A Chaliapin feast
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's nice of Naxos to collect in one place some of the most representative recordings of the great Russian basso, Fyodor Chaliapin. This is a 2CD set; the first CD is from the acoustic era of recording, the second from the electrical era. Not only are the expected arias and songs from the Russian literature represented, but also there are more than a few Italian/French/German selections. There are two scenes from 'Boris Godunov': Varlaam's Song and the Farewell and Death of Boris. Three versions of Mussorgsky's 'Song of the Flea', from 1907, 1929 and 1936 (the latter his last recording) are included, all of them marvelous. Other highlights, made all the more effective by Chaliapin's amazing ability to act with the voice, are 'La calunnia' from 'The Barber of Seville' and 'Le veau d'or' from Gounod's 'Faust.' I also liked 'Chanson Bachique' by Glazunov, which I'd never heard before.The sound is fantastic, the wizardry of Ward Marston who, along with Mark Obert-Thorn, is involved with Naxos's extensive re-issue of treasures from the history of the recorded voice.If you don't have these selections from previous issues on other labels, you can't go wrong here. And then there's the budget price . . ."
Chaliapin, the great Russian singer actor.
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 08/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Born in the same year as Caruso and attracting the wild acclaim that used to be accorded to opera singers, Feodor Chaliapin is now featured in the Naxos "Great Singers" series. A selection of his acoustic recordings (1902-1924) occupy the first CD and a selection of his electric recordings (1926-1936), and in charge of restoration is Ward Marston.
Like Caruso, Chaliapin had a huge voice that nevertheless proved eminently compatible with acoustic recording processes. Indeed, collectors need not be deterred by the age of many of these recordings. Some of the very best items, whether opera or song, fall into the acoustic group. The 1911 recordings of Rubinstein's "Demon" excerpts, which I heard a few times many years ago and have never forgotten, are amongst the best of all in this entire selection.
Also like Caruso, Chaliapin's recording career owed much to producer Fred Gaisberg who, in his autobiography, allotted a whole chapter to this great singer. In recent times, eminent critic John Steane has named Chaliapin as one of the two or three great singer actors of the C20th. Gaisberg was responsible for recording the Prayer and Death of Boris during an actual performance of "Boris Godunov" at Covent Garden in 1928. Perhaps this best indicates Chaliapin's work as singer and actor. Another successful item here is the `Le veau d'or' from "Faust", which one critic has judged ideal for showing Chaliapin's special magnetism.
The notes provide an informative survey of Chaliapin's recording output. One error is the attributing some of the orchestral support in the recordings from the 1920s to the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and orchestra which was founded by Beecham in 1932.