Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very much a disc featuring historically significant performers re-mastered for blu-ray, 25 Feb 2014
This review is from: Celebrating Verdi [Arturo Toscanini, Crol Maria Guilini, Tito Gobbi ] [Euroarts: 3079084] [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
This disc features recordings made from 1943 to 1968 some of which are studio recordings and some are 'live' concert recordings. They have been reviewed and rated within their specific historical context in mind. The recordings are clearly not of comparable quality with modern recordings but have other qualities to be considered for those with an interest in historical archive material.

The first thing to be noted is that the actual recording quality of the studio recordings is markedly superior to that of the 'live' concerts regardless of recording dates. Thus the 1968 BBC 'live' recordings of Giulini are severely compromised by inherent distortion, restricted dynamic range and are in no way comparable with disc recordings made at that time. The Stabat Mater is similar in conception to Giulini's commercial recording made for EMI but the recording is nowhere near as good. The overture is better as sound but is still too compromised for much enjoyable artistic illumination.

The disc opens with Toscanini's performance for broadcast of the Force of Destiny overture from 1943. The sound is completely acceptable, even remarkable, bearing in mind it's date. The performance is simply one given at 'white heat' the like of which is possibly unique. The NBC orchestra is clearly shown as a virtuoso band. The film footage has a small sequence of images suggesting the transfer of sound from the orchestra, through the recording process and out via transmitters. This is a short sequence and not damaging to overall appreciation. Toscanini's greatness cannot be missed.

Tito Gobbi's fully costumed studio recordings from 1958 are also remarkable in terms of characterisation and voice control whereby a wide range of vocal timbres are used in conjunction with gripping facial expressions. The extract from Falstaff at the point where he has returned to the tavern after his ducking in the Thames is contrasted with Jago's 'creed' from Otello. The constant variation in the pacing of the characterisations plus the vocal control are completely gripping and clearly demonstrate Gobbi's outstanding contribution to opera. The recording, once more, is adequate to the task and this is another example of greatness.

The disc is completed with a 1967 French studio performance of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, without stage costume, singing the Willow Song and Ave Maria from Otello. Her concept and delivery of the two pieces is remarkable for a 52 year old singer and she has no difficulty with either the range required or it's dynamics. The re is no attempt to act and the emphasis is upon the singing. The quality of the French studio broadcast recording is clearly superior to the BBC Giulini product from 1968.

In summary therefore, this disc contains three examples of total greatness - Toscanini and Tito Gobbi, plus one of arguable greatness - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Unfortunately any realistic judgement of Giulini's greatness is too compromised by recording deficiencies.

I would suggest that this disc will give those interested in historical archives such as these, valuable material to consider and appreciate. The Blu-ray processing has been very successful. The sound is presented in stereo which, in most cases, must have been created post original recording.

Please note that the rating relates to an historical archive issue and should not be compared to modern productions.
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I. Giles
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Argyll, Scotland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 11