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Thread: Verdi baritones

  1. #331
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    On Bechi, there certainly are recordings after 1949. The idea that he suffered a massive vocal decline says more about the difference in standards then and the standards today. While his later recordings are indeed not as good as his earlier ones, they are fine, and I would rather hear 1950s Bechi than any baritone today. It's still excellent singing. The Largo is starting to show some shoutiness, but the tone is very impressive. The Falstaff is great.




    Even in 1967, when Bechi was 54, he recorded the role of Germont in Traviata for the wonderful film with Moffo and Bonisolli. While showing more decline than the 50s recordings, it's still perfectly listenable singing with some wonderful moments.


    What caused decline in Bechi is unclear. Vocal decline can be caused by a lot of things, from health issues to changing technique to exhaustion etc.. But there is a difference between having a great technique and then losing it and never having one in the first place. During his prime, Bechi had exceptional technique. He was one of the greatest baritones of the century, and truly had a legato and emission of sound that would have made Battistini proud, even if he didn't use 19th century style.

    Bechi had exceptional breath control as well, which allowed him to sing phrases of whatever length he desired. In one phrase from "Io morro ma lieto in core" he starts mf, decrescendos, crescendos again, and ends up singing the 20 second phrase on one breath. His diction is always as clear as day, dynamic contrasts, and a through line connects everything.

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  3. #332
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Bechi sounds like a tenor to me too & he's another one who takes the 'Eri tu' low A up the octave. I'm now convinced that 50% of historical Verdi baritones were lazy tenors. Don't try to convince me otherwise! At least Domingo waited until he was old to become a lazy tenor
    Last edited by Bonetan; Mar-06-2020 at 15:48.

  4. #333
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    On 19th century style, yes I do think that any singer who attempted to sing Verdi like the singers that Verdi knew and loved, would generally be "corrected" and told that he wasn't doing "what Verdi wrote." The fact of the matter is that the idea of the score being a sacrosanct and precise thing that tells us exactly what the composer wanted is a 20th century idea, and it's a fantasy. If you want that, you can listen to it played by a computer. Nobody really wants that. It sounds terrible. So everybody, even ardent literalists want performers to violate the score. The question is, how much, and in what ways?

    Modern ways of doing that are different than 19th century ways. This is a generalization, so of course there will exceptions. But I have not heard anybody play like Paderewski or Koczalski. Maybe moments, but as a rule, modern performance practice emphasizes rhythmic and metrical precision, hands together in piano, sparing use of portamento in violin, rubato reserved for specific places like the end of a phrase, etc.. And yes, not doing those things is really what people of the past, including many of the composers we all love here, thought was correct and wanted from their performers. The extent of such practices is still hotly debated, which composers wanted which deviations, but a point that This is Opera! makes over and over again couldn't be more salient here: written descriptions are virtually meaningless without knowing what actual sound they had in mind. Tetrazzini talks about "singing in the mask," but she isn't nasal like modern singers who say this. Lehmann wrote all kinds of nonsense about the voice, but the actual sounds she produced were great, and she trained great singers. Modern teachers who use her book, even though they have the words, can't train train students to make the sounds. This is why historical recordings are essential. And, in general, with exceptions, etc., the musicians I know are averse to historical recordings. They either don't care about them or are hostile to them, as though they are an insult to living musicians. Maybe I have been biased by an unrepresentative sample, but I find this attitude prevalent in critical reviews too. Sometimes reviewers will wax on about the historical importance and greatness of a singer or musician, then show they don't really understand them, as when a reviewer giving Alma Gluck a positive review called her low notes oddly powerful and her high notes "piping," and warned modern listeners they would take adjustment. Gluck had one of the most astonishingly beautiful voices of all time, and he high notes are angelic.

    As for the This is Opera! comparison, as with any of their videos, if you take this one example and say that they were trying to prove a universal with only these examples, it is cherry picking. Fortunately, that was not their intention. They are giving these as representative examples of a phenomenon that anyone can easily verify for themselves by searching out more examples. If you listen to a lot of historical recordings, and compare them to modern recordings, which I've spent a lot of time doing, you can hear the difference right away. If students are starting to play more like Koczalski again, more power to them. I would love to hear a modern pianist who plays with independent accompaniment and melody.
    Here's a video that gives a host of other examples with analysis.


    Some more examples with St. Matthew Passion:
    Last edited by vivalagentenuova; Mar-06-2020 at 16:04.

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  6. #334
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    I would just also add for Bechi this 1959 (!) live recording, which shows almost no decline. We'd fall over ourselves running to hear a voice like that. Perhaps he just became inconsistent?


    (And isn't Virginia Zeani a great soprano?)
    Last edited by vivalagentenuova; Mar-06-2020 at 17:11.

  7. #335
    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    On 19th century style, yes I do think that any singer who attempted to sing Verdi like the singers that Verdi knew and loved, would generally be "corrected" and told that he wasn't doing "what Verdi wrote." The fact of the matter is that the idea of the score being a sacrosanct and precise thing that tells us exactly what the composer wanted is a 20th century idea, and it's a fantasy. If you want that, you can listen to it played by a computer. Nobody really wants that. It sounds terrible. So everybody, even ardent literalists want performers to violate the score. The question is, how much, and in what ways?

