Search - Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Giuseppe Verdi :: The Harold Wayne Collection, Vol.2

The Harold Wayne Collection, Vol.2
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Giuseppe Verdi
The Harold Wayne Collection, Vol.2
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (22) - Disc #1


CD Details


CD Reviews

Before Pavarotti or Caruso Italy's Greatest Tenor Was Marco
Doug - Haydn Fan | California | 10/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Francesco Marconi (1853 - 1916) was the first great Italian lyric tenor to record a reasonable sampling of his art. Born into a humble Roman family he learned his trade of carpentry under his father - Marconi was proud of his beginnings, and was not afraid of mentioning them. "I was a simple man working as a carpenter, and I went to being seated at Tsar Alexander III's right hand at dinner, and being received at Court in Madrid as though it were my own house." It was not until his twenties that Marconi left his artisan's bench and began his singing career. With advice from the legendary tenor Tamberlick, Marconi debuted in 1876 in Boito's Mefistofele - a brand new opera in those days! His reviews were laudatory, such as this from Gino Monaldi, on the very performance cited above, taken from the CD notes;

In 'Dai campi, dai prati' sung by Marconi, to me he seemed to dream. I have heard some voices and singers! And yet I certainly never heard THAT voice before. The sweetness of timbre, the purity of tone, the firmness and marvelous precision of sound, the capacity and the phenomenal stamina of the lungs, such that the notes, rather than coming from a human larynx, seemed to be the product of a 'cello bow: all this constituted so fine and enchanting a whole that I could not take it in."

In 1878 Marconi sang in a performance of Gounod's Faust at the Teatro Real, Madrid, the great opera house of Spain. The Spanish cognoscenti were also stunned, and compared Marconi to their national tenor hero, Gayarre. From there his career took off, and he performed throughout Europe and South America. In Russia, in the great cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, "Marconi enjoyed a vogue bordering on fanaticism." His repetoire ranged from heavier parts such as the nearly heldentenor role of Radames in Aida, down through the full range of tenor roles to lighter roles such as Nemorino in Donizetti's L'Elsir d'Amore. J.H. Duval cited his voice's special brilliance,'a voice of silver, a perfect free-flowing stream of silver throughout, which seemed limitless on the extreme upper notes.' "Others wrote of his ample, extended, ringing voice, of absolutely golden timbre; it was sweet and malleable, sustaining a splendid legato and flexing itself effortlessly in graceful phrases." These critical associations of silver and gold usually show up only in singers blessed with voices of phenomenal beauty - a similar back and forth between gold and silver takes place in the critical commentary on the heart-stoppingly beautiful voice of the American lyric soprano, Edith Mason.

When at the age of fifty Marconi first recorded, the years of singing, and especially the heavier parts, had taken their toll. The effortless flexing of his voice was gone; instead his voice had stiffened considerably. During his last decade as a professional he was beset with an array of vocal problems, what we hear on his records does not convey what his singing sounded like in his twenties and thirties, two decades earlier.

However, much of the style remains, and as a bonus, there are many moments when his voice seems to break free of the chains of age, and rings out with a sudden pealing freedom, capturing for a few phrases much of the original brilliance mentioned above by those who heard him at his best. Marconi brings too a formidable intelligence to his music-making: in much of his work he displays a sure control of a work's structure and form.

For better or worse what we have is what there is - and we should be grateful for a chance to hear Marconi, and in something like the range and style he sounded like in his prime, bereft of serious vocal changes. Imagine if Caruso had been recorded at the end of his life, what would we think of the contemporary reviews of the young tenor as he sounded at the beginning of his career in 1900, reviews citing a golden fresh lyrical voice, the very voice we, through the provenance of the recording Gods, can hear on Caruso's earlist recordings. What would we believe if all we had of Caruso were his recordings of the darkening baritonal voice recorded after the end of the First World War?

Symposium has put together an entire album of 22 cuts of Franceso Marconi for this Volume 2 in the Harold Wayne series. A further four cuts are added to volume 3 in the same series. Marconi's recordings were almost all great rarities; in our time it would be impossible to track down such a huge number of his titles. Some of the greatest collectors of early opera recordings considered themselves fortunate to own even three or four of Marconi's records. Dr. Wayne, who generously shared these major rarities, gives a full and amazing description of the diffilcuties in locating and the extraordinary rarity of each of these recordings. Thus, the chance to own 26 Marconi recordings, and taken from generally very good condition copies at that, is the chance of a lifetime for anyone interested in historic singing. Very fine notes in the form of a biography, discography and a discussion of the singing is provided by Dr. Michael Henstock - his notes alone are easily worth the price of the CD! (Dr. Henstock is also author of an outstanding biography of the slightly younger and sensational Neapolitan tenor, Fernando de Lucia; a must purchase if you can locate it used!)

This CD contains great notes as well as a good biography.

OF SPECIAL NOTE: Cut 22 captures the only known example of the singing of the legendary Italian baritone, Antonio Cotogni, (1831 -1918) singing with Marconi in a duet. To my mind it sounds like a party record, with the two exchanging shouts and calls between a few lines of melody. They obviously are enjoying themselves, but it's a shame Cotogni didn't leave something a bit more straightforward. In any event, all the more reson to be thankful for Marconi's recorded legacy.