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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Recorded in 1930 for Italian Columbia, the La Scala version of Falstaff in Naxos’s historical series was the first ever made and is here superbly restored on CD by Ward Marston, with voices vividly caught and surface hiss generally well subdued. It features a fine, well-coordinated team of soloist noted fro their performances at La Scala at the time, so bring out the words with astonishing clarity. Giacomo Rimini, with his firm, dark voice, not only articulates well but also conveys the humour of the fat knight, and Pia Tassinari, then not quite 30 years old, is a fresh, characterful Alice. Aurora Buades is a fruity Mrs Quickly with a formidable chest register, and the casting of the rest is also near-ideal. The first two acts are contained complete on the first disc, leaving room for a 35 minute supplement on the second, gathering together arias and ensembles with Pia Tassinari, mostly dating from 1941-3 when her voice was weightier but still fresh and pure. It is remarkable to have an Italian soprano of the period singing with such stylishness in Mozart (Susanna’s Deh vieni from Figaro), Wagner (Elsa’s two arias from Lohengrin in Italian) and Massenet (Charlotte’s letter-song from Werther, also in Italian). A cherishable supplement, with Tassinari’s husband, Ferrucio Tagliavini, joining her in the concluding quartet from Act III of Puccini’s La Bohéme.

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