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Recordings

Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from <em>Norma, Faust, Don Carlo</em>
03 May 2007

Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from Norma, Faust, Don Carlo

For those who didn’t long ago purchased or exchanged this Salzburg recital via the pirate connections, this is a fine opportunity to get maybe the best testimonial of this artist.

Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from Norma, Faust, Don Carlo

Cesare Siepi, bass

Bongiovanni GB 1194-2 [CD]

$15.50  Click to buy

Siepi always had a big voice that streamed along as the Mississippi but there is no denying that the delivery could be a tiny bit monotonous, that the phrasing was not always very original. Maybe Siepi belongs to that species in the artistic tribe that needs an audience to give the best of himself as he did in this long and interesting recital. At the Met he sang several roles in German like Gurnemanz and Don Pizarro. Therefore it won’t come as a surprise that he sings a few well-known lieder from Schumann and Brahms. His German is acceptable, no more but still I wonder what the composers would have thought of Siepi. I have an inkling they would wrinkle their brows for just a moment and then they would sigh at the beauty of the sound and be happy with the firmness of the line and hope that other belcanto singers would perform their music far more often. In Ravel’s ‘Don Quichotte à Dulcinée’ Siepi is equally impressive — full of nuances and proving he has splendid high almost baritonal notes.

The same can be said of his six opera arias though the accompanying piano is somewhat meager. Here Siepi can be his own conductor, using more rubato than is usual in his official recordings. As a result the phrasing is more original in Mefistofele and he shows some fine restrained emotion in Jacopo Fiesco’s arias. Bongiovanni fills up this recital with live performances in Norma (2), Faust (2) and Don Carlo. The firm doesn’t think it necessary to reveal the origin of the sources for understandable reasons as these performances are in excellent sound and are clearly taken from Metropolitan radio broadcasts. These renditions too reveal to us the best of the singer: the velvety quality of the sound in the early fifties together with the power and the nobility of the voice. Nowadays there is an incessant complaint about the lack of truly great Italian tenors but this recitals reveals to us that not only in the high register there is a dearth of outstanding voices. The great line of Italian basses that went on from De Angelis to Pasero to Pinza ended with Siepi and we are the poorer for it. This record is proof.

Jan Neckers

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