The ten sides the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso cut at the Grand Hotel, Milan, on 11 April 1902 are among the most historic of historical recordings.
As John Steane notes in a wide-ranging essay that ideally complements this collection, these are legendary recordings by a legendary tenor. Indeed, Caruso’s fame, according to the old HMV catalogue, was perhaps the greatest ever attained by a singer.
Steane sifts fact from fiction in the story of the producer Fred Gaisberg, wowed by Caruso at La Scala and determined to secure him for his company, agreeing the then huge fee of £100 for the ten arias and then receiving a cable from London that said ‘Fee exorbitant, forbid you to record’.
Whatever the truth of that, the recording went ahead. Caruso came to the Grand Hotel that Friday afternoon ‘dressed like a dandy, twirling a cane’ with his accompanist Salvatore Cottone, and all was completed within two hours in the improvised studio Gaisberg had rigged up.
Again, the new remastering by Abbey Road 78 expert Andrew Walter improves greatly on the recordings’ previous appearance on Références.
Awards: Diapason d’Or, Timbre de Platine d’Opéra International, FFFF de Télérama