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Les Introuvables Du Chant Verdien
Giuseppe Verdi, Alberto Erede, Alceo Galliera
Les Introuvables Du Chant Verdien
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #7
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #8

This collection, whose French title might be translated "Verdi Vocal Rarities," is a unique contribution to the Verdi centennial year. Its 136 selections on eight compact discs offer an in-depth survey of singers who recor...  more »


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This collection, whose French title might be translated "Verdi Vocal Rarities," is a unique contribution to the Verdi centennial year. Its 136 selections on eight compact discs offer an in-depth survey of singers who recorded notable Verdi performances during the era of 78-rpm recording. Coincidentally, this period covers, within a few years, the half- century after the composer's death, in 1901. Some of the singers in the earliest cuts--tenor Francesco Tamagno and bass Victor Maurel, for example--had known Verdi and sung for him. Many of the singers will be familiar to connoisseurs of Verdi discography--Enrico Caruso, Boris Christoff, Fedora Barbieri, Ezio Pinza, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Tito Gobbi, Beniamino Gigli, and Jussi Bjoerling, to name a few. Others, such as Frieda Hempel, Emmy Destinn, Martha Modl, Joseph Schwarz, Gino Cigna, and Mattia Battistini, are names you come across in books about opera, but you have heard their voices only if you spend a lot of time with historic recordings. And a lot of performances, including some of the best, are likely to be the work of singers encountered for the first time. Most of the big moments from Verdi's operas are included--grouped by opera, not by chronological order of recording. There are a few strange omissions; for example, the "Miserere" scene from Il trovatore. But other selections, such as "Ah fors' e lui" and "La donna e mobile," are given in two or three performances--sometimes in French, German, or Russian as well as Italian. Some of the performances are classics; many are mind-boggling. Some favorite Verdi singers--Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti, among them--are absent because they began recording after the collection's cutoff date. Other problems are mostly related to the dates of the original recordings. The sound is all pre-high-fidelity and sometimes quite primitive, though some remarkable work has been done to optimize the earliest items. The annotations are minimal--mostly the date, venue, and performers in each cut, with pictures of the biggest stars. This decision was probably made to keep the price low, and those who already know most of the arias and ensembles will likely find the tradeoff acceptable. --Joe McLellan

CD Reviews

Rare but well-polished Verdi gems.
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 10/20/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Classical music enthusiasts will have become aware that EMI have been marketing several boxed sets with a French title containing the word "introuvables". The word suggests that when you open the box you'll find items that are so rare as to be almost unobtainable. It suggests also that their rarity is not due only to age or production limitations, it is also due to the incomparability of their quality. Few would quibble about the quality of what is to be found in this splendid collection of Verdi "introuvables". You will hear how Emmy Destinn portrayed Aida yearning for her homeland in 1908, and how Elisabeth Schwarzkopf portrayed Violetta intereacting with her lover's father in 1953. You will hear several items duplicated. Francesco Navarini, recorded in 1907 with a piano, makes a stunning Fiesco in the "Simon Boccanegra" prologue, as is not up-staged by the more familiar Alexander Kipnis version which follows. You might regret that your favourite Verdi record is not here. You'll have opportunities to make comparisons, however. I could never believe that anyone could equal Giuseppe de Luca'a 1930 "O sommo Carlo" from "Ernani, but here I have a chance to hear for the first time how the famous baritone Mattia Battistini did it in 1906. Keith Hardwick compiled and transferred this collection originally in the late 1980s. He has augmented and transferred that issue onto 8 CDs, and provided the annotations. Full recording details are provided, there are many singer photographs but no singer biographies.The recording dates range from 1903 to 1953. Sadly, almost all the singers - Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf being a notable exception - are all dead by now. Those of us who have opportunities to hear and collect their work, however, can be grateful that the older we get the better it sounds. Indeed, I have never heard any of the items included here in better transfers. Elsewhere I have given this issue a five star rating. Subsequent hearings have made me aware of a technical matter which may bother some listeners. This set has been transferred from the long playing records on which it was originally issued. Their pristine sound quality has been preserved but also some of the ghostly "swish" that accompanied each revolution."
A Great Anthology
Philip S. Griffey | Bainbridge I. WA USA | 11/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I find the "Introuvables" series of EMI (Les Introuvables Du Chant Wagnérien, Les Introuvables du Chant Mozartien: 50 Years of Mozart Singing on Records, Les Introuvables du Chant Français [Box Set]) much more interesting than their "Record of Singing" series. It is true that in the latter one gets a much broader idea of whole span of the operatic experience in the time period covered; but in the process one hears performances by some very obscure and pedestrian artists singing some very mediocre music. It may be interesting to hear singers like, Alexander Bragin, Louis Cazette, Tina Poli-Randaccio and Eleanor Jones-Hudson singing arias from "La coupe de la roi de Thulé" by Diaz or "Quo Vadis?" by Nogués once (or even twice); but (like Mithradates' poison) they are best if taken not too frequently and in small doses.

