, March 2003
Feodor Chaliapin’s imposing bass voice and larger-than-life artistry have been the subject of many CD reissues of varying quality. However, the present two-disc set offers an ample and well-rounded overview of his recorded repertoire, from Bellini (an effortless 1912 “Ite sul colle, o Drudi” from Norma) to Borodin’s Prince Igor. Or, if you prefer, from Mozart (the catalogue aria from Don Giovanni) to Mussorgsky (the famous 1928 live Covent Garden Boris Godunov Farewell and Death Scene; Varlaam’s Song from 1927), with Mefistofole in the middle.
Best of all, Ward Marston’s exceptionally clean and vivid transfers convey near-lifelike presence and dimension. This holds true for both acoustical and electrically recorded selections (the anthology is evenly divided as such). While collectors also should know about Arbiter’s ongoing chronological survey of Chaliapin’s complete recordings, less specialized music lovers will be more than satisfied with Naxos’ generous feast of Chaliapin’s greatest and near-greatest hits.