Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Enrico Caruso on steroids ......... The new CD's of him with the Vienna Radio Symphony orchestra 2000-2004

I have been listening to Caruso's voice since 1971.

I first heard his voice on a Victor Red Seal Record in a theater. A friend had found it and we put it on a record player. It was a piece called Garibaldi's Hymn
...As his voice echoed through the theater we listened to its amazing power and thought that this record had been made by a horn or better said acoustically. I was hooked...I searched out and eventually had over 200 single sided recordings of Caruso.
I also always had a Victrola to play them on. Later on in life I finally got a good outside horn machine and really got a good sense of Caruso's amazing voice.

The Orchestras that played with him on the recordings made after 1906 were weak and lifeless at best...Sounding sometimes like a ill set group of performers.
But this was not the case...The Victor Orchestra was a very fine group of musicians hampered by a very primitive recording system that removed overtones and reduced wonderful sounding instruments to sound like tin horns at times.
Not to mention Stroh Violins and tuba were always part of the orchestral makeup which added to the surreal quality of the orchestra.

His voice always came through wonderfully. But there was always something missing. The sound of a live performance. It just was not possible with 1910 equipment. You lost the crisp sound of life...and you were given a shadow of what went into the recording horn.

Enrico Caruso died in 1921...He died a number of years before Electrical recording with microphones became a possibility. So we are left with what he did acousically. It is quite a batch.
After his death there were many attempts to "MODERNIZE" Caruso...All mostly with the same result..They sound odd.

The 1930's the RCA Victor Company who was the heir to the Caruso masters tried to add a modern orchestra to the old voice with mixed results. It was difficult to follow at times and there are places that the new Orchestra is not where it should be in relation to the singer.
Nathaniel Shilkret was the conductor on many of them and they were a noble attempt to bring Caruso into the electrical age....

In the 1950's RCA again put out a new Caruso retread on LP a 4 record set of the best of Caruso selected by Francis Robinson...A Caruso lover of great importance as he was the Asst. Manager of the Metropolitan Opera House.

The new Caruso sounded like he was just put into a Marble bathroom and echoes were there big time....They did some enhancing of original recordings so they sounded better for 1950's ears. Both Caruso and orchestra were super charged and sang performed for millions from their marble bathroom....

That was the norm till the 1970's When the Soundstream process was started by RCA . This was the first Computer system to make Caruso sound like he was...The result was that the original recordings sounded better....

In the 1990's there have been some very good re-recordings of Caruso going back to basics. Ward Martison has done a a great job of transferring the original Caruso's to CD and giving them a sense of presence that was not even noticeable from the originals....

I thought this would be it.....Now over the last 6 years There have been a few CD's put out by the Vienna Radio Symphony orchestra...Playing along with Caruso. If the idea of an acoustic recording playing with a modern symphony sounds are right.

But being that I love Caruso's voice I had to buy them all.....I have to admit that many of them sound like a modern orchestra playing with a singer who sounds like he is singing through a garden hose. 60% of the recordings of this series sound this way. Now for the other 40%

35% of the rest sound pretty good and are enjoyable to listen too....

5% are absolutly so damn good it is incredible....I want to almost swear they dug him up and propped him up and somehow electrified that voice to life.....Sadly it is only on a few of the recordings....But those few make it all worth while.

I have transferred a few recordings from the 3 releases and put together my batch of great recordings they did.....Two of the great ones in my book are La Juive and A Vuchella ..The Vuchella song is simply amazing...

So now we have Caruso in this form and on steroids it seems...What will be next??

My suggestion would be to find some voices like his and and find the overtone pattern... And add that variable to the equation ....Perhaps that would add to the quality of the voice.

I guess it would be a bit of Jurassic Park with Caruso perhaps..but an interesting experiment indeed. Then take his reconstructed voice and use a modern orchestra....I am sure someone will try something like that someday.

Till then I will enjoy Caruso over my 1905 gramophone, my record player, and my CD player...All three have their qualities....and I can hardly wait to see what will be next!

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