course of which Cim-Fen is strangled with his own pigtail. Super-rarities include duets with the tenor Tadeusz Leliva for a label called Stockholders (part of Russian HMV) and one of the electric Brunswicks made in 1928 when the voice had loosened rather sadly.
Even here it is necessary to report on the kind of fault which disfigures the rest of these issues more seriously. Mefistofele's ''Ave, Signor'' is down a semitone; two catalogue numbers are wrong (the Faust Serenade should be 82503 not 60053, which is ''Le veau d'or'', and Si tu le voulais by Tosti is 27039); the Brunswick (not given at all) is 60050. This perhaps hardly matters; on the whole, presentation here is reliable, with good notes contributed by Mrs Lebow. What does undermine confidence is this sort of thing: Nemeth's Il trovatore, Die Entfuhrung and Oberon arias, Raisa's Mefistofele, and very nearly the whole of the Ivogun/Schone disc, play a semitone high, and concerning that last disc neither dates nor catalogue numbers are given, nor is it even stated where the one soprano stops and the other takes over. The excerpts from Faust on the Journet disc are not given titles or catalogue numbers; each is said to be by Berthon, Vezzani and Journet, which is not the case; and the duet from Act 1 is placed between the serenade and the finale. R. P. Connell's notes on Vanni-Marcoux tell that at Covent Garden he ''debuted in the title role of Rossini's Don Basilio'' and we are given to understand that his other roles there included Iago, Boris Godunov and Don Quichotte. In this same Covent Garden of the writer's dreams, Nemeth sang her Turandot to the Calaf of Beniamino Gigli! With regard to another record, ''the aria from La traviata is sung as a duet'' (a reference to ''Parigi, o cara''); Lemnitz was ''an unbelievable artist''; and ''Strauss was incredibly fond of Schone'', who at Salzburg ''received raves''. When it comes to the 'ordering' of the programmes, chance appears to have been arbiter, except that if there are two arias from the same opera to be played in sequence (as with Ivogun's Queen of Night and Schone's Liu), the first in the opera comes second in the recital.
There is a feast of singing here, but if Club 99 want to be taken seriously they will have to raise their standards. In the old days, when they issued LPs, we were pleased to have what we could get; but there is much more choice now, most of it in better sound, all (I should hope) in better presentation. These things were gently said, as I recollect, when the first issues appeared (7/90). We know that a word to the wise is proverbially efficacious, and to that saying there is of course an obvious corollary.'