Trovatore   (Nastrucci & Sabajno;  Pertile, Minghini-Cattaneo, Granforte)   (2-Romophone 89003)
Item# OP0483
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Trovatore   (Nastrucci & Sabajno;  Pertile, Minghini-Cattaneo, Granforte)   (2-Romophone 89003)
OP0483. IL TROVATORE, recorded 1930, w.Nastrucci & Sabajno Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Carena, Minghini-Cattaneo, Pertile, Granforte, etc. (England) 2-Romophone 89003. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn; Elaborate booklet has discographic data, photos & notes by Michael Scott. Long out-of-print; Final copy! - 822165012120


"Two TROVATORES were recorded at La Scala in 1930. The first, reissued here, was recorded in May by Italian Columbia and released on 28 shellac sides. The second, recorded in October and November by HMV, was released on 30 sides. It is astonishing to think that the same opera house recorded the same work twice in the course of six months, but with a completely different cast of principals and a different conductor.

The HMV recording was reissued by Romophone (89003-2) [long out-of-print]. It features a starrier cast (tenor Aureliano Pertile, baritone Apollo Granforte, and mezzo Irene Minghini-Cattaneo) and conductor Carlo Sabajno (with extensive deputizing by Gino Nastrucci), and is generally more satisfying. However, both recordings feature a style of Verdi performance which is dead today. In 1930, TROVATORE was less then 80 years old, but it already had been overrun by the realistic verismo style that had prevailed in Italy in the early decades of the 20th century. Also, Verdi's score was not treated as a sacred document, as would be the case later in the century. The result is a daredevil performance in which the singers throw their voices around with abandon and give vent to every interpretive quirk in their armament. Singers and composer square off, and if it is hard to tell who has won when the dust clears, no one can say that they were bored.

Probably the most memorable singer here is Molinari. He wraps his beautiful voice around 'Il balen' as a lesson in cantabile singing, and he avoids coarseness in a role that practically invites it. Zambelli is a solid, characterful Ferrando. While not as fine as HMV's hair-raising Minghini-Cattaneo, Zinetti is an intense Azucena with nary a hint of vocal frailty. The tenor and soprano are a little more problematic. Merli's 'Ah, si, ben mio' is gorgeous, but his tone becomes dry when he pushes his voice, and he is not dramatically imaginative; this is a Manrico who plants his feet and sings. Scacciati, a respected soprano at the time, usually sounds too matronly to be an effective Leonora. At forte and louder, her voice takes on a pinched, vinegary quality. If I were Manrico, I would have let her join that nunnery. On the other hand, she has some impressive tricks up her sleeve, including chains of imposing trills in 'D'amor sull'ali rosee'. The second disc contains a 35-minute appendix of Scacciati singing arias and scenes from operas that are obscure today. Here, her shortcomings are less troubling, perhaps because the competition is far sparser, and the music is a 'find'."

- Raymond Tuttle, ClassicalNet

“Identified as Arturo Toscanini's favorite tenor, Aureliano Pertile was both a paradox and a paradigm. Both lauded and excoriated, he was more deserving of praise than censure. His voice, a strong, spinto-weight instrument, could sound growly and suffocated in the lower regions, but the top register was thrilling. His intensity on-stage led some to accuse him of overacting both histrionically and vocally, but his recordings reveal a very present nobility of spirit. Moreover, his attention to binding notes together into an unimpeachable legato placed him among the greats. His recordings of IL TROVATORE and AÏDA, available in excellent remasterings, show him in both lyric and heroic modes and are indispensable. His arias from ANDREA CHENIER, especially ‘Un di all'azzurro spazio�, are mooted by modern-day conductors such as Riccardo Muti as models of superior singing.

