"The Complete Caruso Recordings - Volume II"
Arias from La forza del destino (with Giuseppe De Luca), Samson and Delilah (with Louise Homer and Marcel Journet), and L'Elisir d'Amore (with Giuseppe Di Luca); songs by Michelena, Costa, Alvarez, Cohan, Niedermeyer, Billi, Olivieri, Arona, Planquette, Fucito, Tosti, De Curtis, Cottrau, and the traditional Vieni sul mar
Enrico Caruso, tenor; Orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack
NAXOS 8.110752 (B) (ADD) TT: 66:43
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Fritz Wunderlich sings Operetta Arias
Excerpts from Lehar's Giuditta, Der Zarewitsch, Das Land des Lächelus; Fall's Die Rose von Stambul; Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Die Fledermaus; Zeller's Der Vogelhändler, Kalman's Grafin Mariza; and Treibel's Pfalzer Wien.
Fritz Wunderlich, tenor; WDR Koln Chorus and Orch/Franz Marszalek, cond; Südwestfunkorchester/Emmerich Smola, cond.
ARTS ARCHIVES 43010-2 (M) TT: 57:21
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Victoria de los Angeles "The Maiden and the Nightingale"
Music of Granados, Montsalvatge, Rodrigo, Mompou, Esplá and Toldra
Victoria de los Angeles, soprano; New Philharmonia Orch/Paris Conservatory Orch/Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, cond; Lamoureux Orch/Barcelona City Orch/Antoni Ros-Marbá, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 62905 (M) (ADD) TT: 78:13
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"VIENNA - The Mahler Years"
Music of Mozart, Beethoven, Boieldieu, Weber, Mayerbeer, Adam, Thomas, Wagner, Verdi, Offenbach, Smetana, Bizet and Goldmark, performed by Richard Mayr, Selma Kurz, Grete Forst, Arthur Preuss, Leo Slezak, Maria Gutheil-Schoder, Franz Navál, Bertha Kiurina, Anna Mildenburg, Elsa B land, Wilhelm Hesch, Georg Maikl, Bertha Förster-Lauterer, Franz Pácal, Gertrude Förstel, Laura Hilgermann, Erik Schmedes, Lucie Weidt, Leopold Demuth, Lilli Lehmann, Fritz Schröder, Elise Elizza, Sarah Jane Charles-Cahier, and Hermine Kittel
SYMPOSIUM 1341 (F) (ADD) TT: 79:38
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ROBERT MERRILL III
Arias/music from Lucia di Lammermoor, Cavalleria Rusticana, I Pagliacci, Porgy and Bess, Show Boat, The New Moon, The Three Musketeers, Rose-Marie, Kiss me Kate and a collection of songs and folk songs
Robert Merrill, baritone; RCA Victor Orch/Renato Cellini, cond; RCA Victor Orch/Robert Russell Bennett, cond; Russ Case and his Orch; Orchs. cond. by H. Leopold Spitalny, Charles Sanford and Henri René.
PREISER 89592 (F) (ADD) TT: 77:10
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Here are five important vocal CDs featuring major artists of the past century. The Naxos budget-priced disk is Volume Eleven in their traversal of all of the famous tenor's recordings, this one concentrating primarily on Italian songs (although it does contain excerpts from La Forza del Destino, L'Elisir d'Amore and Samson et Dalila, with Louise Homer, Marcel Journet and Giuseppe De Luca) and Caruso's famous 1918 recording of Over There. Ward Marston's transfers are perfection. No texts, but complete recording information is provided. Fritz Wunderlich's operetta album is a constant delight, recorded from 1957 to 1962, four years before his tragic death in 1966. These are all German radio broadcasts with fine. well-balanced sound. Much of this music is already available in recordings by Wunderlich, but his admirers surely also will wish to have this CD, which is mid-price.

If you don't have many recordings by Spanish soprano Victoria de Los Angeles surely you will wish to own this mid-priced CD of Spanish songs exquisitely sung, recordings made from 1962-1969 when the soprano was in her prime—plus a fascinating bonus, Xavier Montsalvatge's Madrigal, his setting of the traditional Song of the Birds, written for the closing ceremonies of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, recorded by the soprano at that time when she was 67. Excellent sound throuoghout, and complete texts in Spanish, German, English and French. A class CD by any standards.

"Vienna - the Mahler Years" features major singers who appeared at the Vienna State Opera during the decade beginning in 1897 when he directed the Vienna State Opera running the company in every way—in addition to being principal conductor, he also produced, hired artists and was in charge of contracts. The VSO gave about 300 performances annually of approximately 50 different works. During Mahler's tenure he conducted 650 performances of 62 different operas, and he insisted on hiring the finest singers of the time, in particular Lilli Lehmann to give what he called "her annual singing lesson" to the company, and hired Bruno Walter as second conductor. Throught his era Mahler managed to overcome objections to his innovative programming and the unfriendly political situation of the time although eventually he was forced to leave by press hostility, fuelled by anti-semitism, internal house intrigue and his own inability to compromise. Symposium's packed CD (79:38) offers recordings by many of the world-class singers who appeared in Vienna during this period, the best of the best one might say. Symposium's transfers are sometimes rather rough—most sound like 78s. I have not heard Ward Marston's three-CD set covering the same decade in Vienna Opera history, but I understand there are only six duplications (the choice of what to include must have been very frustrating!), and those interested in this programming concept surely will wish to have both the Symposium and Marston sets. For information on obtaining the Marston set, go to his website: http://www.marstonrecords.com

Preiser's CD is devoted to American baritone Robert Merrill, who first appeared at the Met in 1945 and over the next four decades sang more than 1,000 performances in the house. This CD contains brief excerpts from three operas he recorded for RCA, Lucia di Lammermoor, Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, but focuses primarily on lighter fare: excerpts from Porgy and Bess, Show Boat, The New Moon, Rose-Marie, Kiss Me Kate and a group of songs all recorded 1946-1953. Merrill's sound is, indeed, extraordinary, and these are excellent transfers from the original RCA recordings, a fine addition to Preiser's Merrill CDs: Volume I (REVIEW) and Volume II (REVIEW).

R.E.B. (October 2004)