In April 2014 the series ‘Decca’s Most Wanted Recitals’ was launched: fifty albums by legendary singers, often never released on CD before. It’s a true treasure chest and it’s to be hoped that it is still available.
It was all the ‘fault’ of Victor Suzan. This employee of Universal Mexico went through the old Decca archives and lovingly restored no less than fifty albums never released on CD before. She digitized and remastered them, adding bonuses where possible and utilising the artwork from the original LP issues. Nostalgia at its bests, and moreover of the highest quality…
Fortunately, all Universal branches responded more than enthusiastically to her initiative. EDC/Hannover picked it up and so the series ‘Decca’s Most Wanted Recitals’ was born. The first batch consisting of twenty titles appeared on the market in early April 2014. Fifteen more titles followed in June and the last fifteen in September of that year.
These are treasures. Real treasures. For many, certainly younger voice lovers there is plenty to (re)discover. Enough also to shake up their world view, because in the fifties and sixties the word “crossover” did not yet exist and musicals were just as much appreciated as Wagner and Verdi.
I have selected ten titles from the collection and divided them into two parts in random order.
GEORGE LONDON (4808163)
Let’s start with George London. He was the very first American who sang Boris Godunov (in Russian!) at the Bolshoi in Moscow and was considered one of the best Wotans/Wanderers of his time. His Scarpia was also legendary during his lifetime.
Below is George London (in a perfect Russian!) as Boris, recording from a concert from 1962
He started his career in the early forties as a member of the ‘Bel-Canto Trio’, with soprano Frances Yeend and … Mario Lanza as the other two members.
On the CD On Broadway he gives a masterclass how to sing the music of musical composers Rogers, Kern and Loewe.
Below London sings ‘f I loved you’ by Rogers and Hammerstein.
You get Wagner as a bonus.
CESARE SIEPI: Easy to love (4808177)
Not only Americans considered Broadway as something to take seriously. The Don Giovanni and one of the biggest Verdi-basses of the second half of the last century, Cesare Siepi, didn’t look down on the musical theatre either.
His CD on which he gives his vision on the songs of Cole Porter is called Easy to Love. It sounds ‘easy’ indeed, but it is not at all. Porter’s music benefits from simplicity, coupled with the best vocal chords in the world, and Siepi has it all.
His interpretation of ‘Night and Day’ is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve heard in my life. Not to mention ‘So in love’ or the delicious ‘Blow, Gabriel blow’ from Anything Goes.
As a bonus we get to hear some of his best Verdis: Nabucco, Philip II and a Boccanegra like you don’t hear anymore.
CESARE SIEPI: The romantic voice of Cesare Siepi (4808178)
This CD is entitled The romantic voice of Cesare Siepi and that is exactly what you get: a beauty of a voice that awakens all the romantic feelings in you!
No Broadway here anymore, but popular Italian songs that fit Siepi like a glove: just delicious.
What really makes the CD special are the bonus tracks, with arias from Meyerbeers Robert le Diable and Les Huguenots, La Juive by Halévy and – for most people a real rarity – an aria from Salvator Rosa by Antônio Carlos Gomes. My goodness, what beautiful music! I ask (again): when do we get to see another opera by Gomes? After the performances of his Il Guarany in 1994 in Bonn it has remained silent for much too long around this Brazilian Verdi.
Below ‘Di Sposo Di Padre Le Gioie Serene’ from Salvator Rosa van Gomes, 1954:
The album was recorded in 1961 (songs) and in 1954 (arias) and the sound is excellent. In the arias Siepi is accompanied phenomenally well by the Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia and Alberto Erede. At that time Erede was considered a ‘decent’ conductor, but now he would be considered one of the greatest opera conductors of all. He gives his soloist all the space he needs and allows the orchestra to breathe with him.
ARNOLD VAN MILL (4808167)
The Dutch bass Arnold van Mill is almost completely forgotten nowadays. How unfair! His voice is a bit reminiscent of the young Kurt Moll, which of course is also due to the repertoire. Beautiful!
Below is the duet from Der Fliegende Holländer. Arnold Van Mill sings Daland and George London Der Holländer:
Van Mill was mainly famous for his Wagner roles. Unfortunately they are not on this CD. But his smooth bass was also very suitable for Singspiel and operetta. His Lortzing, Cornelius, Nicolai and Weber (all present on this CD) are a pure delight for the ear. All real collector items. Thank you, Decca!
The CD is complemented by Russian songs, sung by the Bulgarian bass Raphael Arié. (not available on YT anymore). The combination isnot really a happy one: not only does the repertoire differ like day and night, the voices are incomparable as well; which does not prevent me from enjoying him enormously! Hopefully Decca will have more of Arié on the shelf, because my wish list with his recordings is quite long!
Below Arié sings ‘Ella giammai m’amo’ from Don Carlo