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Mario Lanza: At His Best!
Luigi Denza, Rodolfo Falvo, Eduardo di Capua
Mario Lanza: At His Best!
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Pop, Classical, Broadway & Vocalists
 
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #1


      
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CD Reviews

Haunting, unforgettable.
D. MCGOVERN | New Zealand | 09/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When the Mario! album was recorded in December 1958, Lanza had less than 10 months to live. And yet for all the obvious signs of illness on his final recordings of the following year, the tenor sounds remarkably well here. His lower register is rich and baritonal, while the celebrated top notes are still very much in evidence. (The sustained High A at the end of Passione is stunning.) "Vocally extraordinary" was the verdict of the album's noted conductor from Rome's Academia di Santa Cecilia - Franco Ferrara - who added that Lanza "possessed great musicality" and a "Caruso-type voice that combined steel with warmth".

Arguably the tenor's greatest album, all but one of the 12 Neapolitan songs featured here present Lanza at his mature best. Listeners accustomed only to the tenor's earlier recordings of many of these songs will be surprised by the sensitivity and commitment that he brings to his singing here. Indeed, Lanza is so thoroughly immersed in the Neapolitan idiom that even Italian listeners have found it difficult to believe that these songs were recorded by an American.

Here are some brief notes on each of the tracks:


1. Funiculi' Funicula'. Skip this one! The one lapse on the album contains an unfortunate arrangement and off-key singing from Lanza.

2. Dicitencello Vuie. The favourite recording of Lanza's mother, this one has a lot going for it. It starts out a little sluggish, but by the second half Lanza is in great form.

3. Maria Mari'. Delightful. The smile in Lanza's honeyed voice adds much to the simple beauty of the song.

4. Voce 'e Notte. Haunting in the extreme. Lanza's own favourite recording of himself, this lament is to many aficionados the tenor's finest recording of a Neapolitan song. He perfectly expresses the anguish of a lovesick man alone in the night, singing with stunning depth to his voice and gorgeous use of mezza voce. Unforgettable.

5. Canta Pe' Me. The vitality in this recording will knock your socks off. Light years removed from Lanza's 1952 performance on the Don't Forget Me CD.

6. 'O Surdato 'Nnmmamurato. Some light relief in the form of this rousing soldier's song. Great stuff.

7. Come Facette Mammeta. A joy from start to finish, Lanza cannot resist chuckling during this doom-buster of a song.

8. Santa Lucia Luntana. Lanza at his most reflective and baritonal. He vocally "paints" the beauty of the sea and the moon in this song of a Neapolitan's love for his homeland.

9. Fenesta Che Lucive. The saddest song Lanza ever recorded, the tenor himself seems overcome with grief at the conclusion of this moving lament.

10. Tu Ca Nun Chiagne. Rousing and dramatic with the tenor in brilliant form; a true knock-out.

11. 'Na Sera 'e Maggio. Another haunting song of unrequited love. Beautifully phrased and masterfully sung. Note the shimmering sensuality with which Lanza sings "Voglio bene sulo a te" in the second half.

12. Passione. One of Lanza's greatest recordings. He makes full use of every vocal colour at his disposal, and the ending invariably leaves listeners dumbstruck.

The sound quality on the above selections varies a little from track to track. Ironically, Funiculi' Funicula' - the weakest selection - has the best sound. At times, the somewhat sandy digital transfer lacks the mellow warmth of the original album, and there is a hint of echo present that was not on the LP. Having said that, the startling dynamics on Voce 'e Notte, Canta Pe' Me, and Passione have never sounded better.

The CD is filled out with eight selections from The Vagabond King. Sadly, these betray a marked deterioration in Lanza's health. Recorded at a single session seven months after the Neapolitan songs, Lanza had suffered a heart attack in the interim, and was understandably below par. Still, there are some highlights: the swagger of the Drinking Song, the mature and reflective Nocturne, the thrilling high As in Love Me Tonight, and the Only a Rose reprise, which concludes the album. The sound quality is surprisingly poor, and both the chorus and soprano Judith Raskin were added to the recording after Lanza's death.

However, I suspect that few listeners will actually care about the lesser Vagabond King selections. The great Mario! album is the star attraction here, and it most assuredly will not disappoint.

Postscript (February 2006): This entire CD has now been released as a hybrid SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc). The sound is superb, and I much prefer the SACD over the present disc. For further information, please see my review elsewhere on this site."
I've fallen in love again
D. MCGOVERN | 01/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had this as a LP record many years ago, and was absolutely thrilled to find the CD. I had always loved Lanza's voice, but I now realize that he was without a doubt one of the best tenor voices of the century. His ability to sing so many different types of songs is astounding. His voice is strong, filled with emotion and in some of the songs you can hear that he is hugely enjoying himself. What an incredible pity that he died at such a young age and was never able to fulfill all that he could have been."
At his best indeed.
Ron Stevens | Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom | 06/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is truly one of Lanza's finest albums ever and represents a magnificent achievement for a man who at the time of recording was undergoing a heavy workload, illness and financial pressure. The selections on Mario! (The first part of the album) are in my opinion, his finest interpretation of Neapolitan singing by any tenor. From the robust and magnificent "Dicitencello Vuie" to the rousing "Maria Mari" we hear Mario give each of these gems his own unique treatment. Listen to the wonderfully haunting "Voce e Notte" (which was rumoured to be Mario's favourite song) and take pleasure in the utterly faultless approach to the selection. The latter part of the disc is the 1959 recording of The Vagabond King and although there are some fine highlights in "Someday" and a fabulous "Nocturne" the overall results are a little shaky with Mario's health problems showing through. The Neapolitan selections though, are worth double the price of the album itself and this is truly one not to be missed."