Wednesday 30 March 2022

Enrico Caruso: His Songs

A Small Selection of Songs Written For Caruso
Who knew? The great tenor Enrico Caruso used to write songs; it seems nine survive. He didn't write alone, he would find a melody and then have it harmonised by his accompanist, Richard Barthélemy or by Henri J. Van Praag, conductor of the orchestra at the Hotel Knickerbocker, where Caruso lived whenever he sang at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

The Italian trained, English tenor Mark Milhofer has been on something of a mission recently, going through libraries (from Caruso's old home near Florence, to the British Museum, to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, where Caruso's widow had left his music collection) to collect Caruso's songs together. It began by accident in 2020, Mark was simply looking for music for a live-streamed recital to be given in his front room in 2020. But he was intrigued. The results of his search have been published, as Caruso's Songs on the Vigor Music imprint.

And Mark his put together a programme which combines Caruso's songs with those written for him (and Mark has, so far, found 90 of these). His recital programme has been performed in Caruso's home, in the town where Caruso was conceived, and in other Italian cities.

Now Mark, along with pianist Marc Scolastra, is planning on recording a double album, of Caruso's own songs alongside around 40 that were written for him. They plan for it to be out on Urania Records for Caruso's 150th birthday next year. And the recording will be made at the Caruso Museum, in Caruso's home just outside Florence.

Mark has started a Kickstarter page to help him fund the project. Only five of Caruso's songs have ever been recorded, and many of the other songs will be first recordings. This is obviously something of a passion project for Mark, a tenor whose repertoire ranges from the early Baroque through to Britten and Benjamin. And it seems amazing that Caruso's own songs have somehow been allowed to languish. Do consider supporting Mark (rewards range from early access to the recording right through to a personal recital in your home)

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