Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus;
Handel, George Frideric;
Curtis, Ernesto de
The fifteenth and final volume in Naxos's 'Gigli Edition' also marks the fiftieth anniversary of his death in 1957, and brings to CD for the first time extracts from the tenor's final concerts at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1955. I suppose those who, like myself, really care very deeply for his art will also be his most severe critics, for he was a singer of very limited scope, and when he remained within those boundaries he had no rival. Unfortunately he never seemed to recognise those limits, as you hear on this disc when he attempts - in Italian - to sing Wagner in a style completely alien to the composer. But return to Massenet and Puccini and even the ravages of age had left his art untarnished, while his singing of Neapolitan songs remained as virile as ever. Sadly he had to live with the fact he neither had the looks nor stature to take the romantic parts demanded by Puccini, and we have to live with the fact that the gramophone era had come too late to do justice to him at the peak of his career. Though Gigli addicts cannot exist without this disc, for me it is a sad end to a singer now in his sixty-fifth year, for as a young teenager I had grown up to adore him and I still do. By then much of his singing was in the head to cover for the lack of chest notes, his adversaries describing it as 'crooning'. Yet turn to track 5 or 9 - the Manon and Werther excerpts - and the beauty is there in abundance. For one last time he even managed a heroic Cavaradossi, the audience applause of his ringing top note interrupting the aria. As with his final tour of Europe he sang with piano accompaniment so that he did not have to push his voice, but that thinness of backing only exposed vocal weaknesses. A historic document that captured the voice rather better than the piano, and immaculately presented. • David Denton, David's Review Corner, February 2007
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