About this Recording
8.110773 - ITALIAN POPULAR SONGS, Vol. 2 (1926-1953)
English 

Italian Popular Songs, Vol. 2

 

The Italian canzone popolare, or canzonetta, has long held its place in the global market. Its clichéd and predominantly Neapolitan overtones of sunshine and romance distinguish the genre from the more formal aria antica of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which has now earned the rather more scholarly label of bel canto. The selections in this CD programme are mostly survivors from the last Golden Age of the popular genre, which spanned a century-or-so prior to the Piedigrotta and San Remo festivals of the mid-1950s. The best known of these have the advantage of melodies which, having been re-recorded over several decades by famous singers (and, most usually, by tenors), have acquired familiarity and permanence in the public memory. Popular Italian songs also traditionally had certain features in common: cast in an impassioned, ballad-style, they called for the sustaining lyric tenor calibre of an Enrico Caruso or a Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957) in performance, and their viability was further aided by a duration tailored to suit a three or four-minute recording, although many were long-established favourites well before the advent of that medium.

Chronologically, the oldest song in the anthology is 'Addio a Napoli'. Famously recorded by Caruso (in 1919) it is the work of the Neapolitan Teodoro Cottrau (1827-79), the composer of 'Santa Lucia' (1850). First published in Naples in 1868, like its more famous precursor, it was among the first popular Italian productions to reach an American audience (in the early 1870s). These songs were prototypes for the wider range of canzonette which from the early twentieth century were promoted in concert and assigned to disc by famous singers as varied as Caruso, McCormack, Mario Lanza and the Bulgarian-born Armand Tokatyan (1894-1960). One such is 'Lolita', by Arturo Buzzi-Peccia (1868-1943) a one-time Metropolitan Opera coach who spent many years in America. Other writers of previously famous, but now virtually forgotten examples in the genre include Augusto Rotoli (1847-1904), whose 'Mia sposa sarà la mia bandiera' enjoyed the distinction of having been sung by Cotogni and Battistini among the baritones, and by Caruso and Pertile among the tenors, the Sicilian Stefano Donaudy (1879-1925), whose anthology 36 Arie di Stile Antico includes the charming 'O bei nidi d'amore', and Geni Sadero (alias Eugenia Scarpa (1886-1961), an Italian folk-song collector, aspiring opera-singer and vocal pedagogue, whose songs, of which the lullaby 'Fa la nana, bambin'' is among the best known, were popularised by Schipa, Rosa Ponselle, Ferruccio Tagliavini and Tito Gobbi.

By the late nineteenth century the canzonetta's kindred creation, the melodia or canzone da camera, had also become fashionable in the salons of Europe and English-speaking countries. A miniaturising of the Italian operatic aria, its style evolved principally through a number of Italian composers who by mid-century had settled in London. These included the Neapolitan Michael (Michele) Costa (1806-1884) and the Tuscan Ciro Pinsuti (1829-1888), a one-time pupil of Rossini and noted vocal coach who taught for many years at the London Royal Academy. The acknowledged master of the genre, however, was Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916), well represented here by the affecting 'Aprile' (Milan, 1882) and two of the most affecting examples from his London period, 'Non t'amo più' (1884), sung by the Venetian Aureliano Pertile (1885-1952) and 'Malia' (1887), one of several samples by the Lecce-born doyen of lirico-leggero tenors, Tito Schipa (1889-1965).

Born at Ortona on the Adriatic, Tosti had first studied violin at San Pietro in Naples, but later made a name as a pianist and as a tenor. Appointed a maestrino (pupil-teacher) at the college by his tutor Mercadante, he was soon playing and singing in Neapolitan salons and by 1870, through contacts secured via his pianist-composer friend Sgambati, had become the darling of Roman artistic circles. Singing-master to the Queen of Italy, Tosti first visited London in 1875, settling there in 1880 on his appointment as singing-teacher to the English Royal Family. Naturalised British in 1906, he was knighted by Edward VII in 1908. A celebrity in his own lifetime, as a composer and stylish and influential performer and promoter of his own songs, Tosti enjoyed a réclame equalled only by Thomas Moore (in the United States) and Reynaldo Hahn (in Paris).

