V1083. MAJOR VOCAL RARITIES, 1903 - 1913, featuring Roxy King, Francis Maclennan, Luise Perard-Petzl, Francisco d’Andrade, Ivan Ershov & Feodor Chaliapin. (England) Symposium 1350. Final Sealed Copy! - 760411350025
“The title of this disc, MAJOR VOCAL RARITIES, does not refer to barely known singers. Chaliapin remains a household name, at least in households where archival opera is a fluently spoken language, and Ershov, d’Andrade, and MacLennan are well known to collectors. It’s the recordings presented here that range from rare to fabulously rare, whatever the intrinsic worth or renown of the individual singers.
Self-critical and introspective, Ivan Ershov was renowned as much for pedagogy in his later years as his successes as a dramatic tenor. He recorded only 10 selections, all in 1903; and although the voice on Symposium’s selection of three was clearly recorded at considerable distance from the acoustical horn—no doubt to limit blasting—the power, prodigal beauty, and breadth of his sound remains evident. A tenor who can perform Tannhäuser’s ‘Dir tone Lob!’ in this fashion would be a major star today, even if he were to sing it in Russian, as Ershov does. Equally good is his ‘Ora e per sempre addio’, with the heavy, slow tread appropriate to this selection from OTELLO. There’s no subtlety here, but then the music doesn’t require that, and there’s enough visceral excitement to more than compensate.
Bruno Walter considered Francesco D’Andrade the best Don Giovanni he had ever conducted, an interesting point when one remembers that another of Walter’s chosen leads in this part was Ezio Pinza. D’Andrade was nearing 50 when he made these 1907 recordings for Lyrophon, his signature signed into each wax copy.
The four 1913 recordings of Luise Perard-Petzl, the only ones she made, demonstrate an uncommonly good technique (despite the fast vibrato, her two trills early on in the TROVATORE aria are the real thing), considerable musicality, and a sure sense of theater. She does not sound comfortable with the fast tempos required to fit these selections on discs of the period, which is a shame, because there’s more personality to these items than some accounts recorded by more celebrated singers
Francis MacLennan is best known as the one-time husband of Florence Easton, but he was a fine singer in his own right. His four very rare sides from 1908 show a forward production and good enunciation, though he also sounds inhibited by the studio setting, and his slurring would be regarded as bad form today. MacLennan’s tone in the TANNHÄUSER selections comes nowhere near Ershov’s splendor, but his is still a fine voice, used intelligently.
Roxy King was the only name in this group that threw me for a loop. She was a native of Alliance, Ohio, who moved with her family at the age of 13 to Brazil. Studies in Berlin followed, and if the liner notes are to be believed, she became a singer of renown there. She retired in 1908, moved back to Brazil, married, and vanished from history. The five 1905 selections supplied on this disc demonstrate a voice capable of great delicacy (MIGNON) but also freeness and power (CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA). Its intonation is occasionally wayward, but King uses her attractive sound with imagination.
Feodor Chaliapin loved to perform and discovered the phonograph early in his career. There have even been a couple of celebrated cylinders unearthed that were made at private parties in the 1890's. These three 1907 selections were test pressings of folk songs, without accompaniment. The liner notes suggest Chaliapin might have been trying out his voice; I wonder if he was trying out new recording equipment. All were cut at very low levels, which means a high level of background noise, even for the age of the discs. That said, there’s no denying the power of the bass as a great communicator, completely at home before the infamously terrifying horn.
Definitely for vocal aficionados, this is a welcome collection of rare material from familiar and unfamiliar voices alike.”
- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE