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David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2015

John McCormack’s many recordings during the first three decades of the 19th century would today place him among the world’s top-selling ‘pop’ charts. Born in Ireland in 1884, and originally self-taught, he was advised to seek professionally training in Italy, and there he began a career in provincial opera houses. He was briefly taken into London’s Covent Garden company, but it was at New York’s Metropolitan Opera that his success story took wing. Unsuccessfully he tried to shake off the Irish tang that coloured all of his operatic roles, and, by his own admission, he was a dreadful actor, and, when put together, those drawbacks persuaded him to retire from the opera stage while still in his mid-thirties. It proved financially to be a wise move, as he then enjoyed enormous acclaim with appearances singing popular ballades. The present CD covers the year 1924 when he mainly worked for the Gramophone Company, and concentrates on lieder and songs that included Brahms’s Komm bald and Rachmaninov’s Before My Window. We can enjoy those perfectly centered high notes, but he was not a singer with a flexible voice, so that his performances are very monochrome, just relieved by the idiomatic quality he brings to Frank Bridge’s Oh! that it were so! and a particularly beautiful account of Richard Strauss’s Morgan! where Fritz Kreisler adds the violin solo introduction. That the disc is primarily aimed at the lovers of his unusual voice comes with the inclusion of the alternative takes of the same song, that are only slightly different. As throughout the series—this being the final volume—the transfers by Ward Marston are examples of his immaculately prepared transfers to CD. © 2015 David’s Review Corner

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