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Marston Recordings

The Complete César Vezzani - Volume 2 - His Master’s Voice, France, 1924-1925
Complete Acoustic Recordings
MARSTON 52045-2 [79.02 + 78.19]

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Jacques HALÉVY (1799-1862)

1.La Juive: Dieu, que ma voix tremblante [2:27]
10 July 1924; (BT851-2) P660
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)

2.Le Prophète: Pour Bertha [3:20]
10 July 1924; (BT850-2) P591
3.Le Prophète: Roi du ciel [3:03]
10 July 1924; (BT852-2) P591
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

4.Le Trouvère: Supplice infâme (Di quella pira) [2:24]
11 July 1924; (BT857-2) P582
5.Le Trouvère: Mère tu dors!… Oui, la fatigue (Madre, non dormi… Ai nostri
monti) [7:07]
with Marie Charbonnel, contralto
23 February 1925; (CT1264-2/CT1265-1) W706
6.Rigoletto: Qu’une belle (Questo quella) [2:01]
20 February 1925; (BT1257-2) P600
7.Rigoletto: Comme la plume au vent (La donna è mobile) [2:09]
20 February 1925; (BT1256-2) P600
8.Aida: O céleste Aida (Celeste Aida) [3:29]
18 February 1925; (CT1239-1) W755
9.Otello: Tout m’abandonne (Ora è per sempre addio) [1:21]
19 February 1925; (BT1248-1) P660
10.Otello: Dieu, tu pouvais m’infliger (Dio, mi potevi) [2:31]
19 February 1925; (BT1250-2) P609
11.Otello: Que nul ne craigne (Niun mi tema) [3:35]
19 February 1925; (BT1249-2) P609
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

12.Cavalleria Rusticana: Sicilienne (O Lola) [2:06]
11 July 1924; (BT858-1) P615
13.Cavalleria Rusticana: Moi seul ai tous les torts … Ah, servez de mère
(Lo so che il torto è mio… Mamma, quel vino e generosa) [5:42]
26 February 1925; (BT1283-1/BT1284-1) P607
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

14.Manon Lescaut: Parmi vous, ô belles brunes (Tra voi, belle, brune e
bionde) [1:55]
16 February 1925; (BT1224-2) P610
15.Manon Lescaut: Oh! Manon de nouveau tu trahis ta pensée (Ah! Manon, mi
tradisce) [1:58]
11 July 1924; (BT860-1) P610
16.Manon Lescaut: Ah, ne m’approchez pas (Ah, non vi avvicinate… Guardate
come io piango ed imploro) [1:56]
11 July 1924; (Bt859-2) P588
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

17.Mattinata [1:59]
20 February 1925; (BT1259-2) P615
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

18.Samson et Dalila: Arrêtez, ô mes frères [1:59]
11 July 1924; (BT861-2) P614
19.Samson et Dalila: Israël, romps ta chaîne [1:58]
19 February 1925; (BT1247-1) P614
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

20.Carmen: La fleur que tu m’avais jetée [3:26]
20 February 1925; (BT1255-2) P644
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

21.La Navarraise: O bien aimée [2:11]
23 February 1925; (BT1266-2) P634
Henry FÉVRIER (1875-1957)

22.Gismonda: Oui, vous étiez l’enjeu splendide [ 2:11]
26 February 1925; (BT1286-1) P634

23.Sigurd: Esprits gardiens [3:15]
18 February 1925; (BT1240-2) P624
20 February 1925; (BT1258-2) P624
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

25.Lohengrin: Ah, respirons tous deux (Atmest du nicht) [2:20]
16 February 1925; (BT1223-2) P641
26.Lohengrin: Ma confiance en toi (Höchstes Vertraun) [2:53]
16 February 1925; (BT1222-1) P641
27.La Walkyrie: O glaive promis par mon père (Ein Schwert verhiess)
26 February 1925; (CT1285-2) W755
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

28.Manon: Toi…Vous [3:56]
with Rose Heilbronner, soprano
Odeon Paris 1912-1914; (XP 6074-2) X111594

Selected Electric Recordings
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

