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Cesare Siepi - Giuseppe VERDI etc
Orchestra Sinfonica Radio Italiana/Arturo Basile (1-6); unknown (7, 9, 10); Alfredo Simonetto (8), remaining items unknown
rec. 1947-1948

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Cesare Siepi
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)

1. Infelice! e tu credevi [3:39]
2. Tu sul labbro dei veggenti [4:54]
Arrigo BOITO (1842–1918)

3. So lo Spirito che nega [3:07]
Giuseppe VERDI

I vespri Siciliani:
4. O tu, Palermo [4:18]
Don Carlo:
5. Ella giammai m’amo! [8:12]
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834–1886)

La Gioconda:
6. Si, morir ella de’ [4:38]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)

La sonnambula:
7. Vi ravviso [3:03]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792–1868)

L’Italiana in Algeri:
8. Le femmine d’Italia [3:22]
Il barbiere di Siviglia:
9, La calunnia [4:22]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)

Don Giovanni:
10. Deh vieni alla finestra [2:16]
Paolo TOSTI (1846–1916)

11. L’ultima canzone [4:41]
12. Non t’amo più [4:46]
13. Malia [3:08]
Luigi DENZA (1846–1922)

14. Occhi di fata [3:23]

15. Serenata [3:17]
Augusto ROTOLI (1847–1904)

16. Mi sposa sara la mia bandiera [4:56]
Renato BROGEI (1873–1924)

17. Visione Veneziana [3:34]
Vincenzo BILLI (1869–1938)

18. E canta il grillo [3:12]
Cesare Siepi (bass)

This is a disarmingly fine selection of early Siepi recordings made between 1947 and 1948, the earliest of them when the bass was only twenty-four. They show an almost fully formed artist with a powerfully, resonantly deployed voice, still perhaps a touch unsupported in the very lowest register but nevertheless of exceptional quality. An added pleasure is to encounter some of these none-too-easy to locate Cetras and especially so in such good nick. Though they date from the early post War years several of the 78s are harder to find than one might suppose.

Sonorous, controlled, eloquent – all words that came to mind as one listens to the first track, the extract from Ernani. The eighteen sides are not presented chronologically so we have to measure one’s judgement in the knowledge that, say, the Don Carlo and I Vespri Siciliani arias precede those from Ernani and Nabucco in the chronological run of things. The fifteen months between the earliest 1947 sessions and the October 1948 ones do show a perceptible technical advance. But even in that earlier stage, with his saturnine Mefistofele aria, we encounter the powerful sense of characterisation, the adept lightening of tone, the personable impersonation, that remained such intense features of his singing.

Note too his prudence and tact in O tu, Palermo, the aria from I Vespri Siciliani – nothing exaggerated here, full of serious command. Given his minimal training the assurance is really rather astonishing. So too the gripping Don Carlo – in which he marries command of textual nuance with theatrical perception; perhaps, to be super critical, there is not quite the last ounce of characterisation but it’s a close run thing. His Bellini is elegantly phrased and his Rossini is predictably engrossing – suave humour enlivens his approach and he’s a stylishly natural Rossinian. His famous Mozartian persona was already seemingly in place by c.1948 – some of these Cetras can’t be dated with certainty but they must be contemporaneous with the dated 1947-48 sequence. The lighter songs shows that he has the grace and vocal agility to caress Tosti, to billow in the Arcadian forests of Billi and to revel in the strength of Denza.

Siepi’s youthful élan permeates every bar of this wholesome and impressive selection, which is finely transferred and well annotated into the bargain.

Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews by Goran Forsling and Robert Hugill


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