    Modern ways of doing that are different than 19th century ways. This is a generalization, so of course there will exceptions. But I have not heard anybody play like Paderewski or Koczalski. Maybe moments, but as a rule, modern performance practice emphasizes rhythmic and metrical precision, hands together in piano, sparing use of portamento in violin, rubato reserved for specific places like the end of a phrase, etc..
    "modern" in what sense? Here 5 contemporary pianists in my Chopin collection, there is much rubato, de-syncing of hands, etc. Not to the same degree as Koczalski or Cortot but a lot, and unlike those, these pianists can play with Michelangeli-style clarity and ability to bring out inner voices.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0GVaJq_CTM
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_E51SV0Zus
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vihm_f7JT1k
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb0Ebqe9JJo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTecRUbAvvI

    The essential problem with TIO is that they're conflating aesthetic and stylistic movements with a general decay in ability. The mid 20th century was an era that rejected much of the Romantic performance practice of the 19th century on aesthetic grounds, but that was a stylistic choice, not an inability to play like their predecessors.
    Last edited by howlingfantods; Mar-06-2020 at 17:37.

  8. #336
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    I would just also add for Bechi this 1959 (!) live recording, which shows almost no decline. We'd fall over ourselves running to hear a voice like that. Perhaps he just became inconsistent?


    (And isn't Virginia Zeani a great soprano?)
    I'd heard little of Bechi before now. I can't dispute that he had a great voice, but there's a nasal brightness, a brassiness, in his tone and sometimes a brutality in his delivery that make whatever character he's portraying sound a little nasty. His "Largo al factotum" is joyless, and his 1959 "Di provenza" is short-breathed and hectoring (he actually sounds more sympathetic in 1967). The aggressive snarl in his sound reminds me of Gobbi, and like Gobbi he seems ideal for villains; the Falstaff and Iago selections suit him best. I don't much enjoy listening to him, but I have to acknowledge that he'd be more than welcome on today's stages.

    Zeani is wonderful. She sings this scene as well as I've ever heard it sung. The voice itself just lacks the darker coloration and weight that makes a Callas or a Muzio incomparable.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-07-2020 at 00:04.

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  10. #337
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Fair enough. Do bear in mind that these are all from the least successful part of his career, although that brightness is present throughout and is just part of his technique. His earlier recordings are much suaver in terms of delivery. In fact, I think his stylistic decline is more significant than his vocal decline. His 40s recordings show wonderful legato and phrasing, which becomes more intermittent in the 50s.

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  12. #338
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    How highly do you all rate Cappuccilli against his contemporaries?


  13. #339
    Senior Member Sieglinde's Avatar
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    I love Cappuccilli, he may not have been the greatest actor (he certainly went to the William Shatner school of acting XD), but vocally, god tier. He really seemed to have infinite lung capacity! And in the many videos and recordings I have heard him in, I don't remember a single "bad day".

    This particular "Il balen" is one of the most perfect renditions. And Leonora prefers the tenor! Inconceivable.
    Last edited by Sieglinde; Mar-31-2020 at 08:08.

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  15. #340
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sieglinde View Post
    I love Cappuccilli, he may not have been the greatest actor (he certainly went to the William Shatner school of acting XD), but vocally, god tier. He really seemed to have infinite lung capacity! And in the many videos and recordings I have heard him in, I don't remember a single "bad day".

    This particular "Il balen" is one of the most perfect renditions. And Leonora prefers the tenor! Inconceivable.
    I've been listening to his Boccanegra the last few days & you're right. His lung capacity is absolutely absurd!!! That's certainly a gift he was born with. Most of us could never achieve anything like that no matter how much we trained.

  16. #341
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Here's an example. Listen to the first phrase at 19:18. Sing along & see how far you can get lol

    Last edited by Bonetan; Apr-02-2020 at 05:39.

  17. #342
    Senior Member Sieglinde's Avatar
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    And I'm always like: HOW. He was rather small and fragile. Where did all that air fit!

    I love his Boccanegra so much.

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  19. #343
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Cappuccilli fits in the middle of the spectrum for me. He's in the group of singers that I think of as "okay but not great". To me his voice has a dry quality that I don't particularly like, as though it's being blunted and prevented from fully resonating. Even in his early studio recordings it's lacking something. It doesn't bloom. Still, it's in tune, not unpleasant, proper vibrato, no barking, and it's well used. His long line in Boccanegra is very impressive. That Il balen was nice, but I really much prefer singers like Bastianini and especially Lisitsian, Bechi, and Granforte among others in that aria. And most arias, to be honest.
    Last edited by vivalagentenuova; Apr-02-2020 at 16:22.

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  21. #344
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    Cappuccilli fits in the middle of the spectrum for me. He's in the group of singers that I think of as "okay but not great". To me his voice has a dry quality that I don't particularly like, as though it's being blunted and prevented from fully resonating. Even in his early studio recordings it's lacking something. It doesn't bloom. Still, it's in tune, not unpleasant, proper vibrato, no barking, and it's well used. His long line in Boccanegra is very impressive. That Il balen was nice, but I really much prefer singers like Bastianini and especially Lisitsian, Bechi, and Granforte among others in that aria. And most arias, to be honest.
    I feel exactly that way about him. A "useful" singer, not an interesting or exciting one. I can also never remember which consonants in his name to double.

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  23. #345
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    With all that I've learned in this thread I'd like to attempt to craft the perfect Verdi baritone lol. Anyone care to assist?

    I'm thinking...

    Battistini's artistry

    Ruffo's power

    Cappuccilli's breath control

    Gobbi's acting

    Bastianini's timbre

    Am I close??

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