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

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

image_description=Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from Norma, Faust, Don Carlo
product_title=Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from Norma, Faust, Don Carlo
product_by=Cesare Siepi, bass
product_id=Bongiovanni GB 1194-2 [CD]