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To add: This recording as presented here is in the key of A flat, playing at 77rpm. First; it is very unusual (though not unknown) for recordings of this period to play so “fast.” It is usual to find records playing (at score pitch) at 70, 71,or 73 rpm. Second: this Tosti song was (and is) available in at least two keys (for bass, baritone, soprano/tenor). I see from all the published soprano/tenor sheet music (dating from 1900 to date) that the key is G (major) – a semitone down from the song as presented here. Whilst upward transposition is not unknown, I can see no reason why Valero should do it. Maestro Cottone at the piano is notorious as being particularly inept at transposition “in running” (see the recordings of the tenor De Lucia); here Cottone seems (for once) quite confident and accurate in his playing. An aesthetic problem is that to play this recording a semitone down (at around 73rpm) at times seems “too much” with subtle distortion of certain vowels and sluggish rhythm. A further problem is that the recording turntables of the day commonly slowed or quickened as the side progressed – sometimes this was gradual and regular, sometimes it was erratic. If the pitch rise or drop is regular then it is a relatively easy task (now we have computers) regularly and constantly to adjust the pitch so that the record plays in the correct pitch (more or less) throughout The solution is probably heretical! As Henstock has noted we cannot know at which pitch the piano (or indeed Valero!) was tuned. The “standard” has changed since 1903 (according to Henstock) by up to a semitone. The solution may be to reduce the speed by say 2rpm (around a quarter tone ). This is course puts the “Mattinata” recording “in-between” pitch. To those with absolute pitch the result must be excruciating – but then again most old recordings must be excruciating to those cursed with absolute pitch! The result of a semitone or even a quarter tone downward transposition is surprisingly dramatic for this "Mattinata." The voice is less white (if appearing a little frailer). For Symposium another Valero recording (“El amor es la vida”) was transcribed in a key which produces much the same timbre as found when Mattinata is transposed downwards. That said, “El Amor” sounds perfectly acceptable a semitone up! Finally, another Valero recording is of the “Siciliana” from “Cavalleria Rusticana” an aria which is commonly transposed down a semitone – even by the best of tenors, It would seem very unusual for Valero not to have followed what might be called a tradition (especially given his age and frailty – the man was recovering from tuberculosis – if recovery was ever possible at that period!). With such a transposition, the “Siciliana” sounds slightly darker, and more natural – again it is similar in timbre to the instant transposed “Mattinata.” I am of the opinion that this “Mattinata” sounds better played around a quarter tone down, (about 97.5% if you have a computer program that allows such fiddling); but I freely admit that we shall probably never know if that is correct! At “score-pitch” or a quarter/semitone above, Valero still remains one of the most fascinating artists of the period and certainly one of the most endearing – it is just that he seems more human (in my view) when his records are played a little slower.
One of the most important discoveries ever of recorded history, And so good that the Library has made it available. So many important discoveries are kept under lock and key and remain in essence lost. Valero's style harks back to a different (pre-verismo) era - despite this record's being made at the end of his career, that style, with its deftly executed grupetti is still very apparent. The finding of this recording is so exciting - it is not just the collector "ticking off a catalogue number" on a list; it adds to our knowledge.
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Nov 15, 2012