Like his contemporary Tosti, the Naples-born conductor and vocal pedagogue Luigi Denza (1846-1922) was a pupil of Mercadante at the Naples Conservatory. He too settled in London where, in 1898, he was appointed a professor of singing at the Royal Academy. Denza also inaugurated a noted singing competition and reputedly penned some 500-600 songs (including several English drawing-room ballads in the style of Pinsuti). Nowadays, however, if he is remembered at all it is by only two: 'Occhi di fata' and the now hackneyed 'Funiculì, funiculà'.

From the closing decades of the nineteenth century onwards, the production of the more specific genre of Neapolitan song underwent a huge expansion through the work of several acclaimed exponents of local origin whose fame, in several instances, would later spread to America. Prolific among its major exponents were: Pasquale Mario Costa (1858-1933), whose collaborators included the renowned local poet and folk-song researcher Salvatore Di Giacomo (1860-1934); Eduardo Di Capua (1864-1917), whose 'I' te vurria vasà' (1900), with lyrics by fellow-Neapolitan Vincenzo Russo (1876-1904), capitalised on his 1898 success ''O sole mio'; Salvatore Gambardella (1873-1913), whose 'Serenata a Surriento' (1907) has lyrics by the noted poetaster Aniello Califano (1870-1919); Evemero Nardella (1879-1950), whose best-known song, 'Surdate', dates from 1909; Ernesto De Curtis, whose song-hits, both from 1915, 'Tu, ca nun chiagne', with lyrics by Libero Bovio (1883-?), sometime director of the Naples-based publishing firm of La Canzonetta, and 'Senza nisciuno' were first recorded and popularised by Caruso) and Rodolfo Falvo (1874-1937), dubbed 'Il Mascagnino' (the miniature Mascagni), whose Dicitencello vuie (1930) was famously featured and recorded by Gigli and Giuseppe Di Stefano.

While the song-publishing houses in Italy (Bideri, Poliphon, Ricordi and others) flourished and streetvendors sold copies of their latest sheet music publications (copielle) in large amounts in major Italian cities and towns, on records the songs were popularised on the Fonotipia label by, among others, the Neapolitan tenor Fernando De Lucia (1960-1925). A similarly eager market for such music was also found among immigrant Italian and Neapolitan populations in the United States, who rushed out to purchase the latest Neapolitan song discs of Caruso, among numerous others.

The turn of the twentieth century also saw a massive increase in the production of Italian song reflecting the spread of new technologies. Songs were now tailored to suit various media, first the gramophone then, soon afterwards, radio, and were often composed with specific singers in mind. A prime mover in verismo opera Leoncavallo, one of the first composers to exploit the commercial possibilities of the gramophone, in 1904 accompanied Caruso in the creator recording of his 'Mattinata', that most time-honoured and durable of canzonette, which he dedicated 'to the Gramophone & Typewriter Company'. Another seminal verismo figure, Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) also wrote a number of popular songs, including 'Stornelli marini', which dates from 1906.

By the early 1930s the new boom-industries of radio and the film-musical had given rise to a seemingly inexhaustible 'production-line' in canzoni popolari. In Italy, via the air-waves, the Florentine Carlo Buti christened dozens of new – and mostly ephemeral – titles each month, while in the cinema, beginning in 1930 with the Polish Jan Kiepura's 'Napoli, città canora', a welter of Neapolitan and Neapolitan-style material was soon laid before an altogether more global audience. Otherwise titled City Of Song, the soundtrack of this pioneering sound-on-film musical offered various numbers composed expressly by the Neapolitan Ernesto Tagliaferri (1889-1937) with his fellow-Neapolitan, the poet, and song festival director Ernesto Murolo (1876-1939), most notably the expressly-composed 'Nun me scetà' and his otherwise much-recorded 'Piscatore 'e Pusilleco' (1925), sung here by the Romanian Joseph Schmidt (1904-1942). The Kiepura film signalled the start of a new transatlantic market, which found its first flowering in a succession of musical films, flimsy in storyline and of varying calibre, which starred Lauri-Volpi, Piccaver, Gigli, Tauber and a host of other tenor icons of the period.

