Search - George Cehanovsky, Robert Merrill, Leonard Warren :: The Verdi Recordings [Box Set]

The Verdi Recordings [Box Set]
George Cehanovsky, Robert Merrill, Leonard Warren
The Verdi Recordings [Box Set]
Genre: Classical


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Immortal Performances -- Inadquate Documentation
Johannes Climacus | Beverly, Massachusetts | 11/07/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This set is a genuine bargain, in that it offers all of Toscanini's commercial Verdi recordings including five complete operas (*La Traviata*, *Aida*, *Il Ballo*, *Otello* and *Falstaff*), excerpts from several others, plus the *Requiem* and other sacred pieces. Anyone who has heard of Toscanini knows that he was probably the greatest Verdi interpreter of his generation, and quite possibly of all time. Despite the dry acoustic spaces in which the Maestro recorded, the limited monaural recordings, and the inconsistent casting in several of the operas, this is an essential set for anyone interested in the composer.

What considerably modifies my rapture is the woefully inadquate documentation supplied by Sony/BMG. Considering the historical value of these recordings, and the fact that a bargain box of this nature is sure to tempt neophyte collectors who may not be familiar with all of these works, it is inconsiderate to say the least that Sony/BMG have not seen fit to supply even a cast listing for each opera, much less text, translations and plot synopses. It is impossible to figure out (unless one is previously familiar with these recordings) who sings what role; nor would anyone unfamiliar with these works be given a clue as to the names of the principal characters in these operas! Offering this box at bargain price in no way justifies such cavalier treatment of potential buyers.

So five stars for the performances; no stars for the presentation.

My advice, reluctantly is to seek out the original CD issues of these works (either in RCA's Toscanini Edition, or subsequent reissues), all of which, I do believe, were supplied with at least synopses and cast lists, and most included libretti as well.

It's time for consumers to protest such treatment!"
As close as we shall ever get to hearing what Verdi wanted
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 10/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is one of the great blessings of opera history that Toscanini had so long a career and was in a position to commit his Verdi interpretations onto disc with a first rate orchestra, excellent singers and (for its time) perfectly good mono sound, now much improved by the latest RCA remastering to afford both greater warmth and clarity. He knew Verdi well, played through his music with him and must be credited with both authority and authenticity when it comes to matters of tempi and fidelity to the score; this is as close as we shall ever get to hearing what Verdi himself demanded in the theatre (even if he did not always get it). These twelve discs are the same, latest, cleaned up re-masterings that you can buy separately and they represent terrific value, especially on Marketplace. The big drawback is the absence of supporting documentation to tell you anything about who is singing what role; nor are any synopses provided, let alone libretti. We do get recording dates and venues and a short, well written biography of this greatest and most charismatic 20C Maestro - but that's it. It is obviously assumed that the purchaser is already familiar with the recordings and operas themselves - which is probably often true, as these are not necessarily first choice versions for the novice or casual listener with so many excellent modern, stereo sets available. Having said that, the missing details and librettos can be found or bought on-line and plenty of aficionados would place certain of these recordings at the very head of the list of interpretations, starting with Toscanini's incomparable "Falstaff" and "Otello", closely followed by his sparkling and under-rated "Un Ballo in Maschera" and one of the most exciting "Requiem" performances on record. It is a platitude to observe that Toscanini often failed to secure the very best singers available - what would some of his recordings have been if he had been able to persuade Tebaldi or Callas to be his prima donna instead of the very competent but unspectacular Herva Nelli? - but his roster of singers nonetheless features some great names and it is my view that apart from widely acknowledged stars like Robert Merrill, Ramon Vinay and Giuseppe Valdengo, others such as Jan Peerce have been under-valued. His performance in "Ballo" is splendid, as is his Duke in the famous Act 4 of "Rigoletto" with Leonard Warren and Milanov in top form - indeed I am not always much of a fan of that much-admired soprano but she is here in finest voice. Other singers such as Cloe Elmo, Teresa Stich-Randall, Richard Tucker and Nan Merriman are hardly also-rans, too; Toscanini was clearly satisfied with his casts and while they perhaps occasionally pale in comparison with putative dream-casts featuring names such as Bjorling and Tebaldi, I for one am grateful for what we have."