V2248. JOHN McCORMACK: A Star Ascending - The Complete Odeon Recordings. 4-Marston 54005, recorded 1906-09. - 638335400525
"…this fine…new set from Marston [represents] a worthwhile investment in…continued, enhanced pleasure in the miracle that was John McCormack….Ward Marston’s note comments upon the difficulty of finding copies of the Odeons, especially of the rarer titles, in condition good enough to copy. More than 300 disks, some in as many as eight copies, were scrutinized to provide a relative wealth of source material. This, with the use of different sizes and shapes of stylus not only on different records, as many of us do, but even on different sections of a disk to optomise the sonic clarity doubtless accounts for the fact that the tracks evaluated for this review sound decidedly clearer than the corresponding Cheyne titles, transferred a decade and more ago."
- Michael E. Henstock, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2014
“John McCormack (1884–1945) is still remembered and revered by many today. The natural beauty of his voice, allied with his phenomenal technique, unequaled breath control, and eloquence of sentiment, lead many to regard him as the world’s supreme lyric tenor. This four-CD set includes operatic arias, Irish ballads, and popular songs from McCormack’s Odeon recordings dating from 1906–1909, as well as nine cylinder recordings of 1906 made for the Edison Bell and Russell Hunting companies. These early recordings are sometimes dismissed by admirers of McCormack and collectors of vocal art because they do not capture him at his artistic zenith. They are, however, almost unique in the history of the gramophone as they allow us to trace McCormack’s steady development, session by session, from his uneven, raw, and sometimes undistinguished singing in 1906 to performances showing him on the cusp of mastery by 1909.
John McCormack, one of the most popular singers of his generation and the very archetype of the Irish tenor, was born in Athlone, Ireland. Without the benefit of prior training, he won the National Music Festival in Dublin in 1903 and thereafter continued his studies as a member of Dublin's Cathedral Choir. In 1905, he went to Italy to train with Vincenzo Sabatini; in the following year, he made his first appearance on the operatic stage in Savona, Italy (in the title role of L'AMICO FRITZ) under the name Giovanni Foli. His official début, as Turiddù in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, took place at Covent Garden on 15 October, 1907. Over the next several years he appeared there regularly in such operas as RIGOLETTO, DON GIOVANNI, IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, FAUST, ROMÉO ET JULIETTE, LA BOHÈME, and MADAMA BUTTERFLY. He débuted in America in a Manhattan Opera House (LA TRAVIATA) in 1909 and thereafter appeared in a number of Metropolitan Opera productions. Both in London and New York he held the stage with such singers as Luisa Tetrazzini and Nellie Melba. In 1914 he was slated to participate in a star-studded DON GIOVANNI in Salzburg, along with Lilli Lehmann, Geraldine Farrar, and Feodor Chaliapin; unfortunately, the outbreak of World War I meant that what should have been a legendary production had to be called off.
By the middle 1910's, McCormack, aware of his own limitations as an actor, abandoned the operatic stage and devoted himself to a career as a recitalist. In this milieu he attained even greater fame; though his sensitive interpretations of Handel, Mozart, and Romantic lieder were greeted with general enthusiasm, it was his sincere performances of folk songs and popular ballads that captured the hearts of the public. From the second decade of the twentieth century he also enjoyed remarkable success as a recording artist; on the strength of his recordings, some have held him up as as the only tenor of his era with a gift to rival that of Caruso.
In the later stages of his career, McCormack parlayed his still-considerable reputation into occasional film roles, most notably as the lead (opposite Maureen O'Hara) in the early talkie SONG O' MY HEART (1929) and as himself in the British WINGS OF THE MORNING (1937). Though he had become an American citizen in 1917, he spent his last decades in Dublin and died there in 1945.”