VERDI: Requiem / Quattro pezzi sacri

It is a logical pairing that brings together two works that fit well together in representing Verdiís major efforts in sacred music.
Originally recorded in the Sofiensaal, Vienna, Soltiís recording of the Requiem is a durable performance that serves as a touchstone for modern Verdi performances. The performing forces represent the finest of the day, with Requiem involving the Chorus of the Vienna Staatsoper, the Vienna Philharmonic, and soloists who would command the international opera scene for the decades that followed: Dame Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, two women who had just begun to work together in reestablishing bel canto opera; Luciano Pavarotti, the tenor who would become a household name for fine singing worldwide; and Martti Talvela, the Finnish bass who had worked with Sir Georg Solti in recording the monumental Ring cycle for Decca. Solti himself would lead the Chicago Symphony in taking its reputation into international circles. These are remarkable forces to approach any work, and they are all the more impressive for creating one of the finest recordings of Verdiís Requiem.
Soltiís interpretation of Verdiís Requiem remains an essential accomplishment of his recording career. In approaching one of the best-known choral works of the nineteenth century, Solti introduced the precision that was part of his genius. In addition, his sense of drama made the famous ìDies iraeî section into an awe-inspiring tableau not just through the volume of the forces involved, but in the timing that allowed Verdiís syncopations to jolt the listener. Not only could he create such grand effects, Solti could establish the sense of intimate, almost chamber-music effect, that other parts of the Requiem demand, as in the ìLacrimosa.î In this piece, the mezzo accompanies the tenor in some passages, and Solti allows the women of the chorus to support the mezzo later in the movement and achieve a similar delicacy. When the full chorus enters, the result is impressively moving for its balance. The diction is always clear, with articulations appropriately unified, and this is evident in the opening of the ìLibera me,î one of the defining sections of this outstanding work that brings an almost operatic idiom to the religious text. The close miking of Sutherland in this piece stands in contrasts to the somewhat distant reprise of the ìDies irae,î a distinction that sets a studio performance like this one from a live concert. More importantly, details like these are readily accessible in the remastering of this performance. Improvements are subtle and support the overall effect, which has always been impressive. In some ways this CD release allows the character of the solo voices to emerge clearly. Thus Marilyn Horneís vibrant voice has a sense of immediacy, like the resonance that distinguishes Martti Talvelaís rendering of the bass parts in this work. Moreover, those familiar with the later recordings of Luciano Pavarotti should appreciate the tenorís exceptional performance in this relatively early release, which stands as testimony of his unique talent.
In addition to this exceptional reading of Verdiís Requiem, this release includes Soltiís performance of the Quattro Pezzi Sacri that was he recorded approximately a decade later. Albeit with different forces than he used with the Requiem, the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra are equally impressive in this release. In assembling these pieces from the latter part of his career, Verdi combined three Marian prayers, ìAve Maria,î ìStabat Mater,î and ìLaudi alla Vergine Maria,î along with the ancient Ambrosian hymn ìTe Deum.î A text that is associated with the liturgy of the hours, Verdiís setting of the ìTe Deumî stands alongside those of such composers as Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, Dvo?·k, and Bruckner. In Soltiís hands, the dramatic power of Verdiís setting is apparent, yet always fitting into the structure of the music. This is similar to the way in which Solti treated the ìStabat Mater,î a challenging piece in itself because of the variety of textures and timbres, as well as the expressive demands. Verdiís Te Deum is even more demanding, and Soltiís efforts are admirable. Dramatic and intense, it remains impressive, and those who have not heard it recently will find easy access to the performance in this appropriately entitled ìLegendary Recordingî rerelease of Verdiís Requiem.
James L. Zychowicz

image_description=Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem / Quattro pezzi sacri
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem / Quattro pezzi sacri
product_by=Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Luciano Pavarotti, Martti Talvela, Wiener Staatsopernchor, Wiener Philharmoniker, Chicago Symphony Chorus, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti, conductor.
product_id=Decca 00289 475 7735 [2CDs]