1.La Favorite: Un ange, une femme inconnue [3:33]
15 September 1931; (OW469-1) DA4863
2.La Favorite: Ange si pur, que dans un songe [2:52]
14 September 1931; (OW457-2) DA4863
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
3.L’africaine: Pays merveilleux…O paradis [3:02]
2 April 1930; (BF3125) P854
L’africaine: Duo Act II
4.C’est de là que mon canot fragile…Combien tu m’es chère [4:33]
with Odette Ricquier, soprano
22 November 1932; (2PG306) DB4901
L’africaine: Duo Act IV
5.Erreur fatale [4:24]
with Odette Ricquier, soprano
22 November 1932; (2PG308) DB4901
6.Les Huguenots: Ah! Quel spectacle…Plus blanche que la blanche hermine
2 April 1930; (CF3127) W1087
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Lohengrin: Duo Act III
7.Déjà se perd leur voix (Das süße Lied verhallt) [6:36]
8.Ah, respirons tous deux (Atmest du nicht) [3:28]
9.Ma confiance en toi (Höchstes Vertraun) [6:24]
with Mireille Berthon, soprano
13 October 1933; (2PG 1162-2, 2PG 1163-1, 2PG 1164-1, 2PG 1165-1) DB 4920
DB 4921
10.Lohengrin: Aux bords lointains… (In fernem Land) [4:28]
10 September 1931; (2W 441-2) DB4828
11.Lohengrin: Mon cygne aime (Mein lieber Schwan) [4:31]
10 September 1931; (2W 440-1) DB4828
12.La Walkyrie: O glaive promis par mon père (Ein Schwert verhiess)
28 January 1932; (2W 1219-1) DB 4857
13.La Walkyrie: Plus d’hiver, déjà le printemps commence (Winterstürme)
27 January 1932; (2W 1218-1) DB 4857
14.Siegfried: Nothung! Nothung! [2:50]
21 November 1932; (OPG 302-2) DA 4847
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Samson et Dalila: Duo Act II, Scene III
15.En ces lieux, malgré moi [9:18]
16.Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix [5:43]
17.Mais!…non! que dis-je, hélas! [6:01]
with Marie Duchene, contralto
15 September 1931; (2W 470, 2W 471) DB 4845
16 September 1931; (OW479-4, 480-1, 481-1, 482-2) DA4819, DA4820
César Vezzani (tenor)
All recordings accompanied by orchestra
Languages: Track 17 in Italian, all other Tracks are in French
All recordings accompanied by orchestra; Tracks 2, 12, and 13 conducted by
Pierro Coppola; Tracks 3 and 6 conducted by Henri Busser.
Languages: All Tracks are in French


This is the second volume in Marston’s series devoted to the complete recordings of the Corsican tenor César Vezzani (1888-1951). The first was exclusively of acoustic material and indeed the first CD of this second volume covers the remaining 1924-25 acoustics made for French HMV. The second disc jumps ahead, passing over the early eclectic remakes (which will appear in volume 3) to the 1930-33 sequence of discs that Vezzani made. These sides cover Donizetti, Meyerbeer, Saint-Saëns but predominantly Wagner, and sung in French of course. For various reasons Vezzani’s career was never international though he certainly made the rounds of French and North African houses – Algiers included – and was busy in Rouen, Marseille, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Toulon as well as Parisian recording studios. He never sang at the Paris Opéra and seems to have preferred the South.

Though he sang French repertory he wasn’t naturally in the line of French tenors. His voice had an Italianate, heroic ring, a powerful, declamatory attack, a masculine attack reflective of his Corsican heritage. It’s a big voice, often well-shaded, and the chance to study it in such comprehensive detail is warmly to be welcomed. It’s almost certainly the case that this is the first time that his surviving recordings have been collated in such a way and Ward Marston has maximised every crevice of the late acoustics. They sound forward and full of detail. He’s retained a degree of shellac crackle but upper frequencies are intact and the discs are a pleasure to listen to.

Whether the same can universally be said of the artistic performance is perhaps another matter. For all the masculine charge and the recommendation of the eloquent booklet notes Vezzani remains something of an acquired taste. There’s no doubting his passionate conviction nor some very special examples of a tenor’s arsenal of expressive devices but more worrying is a lack of uncomplicated, simple lyricism. Of the late acoustics here the aria from La Juive has a real outsize strident heroism but the upper register sounds effortful and forced. Yes, his Verdi has a real Corsican ring and concomitant drama and delivery but there’s something rather vulgar about the vocal production and its application that tends to limit pleasure. Too many of these arias begin hopefully and end in disappointment. Celeste Aida lacks a sense of legato, the tone roughening, toughening, the texture and colour in a state of constant change. This eruptive charge is better suited to his Otello and it’s certainly more than a mere curiosity to hear his Manon Lescaut, in French. But the sense of incipient hysteria in his Leoncavallo sounds rather more put on than lived, as indeed does the half catch in the voice in the Aida. His Wagner is a bizarre exercise, to my ears, and his Lohengrin sounds as if three tenors were singing not one. It’s a tribute to his power of colour and constant inflection that this should be so, I suppose, though it can hardly be counted a musical success.

His arias from La Favorite begin with a certain caressing intimacy but then he changes gear and we get another eruption of torrid, rather ill-defined machismo, the polar opposite of French lyric elegance. In itself this is characterful and individualist; it’s certainly worth hearing. But listening to Ah! Quel spectacle ... Plus blanche que la blanche hermine (Les Huguenots) once can hear how, though he begins well, the runs aren’t clear at all and he blusters his way through to the end. It’s the kind of singing that puts the coarse into Corsican.

In the end Vezzani seems to have reached his just, provincial level. Though a harsh judgement it seems borne out by the recorded evidence of a singer of unquestioned vocal gifts whose Italianate powers of declamation were not matched by commensurate artistry or sensitivity. They certainly could not wish for a better arena to be heard however than this splendidly produced and transferred double CD set.

Jonathan Woolf


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