Peter Dempsey

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TEODORO COTTRAU (1827-1879): Addio a Napoli
Sung by Mario del Monaco
Recorded ca. 1953; mat. IDR 771; cat. London P 18212

FRANCESCO PAOLO TOSTI (1846-1916): Aprile
Sung by Beniamino Gigli
Recorded in London, 12 May 1939; mat. 2EA 7902-2; cat. HMV DB 3815

COLOMBINO ARONA (1885-?): La campana di San Giusto
Sung by Tito Schipa
Recorded in Camden, 8 September 1926; mat. CVE-35858-2; cat. Victor 6629

RODOLFO FALVO (1874-1937) Dicitencello vuje
Sung by Giuseppe di Stefano
Recorded 24 April 1953; mat. OBA 8337; cat. HMV DA 2047

ERNESTO DE CURTIS (1875-1937): Tu, ca nun chiagne!
Sung by Alessandro Valente
Recorded ca. 1932; mat. TB 1111; cat. Decca F 3871

GENI SADERO (1886-1961): Fa la nana, bambin'
Sung by Tito Schipa
Recorded in Milan, 18 December 1929; mat. BM 1346-2, cat. HMV 1088

EDUARDO DI CAPUA (1864-1917): I'te vurria vasà!
Sung by Giuseppe di Stefano
Recorded 15 June 1953; mat. OBA 8395; cat. HMV DA 11347

ARTURO BUZZI-PECCIA (1868-1943): Lolita
Sung by Armand Tokatyan
Recorded 25 March 1930; mat. CVE-59724-1; Cat. Victrola 7318

FRANCESCO PAOLO TOSTI (1846-1916): Malia
Sung by Tito Schipa
Recorded 15 September 1938; mat. OBA 2741-1; cat. HMV DA 5358

GIOVANNI D'ANZI (1906-1974): Malinconia d'amore
Sung by Mario Del Monaco
Recorded 1948; mat. OBA 6648; cat. HMV HN 2378

AUGUSTO ROTOLI (1847-1904): Mia sposa sarà la mia bandiera
Sung by Aureliano Pertile
Recorded 20 May 1927; mat. Ph 5942-1; Cat. Odeon N 6573

PASQUALE MARIO COSTA (1858-1933): Napulitanata (Uocchie de suonno)
Sung by Tito Schipa
Recorded in Camden, 10 September 1928; mat. BVE-27116-5; cat. Victrola 1415

FRANCESCO PAOLO TOSTI (1846-1916): Non t'amo più
Sung by Aureliano Pertile
Recorded in Milan, 8 November 1928; mat. BF-2457-3; cat. HMV DA 1008

ERNESTO TAGLIAFERRI (1889-1937): Nun me scetà
Sung by Joseph Schmidt
Recorded 22 April 1932; mat. 133506; cat. Decca 23049

STEFANO DONAUDY (1879-1925): O bei nidi d'amore
Sung by Beniamino Gigli
Recorded 4 October 1927; mat. BVE-36927-4; cat. Victor 1292

GAETANO ENRICO PENNINO (1859-1918): Pecchè?
Sung by Enrico di Mazzei
Recorded 19 December 1928; mat. KI 2061; cat. Odeon 188.624

ERNESTO TAGLIAFERRI (1889-1937): Piscatore 'e Pusilleco
Sung by Joseph Schmidt
Recorded 22 April 1932; mat. 133505; cat. Decca 23049

ERNESTO DE CURTIS (1875-1937): Senza nisciuno
Sung by Tito Schipa
Recorded 22 April 1932; mat. OM 493-2; cat. HMV DA 1271

SALVATORE GAMBARDELLA (1873-1913): Serenata a Surriento
Sung by Tito Schipa
Recorded 27 April 1938; mat. OBA 2473-1; cat. HMV DA 5353

PIETRO MASCAGNI (1863-1945): Stornelli marini
Sung by Beniamino Gigli
Recorded in New York, 9 December 1926; mat. BVE-37118-2; cat. Victor 1403

EVEMERO NARDELLA (1879-1950): Surdate
Sung by Tito Schipa
Recorded 27 April 1938; mat. OBA 2471-2; cat. HMV DA 5353

VINCENZO DE CRESCENZO (1875-1964): Tarantella sincera
Sung by Joseph Schmidt
Recorded 15 December 1934; mat. 85249-2; cat. Odeon O-4720

ITALIAN FOLKSONG (arr. MAY-NEUBACH): Tiritomba
Sung by Joseph Schmidt
Recorded March 1934; mat. 85243-2; cat. Decca 23035

LUIGI DENZA (1846-1922): Vieni
Sung by Aureliano Pertile
Recorded 23 May 1927; mat. Pho 5961-1; cat. Fonotopia M 6029


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