Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tenor of the Century: Enrico Caruso Complete Recordings (1902-1920) on Naxos Historical

Ever wondered what Corrado "Junior" Soprano was singing in the finale of The Sopranos Season 3? It's a Napuletano classic "Core 'ngrato" ("Ungrateful heart") written in 1911 for Enrico Caruso, whose 1904 recording of Vesti la giubba  was the first million-selling record in history.

I wouldn't normally do playlists for a single performer. I mean, what's the point? You want complete recordings of Emerson String Quartet? Just click that link and put all albums into a playlist by yourself. Tip: you can use Ctrl (CMD) + A and select all tracks at once.

Things are different for elder artists like Miles Davis or Caruso. Their artist pages are polluted by hundreds of rip-off albums that made it impossible for a casual user to find the proper recordings. I say rip-off because though the marginal cost to listen to a recording on Spotify is zero, financially; you still have to spend your time. And every time you listen to an inferior recording, you wasted an opportunity to hear a better one. Copyright laws only protect the master recordings for a certain period of time, which means anyone can "reproduce" archive recordings and sync them to streaming services and make some easy money. Most of them sound worse than the originals, which are already on Spotify. See the Enrico Caruso page and get an idea.

Now the good news: Naxos Historical "...is devoted to keeping the great recordings of the past alive and accessible. Naxos uses the services of the finest transfer engineers, such as Mark Obert-Thorn and Ward Marston, to produce restorations of outstanding quality." (Naxos site) Their 12-volume catalogue of Caruso recordings is a crowning achievement of historical vocal recordings restoration. According to WSJ, "Naxos has Caruso on 12 CDs, artfully transferred in what is the best historically respectful version currently available".

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist here: Enrico Caruso: Complete Recordings (1902-1920) on Naxos Historical (250 tracks, total times: 14 hours) Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Look up Naxos's official site for detailed tracklists and liner notes. Also check out the previous playlist Naxos Educational: An Index for a fascinating 4-hour audiobook Enrico Caruso - A Life In Words And Music.

Not in this playlist: my favorite song about the tenor: The Night I Heard Caruso Sing sang by Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl.

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