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Csar Vezzani (1888-1951)
Giacomo MEYERBEER (17911864)
Le Pardon de Plormel
1. Les bls sont beaux
2. Pays merveilleux
Le Prophte
3. Pour Berthe moi, je soupire
4. Roi du Ciel et des Anges
Fromental HALVY (1799-1862)
La Juive
5. Rachel quand du Seigneur
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
La Reine de Saba
6. Faiblesse de la race humaine ... Inspirez moi
Camille SAINT-SANS (18351921)
Samson et Dalila
7. Arrtez mes frres
8. Isral romps ta chane
Ernest REYER (1823-1909)
9. Prince du Rhin
10. Jai gard mon me ingnue
11. Esprits Gardiens
12. Oui, Sigurd est vainqueur
Jules MASSENET (18421912)
13. En fermant les yeux
14. Ah! fuyez douce image
15. Jaurais sur ma poitrine
16. Pourquoi me rveiller
Gioacchino ROSSINI (17921868)
Guillaume Tell
17. Asile hrditaire
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 1901)
18. Je veux entendre
19. Tout mabandonne, adieu
20. Dieu tu pouvais minfliger
21. Que nul ne craigne
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana
22. Moi seul ... Ah! servez de mre
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (18581919)
23. Mhabiller, mhabiller
Giacomo PUCCINI (18581924)
Manon Lescaut
24. Ah! ne mapprochez pas
25. Le ciel luisant dtoiles
Csar Vezzani
rec.1912 1925

Experience Classicsonline

It is a double mystery that Corsican-born tenor Csar Vezzani should first never have sung in any major opera house and secondly still remain comparatively unknown, even amongst those who consider themselves cognoscenti, especially when you consider that his voice type has always been extraordinarily rare. I refer to the tnor fort the French equivalent of the spinto tenore typified by Italian singers such as Franco Corelli. This voice category was never plentiful but there was a whole slew of French-singing tenors of this type active in the first half of the twentieth century, including Russian-born Joseph Rogatchewsky and no fewer than three Corsicans, Jos Luccioni, Gaston Micheletti and Vezzani himself; perhaps the last was Canadian Raoul Jobin. Today, such voices are virtually extinct. The closest equivalent to Vezzani in his day was his great near-contemporary Georges Thill, a lyric-dramatic tenor whose repertoire of demi-caractre roles overlapped with Vezzanis. Their voices shared similar characteristics, being vibrant, clear and masculine, with superb top notes and crystalline diction. Thill had an international career and his fame overshadowed that of Vezzani, his elder by nine years. He also lived far longer, until 1984, yet he had already retired by 1956, whereas Vezzani was still singing as principal tenor in Toulon up until 1948 when a stroke finished his career. Fortunately he was much sought after by Path, Odeon and HMV and recorded prolifically, including a complete Faust in 1930.

Both singers had their critics; some called into question the integrity of Thills top notes, despite the fact that in addition to taking on Wagner, he continued undaunted to undertake roles with a high tessitura; in Vezzanis case it was his supposed lack of subtlety and variation that drew adverse comment. Comparing their respective accounts of Jaurais sur ma poitrine, there seems to me to be no basis for either accusation; both singers acquit themselves admirably. Vezzanis quick vibrato, clear enunciation, steadiness of tonal of emission and the clarion penetration of his high Bs and Cs are all highly attractive features of his singing, even if prolonged and unrelieved exposure to these virtues over the generous eighty minutes of this recital can prove a little wearing. That possibility is somewhat offset by the brevity of most of the tracks here; only three extend beyond four minutes. The disc opens with four famous arias from Meyerbeer operas. I am one of those resistant to claims for Meyerbeers genius but Vezzani makes as convincing a case as possible for these showpieces; this is music which responds to a give-it-all-youve-got attack. I particularly like the way Vezzani utterly refuses to indulge in anything close to a slide in his approach to high notes; he simply nails em, over and over again. Everything here is in French - I dont think he sang in other languages and he never abandoned the lyric French roles despite his ability to tackle Lohengrin, Siegmund and Siegfried, hence we hear a 1924 recording of Rossinis Asile hrditaire with an easy, thrilling top C. You can hear the Wagnerian quality in his stentorian delivery of Samsons exhortations to the Israelites in tracks 7 and 8. For delicacy, go to the Massenet arias. Here he tames the natural robustness of his vocal production and sings in a lovely mezza voce, producing a delightful, soft, sustained falsetto A in il y faut encore Manon and his legato in Ah! fuyez is the dream it should be when a tenor tells us "Je viens de faire un rve. Hearing Verdi in French is interesting, especially in so demanding a role as Otello. The French version of Ora per sempre addio (Tout mabandonne, adieu) really is taken at too plodding a tempo but Vezzanis attack and intensity are compelling. He then passes the A flat test in Dieu, tu pouvais minfliger, rising nobly to its climax. His Desdemona, morte, morte! is heart-rending; hearing him sing that live must have been thrilling. We are also treated to two dead-centre-no-slide-up top Cs in the aria from Jrusalem (which was in French, being a revision and adaptation of I Lombardi for Paris). I could go on, but everything here is sung with dedication and artistry that I urge every lover of great tenor singing to buy this disc.

The sound is what we have become accustomed to and expect from Nimbus; I like what they do, as the generous ambience and reduction of hiss really do permit the voice to emerge as cleanly and realistically as we could hope given that the sources here are venerable acoustic matrices made just before the introduction of electrical recording.

One niggle: Nimbus needs to find a better proof-reader in French; the titles of the arias in the notes and track-listings are riddled with duplicated errors. If anyone cares, the details above are correct.

Ralph Moore

























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