The Gigli Edition, Vol. 1

Article excerpt

The Gigli Edition, Vol. 1: Milan Recordings, 1918-1919, Naxos Historical 8.110262; Vol. 2: Milan, Camden and New York Recordings, 1919-1922, Naxos Historical 8.110263; Vol. 3: Camden and New York Recordings, 1923-1925, Naxos Historical 8.110264; Vol. 4: Camden and New York Recordings, 1926-1927, Naxos Historical 8.110266; Vol.5: New York Recordings, 1927-1928, Naxos Historical 8.110266; Vol. 6: New York Recordings, 1929-1930, Naxos Historical 8.110267; Vol. 7: London, New York & Milan Recordings, 1931-1932, Naxos Historical 8.110268; Vol. 8: Milan, London & Berlin Recordings, 1933-1935, Naxos Historical 8.110269; Vol. 9: Berlin, Milan &London Recordings, 1936-1938, Naxos Historical 8.110270; Vol.10: Milan and London Recordings, 1938-1940, Naxos Historical 8.110271; Vol. 11: Milan, Berlin and Rome Recordings, 1941-1943, Naxos Historical 8.110272; Vol. 12: London Recordings, 1946-1947, Naxos Historical 8.111101; Vol. 13: London Recordings, 1947-1949, Naxos Historical 8.111102; Vol. 14: London, Milan and Rio de Janeiro Recordings, 1949 & 1951, Naxos Historical 8.111103; Vol. 15: Carnegie Hall Farewell Recitals, 1955, Naxos Historical 8.11104.

Beniamino Gigli: Songs, 1949-1952, Testament SBT 1162; 1952-1953, Testament SBT 1163; 1953-1954, Testament SBT 1164; 1954-1955, Testament SBT 1165.

Combined, the Naxos and Testament releases fall short by just nine known titles or takes in being able to offer a complete collection of the commercial output of Beniamino Gigli. In a retrospective of The Gigli Edition, Mark Obert-Thorn lists in his producer's notes in Volume 15 six titles not released on CD by either Naxos or Testament, in the former case due to copyright restrictions at the time the Naxos series reached completion. In addition, a few previously unpublished recordings were released after the tenor's death, as recently as 1981.

Gary Galo, the ARSC Journal's editor of Sound Recording Reviews, went sleuthing to identify additional titles. (1) Gary checked the contents of EMI's three-volume, nine LP The Art of Beniamino Gigli, EMI Italiana's three-volume, twenty-six LP Beniamino Gigli, and the Peel & Holohan discography published in The Record Collector (1990). (2) As a result of his efforts, Gary identified two additional titles not found on either of the Naxos or Testament CDs: an alternate take of the "Siciliana" from Cavalleria rusticana, recorded during sessions for a 50th anniversary edition of Mascagni's opera, first released in Vol. 1 of The Art of Beniamino Gigli; and, a stereo take of Volonnino's "Luntano, luntano" that appeared in Vol. 2 of the same series. During his research, Gary confirmed that the stereo version of "Luntano, luntano," released in the Testament series, is a different take from the one issued by EMI. Strictly for research purposes, which proved of immeasurable value in writing this review, Gary transferred to CD the missing titles. (3) The discovery process, however, was not to end there. Roger Beardsley, in the U.K., recently turned up a test pressing of a previously unknown take of the aria "O cessate di piagarmi," from Scarlatti's Il Pompeo. (4)

Research in the field of discography, by its very nature, is a work in progress and the recent attempts to identify all of Gigli's commercial recordings (i.e., the released and unreleased takes) serve only to demonstrate this maxim.

Gigli was a prolific recording artist and he cut his first disc in the fall of 1918 and his last 37 years later in the spring of 1955. Remarkably, the tenor's recording career spanned the acoustic and stereo eras. In those heady days of the 78 era, recording companies fell over one another in an attempt to feed the insatiable appetites of a record-hungry public. Gigli must have been heaven sent, his HMV and Victor recordings of operatic pieces and popular song being big sellers that were to remain so long after his death in 1957. Re-issues, on LP and later CD, proliferated. …