V2597. JOHN McCORMACK: A Patrician Artist - The Complete Electrical Recordings, 1926-42, plus all extant radio broadcasts, 1926-42, also featuring Lucrezia Bori, Maggie Teyte, Evelyn Laye, Eileen Joyce, etc., plus new restorations of all 57 of McCormack’s earliest recordings made on cylinder and disc in 1904 (several including McCormack's spoken introductions. [His spoken introductions are as revealing as the actual singing]). 16-Marston 51601, Handsome Boxed Set with Elaborate 163pp softbound book with essays and notes on the recordings by Gordon Ledbetter & Michael Aspinall. - 638335160122
"This deluxe set contains John McCormack’s complete electrically recorded output of 243 sides, 1925-1942, plus all extant alternative 'takes' as well as 2 CDs of his surviving radio broadcasts. Each disc was newly transferred by Ward Marston from original sources. The set contains a comprehensive booklet of essays and notes on the recordings by the leading authorities on John McCormack: Gordon Ledbetter, author of two books on the tenor, and Michael Aspinall, the world’s acknowledged expert on the art of bel canto, of which McCormack was one of the greatest exponents. The final two CDs in the set comprises new restorations of all 57 of McCormack’s earliest recordings, made on cylinder and disc in 1904, following his victory in the Dublin Feis Ceoil national singing competition in 1903. These fascinating, if primitive, vocal documents allow us to hear the artist before his sojourn in Italy in 1905, when he trained under Maestro Sabatini."
"When [McCormack] first came in, I sort of expected him to act as if he were ‘the World’s Greatest Tenor’. He did not. He just went and leaned up against the piano, and if he’d been in his own parlor at home, he couldn’t have been more simple. It seemed as though we were all one big family, and he was just talking to us, quietly, with his head a little on one side, and his eyes closed, telling us fairy tales as they came into his mind, making us smile and sigh by turns, weaving spells about us, and sometimes wringing our hearts by the pathos of his tones….Once he got settled by the piano he’d not shift his position at all, hardly; and you’d find yourself listening to that quiet soothing voice, that just came with no apparent effort, and seemed to be talking confidentially to each individual in the theatre."
- JAPAN TIMES, 5 May, 1926
"[McCormack] was an icon of the age, and the humanity in his art brought solace and consolation to countless numbers the world over. Not only with tears, for McCormack’s art encompassed gentle humour too. In the song ‘Off to Philadelphia’, the unfortunate emigrant was often interpreted as a figure of fun, a stage caricature. By contrast, McCormack, in his 1941 recording, identifies with the hapless traveller. The self-deprecating fun he pokes is all at himself, forlorn figure that he is, but the hope of one day returning home, though we are made to think it unlikely, is made in earnest. In ‘Molly Brannigan’ (1913), one of the most beguiling of all Irish folk songs, McCormack brings out the underlying truth that tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin.
His recorded output was immense. Posterity, however, cannot but regret what he never recorded. Perhaps the greatest singer of Mozart and Handel of his day, it is pitiful that he recorded less than a handful of their compositions. His concert programmes reveal a vast repertoire of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century songs, almost none of which he brought to the recording studio. Bach is barely represented; Scarlatti and Vivaldi not at all. One could go on. That said, his discography, for its idiomatic security, its consistency and versatility, and for the number of definitive recordings it contains, stands as one of the towering achievements in the history of sound recording. His records make the case for describing him as the greatest musician among singers of his time.
John McCormack had a voice of exquisite purity and a consummate vocal technique, yet perhaps his greatest gift was something else: for above the beauty of the voice and the technique, and even when the voice was no longer young and flexible, McCormack remained always a vividly communicative artist, among the most compelling vocal personalities of the twentieth century."
- Gordon T. Ledbetter, Program Notes