After studies in Padua and Milan, Pertile made his 1911 début at Vincenzo as Lionel in MARTHA. Other appearances in Italy and South America followed before his début at La Scala as Paolo in 1916. Unfortunate in the timing of his 1 December, 1921, Metropolitan Opera début, Pertile sang Cavaradossi to the Tosca of another debutante, Maria Jeritza. Jeritza was a sensation and the tenor was all but ignored. After Toscanini's return to La Scala in 1920, however, Pertile enjoyed a 15-year reign as leading tenor there from 1922 to 1937. His colleagues spoke of a man with little personality offstage, but a veritable lion before the public. From 1927 to 1931, Pertile frequently appeared at Covent Garden. Initially, he was recognized for a voice ‘naturally malleable and powerful, but used with considerable discretion� by Ernest Newman. As both Radames and Manrico, Pertile was enthusiastically received for his fervor and vocal quality. In later seasons, some negative comments intruded about him being too Italianate in style, although his performances with Rosa Ponselle in his last London season (FORZA) were well reviewed. During his La Scala years, Pertile created two Nerones, those of Boito (1924) and Mascagni (1935), and also sang the premiere of Wolf-Ferrari's SLY in 1927. He sang in Buenos Aires between 1923 and 1929. After his retirement in 1946, Pertile taught at the Conservatory in Milan.�

- Erik Eriksson,

“Irene Minghini-Cattaneo is certainly to be counted among the most appreciated Italian mezzo sopranos. Hers is a vibrant voice of an arresting sound after the ‘modern Italian fashion�, with amazing extension at both ends of the range (chest register!). Her legato line is frequently disturbed by quite a strong vibrato. Compared to two of the most prominent Italian mezzos, Gabriella Besanzoni and Cloe Elmo, she is neither a singer of great subtlety nor a much convincing exponent of florid singing (Bellini, Donizetti). However, the power of the voice and her dramatic instincts and passionate singing can be truly breathtaking, above all, in Verdi and veristic operas. She participated in two landmark recordings, in AÏDA and in IL TROVATORE in which, at least to me, she is the outstanding artist of each.�

- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile

“In 1904 Sabajno was engaged by Fred Gaisberg as The Gramophone Company’s Italian house conductor (an appointment which was in effect the equivalent of the ‘Artists and Repertoire’ manager of later years) with responsibility for all aspects of production, such as the selection of repertoire and the engagement of artists, in addition to actually conducting in the studio: in France the conductor Piero Coppola held a similar position. Sabajno devoted himself to the nascent recording industry and seems subsequently to have conducted little if at all in the concert hall or opera house. He did however compose a little, writing songs especially for the gramophone.

For The Gramophone Company Sabajno conducted numerous complete recordings of operas, starting with Verdi’s ERNANI in 1904 and Leoncavallo’s PAGLIACCI in 1907 (although the latter may in fact have been conducted by its composer) and concluding with Verdi’s OTELLO in 1932. He recorded RIGOLETTO twice, in 1917 and 1927, and also left notable accounts of Donizetti’s DON PASQUALE with Tito Schipa, and of Verdi’s AÏDA with Toscanini’s favourite tenor Aureliano Pertile. He was also credited with conducting the complete recording of IL TROVATORE with Pertile, (although much of this was actually conducted by Gino Nastrucci). In addition to these and many other complete opera recordings Sabajno accompanied the leading singers of the day, such as Beniamino Gigli, in numerous operatic arias, and conducted several short operatic and orchestral works. The latter included several overtures and orchestral excerpts from Wagner’s operas, including the Liebestod from TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, as well as the prelude to Catalani’s opera EDMEA, Chabrier’s ‘España’, Mascagni’s ‘Danza esotica’, the overture to Massenet’s LE ROI DE LAHORE, the Nocturne and Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, and the overture to Mozart’s DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE.

Evidently not an easy man to get on with, Sabajno had a reputation for a fiery temper; but Gaisberg, who knew him well, described him as ‘…gifted with sharp intelligence, and when one worked with him one understood that every single gesture had a reason’. Certainly several of his recordings, most of which were made with the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan at a time when Toscanini was musical director there, have stood the test of time. Gaisberg considered Sabajno’s account of AÏDA to be the pinnacle of his recording work, and it continues to feature in the catalogue.”

- David Patmore, Naxos' A–Z of Conductors