In the Introuvables series one gets the best and/or the most famous singers of their day, performing the most interesting pieces from the composers or periods selected; one frequently finds himself going back to listen again to how Elisabeth Rethberg sang "Morro, ma prima in grazia", or how Giuseppe de Luca sang "Eri tu!" etc. Since several especially famous pieces have more than one performance, it is also interesting to compare different artists singing the same aria, e.g. "D'amor sull' ali rose" by Emmy Destinn, Frida Leider (in German) and Eva Turner, or "Caro nome" by Lydia Lipkowska (in Russian) and Maria Ivogun (in German), or "Quando le sere al placido" by Giuseppe Anselmi and Aureliano Pertile (Now there is a contrast!).

A few of the most interesting pieces:

Frieda Hempel - Ernani "Ernani involami" (Recorded in 1909, when Hempel was only 24!) a very beautiful voice with spot-on pitch, wonderful legato and spectacular fioritura. (How often these days do you hear messa di voce on trills?) The registers seem slightly out of balance - which may have been caused by the acoustic horns' tendency to boost the treble and depress the base. The proper recording technique in those days required the singer to lean forward (towards the horn) when singing in the lower register, and to lean back (away from the horn) when in the higher register - a procedure which drove most singers to distraction.

Giannina Arangi-Lombardi and Carlo Galeffi - Il Trovatore " Mira, a'acerbe lagrime" (Milano, 1928) Neither of these singers is spectacular, nor did they have extraordinary voices. What makes this performance so interesting is how natural and idiomatic it seems. No showboating, no one-upsmanship, just native speakers who were trained in the tradition, and sing in an honest, straightforward manner. It works wonders.

Cesar Vezzani - Il Trovatore "Di quella pira" (Paris, 1929) This excellent Corsican tenor, who sang most frequently in France, deserves to be better known. Here he sings a very fine "Di quella pira" in French. Unfortunately, his recording is followed immediately by a spectacular performance by a 28 year old Jussi Björling, which blows the doors off the hinges.

Miguel Villabella and Eide Norena - Rigoletto "E il sol del anima" (Paris, 1930) A fine example of the elegant French singers of the pre-WWII period. A wonderful sense of line and of legato, nuanced inflections and subtle shadings give us a sense of just how sophisticated the music of the "paisan" from Busseto could be.

Titta Ruffo's recordings of selections from Rigoletto, made in the first decade of the XXth century have a tremendous vitality and sonority. They may lack the depth of meaning and psychological insights of Stracciari's and Gobbi's performances, but they possess a great drama all their own.

An interesting example of the improvisation that was de rigueur up until 100 years ago is found in Selma Kurz's spectacular 1911 recording of "Saper Vorreste" (from Un Ballo in Maschera). There are little touches of fioritura from early on, but with a little over a minute to go, she launches into 40 or 50 seconds of incredible coloratura - featuring a trill which itself lasts for a full 20 seconds. It may not have been what Verdi had in mind, it may be vulgar exhibitionism, but it is certainly impressive when it is done this well.

The "crown jewel" of the set is a previously unreleased 18 minute segment of the first scene of Act II of La Traviata (starting with "Madamigella Valery?" - including "Pura siccome un angelo", "Dite alla giovine"), with a young Rolando Panerai as Germont and a relatively unaffected Elizabeth Scharzkopf as Violetta, recorded in 1953 in London, with Alceo Galliera conducting the Philharmonia Orch. The 28 year old Panerai sings beautifully, with drama and feeling, in a very idiomatic manner, and is in excellent voice. No one would mistake Schwarzkopf for an Italian soprano, but her light, delicate voice and exotic accent work very well for a XIXth century Parisian demimondaine. Her sense of line and legato, and her ability to match the underlying meaning of the words with the phrasing and tonality in her singing are unmatched.

Since it is now required to put various and sundry warnings on items to prevent the booboiserie from maiming themselves or their family members (I am reminded of a local savant who decided that the best tool to remove the too tight lug nuts from a wheel with a flat tire was a 10 gauge shot gun.), be warned - if you find recordings made before 1960 to be unlistenably primitive - this set is not for you. Otherwise, recommended highly.