While we have to use a mixture of imagination, texts, and creative research to reconstruct the singing practices of past centuries, early gramophone recordings give us a priceless peek into some truly splendid voices of the romantic period. Their ability to shine through the hissing and sputtering of the limited recording techniques that captured them is a testament to their power and beauty.
In fact, recordings didn’t benefit from microphones and amplifiers until 1925, which means the examples below were recorded acoustically, with the singers’ faces right up against the gramophone’s horn. As such, the more subtle sounds and higher frequencies were lost, meaning the singers’ actual voices probably had even more finesse and brilliance than these recorded mementos demonstrate. And since it took quite a bit of sound energy to vibrate the primitive recording diaphragm, singers with more powerful voices (most notably, Caruso) were the most successful recording artists of their day. Continue reading