I researched this famous-infamous "Ezio Pinza and the Budapest String Quartet" recording at considerable length. There are
three questions about
it: who the composer may be (I still don't, and will probably never know), whether it's really the
Budapest String Quartet (their official discography says it's a fake), and whether it's really Ezio Pinza –
this is what my research was about.
Pinza, no it's not. It's an imitator. First of all, amusing as the Italian
accent in the "Budapest" recording is, it's clearly underdone – Pinza's own accent was definitely stronger,
as strong as even the imitator was not able to do it. Later on, when singing "South Pacific", Pinza
improved his English; but our recording is supposed to be from 1943, and there's no reason why also this date
should be a fake (for what purpose?) – several years before "South Pacific". There are not that many examples
of Pinza's English singing (at least not from the pre-South-Pacific period), but still in 1946, on a Bing
Crosby radio show where they sang together, his accent was simply amazing. Second, the imitator's own voice
is – it's obvious in direct comparison – darker timbred and much less forward than Pinza's, and the imitator
displays a slight wobble on the high notes that Pinza never had. Of course you can imitate a wobble,
but why would you if the imitated singer has none; and more important, this wobble is genuine.
It has been suggested (for instance on a CD publication of the recording in question) that the imitator be
Earl Wrightson, a radio singer who was apparently famous for his funny Pinza imitations. But this is nonsensical
for two reasons: first, the imitator must be really fluent in Italian, or he wouldn't be able to display the
accent he does (which is, though less strong than Pinza's own, still strong enough!). Americans of the period
(and far later on) were rarely capable to roll their r's in this truly Italian manner. Second, Earl Wrightson
had a smooth lyrical baritone voice, definitely lighter and also lighter-timbred than Pinza's – way lighter!
To think that he could imitate Pinza like in the "Budapest" song is like thinking that Andrea Bocelli could
imitate Lauritz Melchior.
Voice expert Mike Richter once suggested that the imitator be either Nicola Moscona, or less likely Igor Kipnis,
who was equally famous for his private Pinza imitations, said Richter. Well, funny as those imitations may have
been, I think we can exclude Igor Kipnis; the one singing here certainly has a very large voice, and is certainly
a trained singer – had Igor Kipnis been able to sing like that, he would hardly have become a harpsichordist,
but a bass like his father. Remains Moscona – but his voice, as related to the imitator's, is like the
imitator's as related to Pinza's: much less forward, wobbly (a hundred times more wobbly than the imitator!),
and darker in timbre. His is definitely the lowest and least forward voice of all singers considered here,
so he is far indeed from Pinza's singing; and what's maybe more important, he couldn't have achieved that
accent. His Italian wasn't very good (he was Greek, not Italian), and he didn't roll his r's.
So who else? Well, I'm convinced the answer is to be found above: listen to Baccaloni's "Bibbidi bobbidi
boo"... he was a proven humorist, he was Italian, he spoke far better English than Pinza (which was not
difficult either), he had a large, dark-timbred voice, forward, but not that forward as Pinza's – and he had
a slight wobble...