Not a lot leaps out at you when you read the cast list of this Traviata, but from the opening notes you can tell much thought has gone into the recording. I've never heard the ppp marking on the opening bars of the prelude so faithfully followed - the LSO violins sustaining a whisper.
From then one there is not a great deal to highlight in the opening scene. Gruberova has all the notes, and whilst Shicoff has a slightly pushed sound he is more than competent. In Act II Shicoff puts in a top C at the end of the cabaletta "Oh mio rimorso" - a lesson to tenors in demonstrating a healthy full range. Unfortunately his attempt at a mezza-voce for the beginning of "Parigi o cara" fails.
I might have unfairly skipped over Gruberova but I have to compare her to Caballe, Callas, Freni and Cotrubas, as favourite Violettas, and, as I say, Gruberova has all the notes but fails to draw pity. Having said that Gruberova's breath control and vocal line during "Addio del passato" is exquisite.
The star for me is Zancanaro. His slightly shrill timbre is not to everyone's taste but in his duet with Violetta he modulates his tone and volume - gently drawing her into submission. He's sensitive and understanding, yet authoritative in "Di provenza" - a 3D Germont.
My one criticism of Rizzi is his reticence to punctuate Verdi's dramatic accents, which litter his operas. The drama is all there, you just need to accentuate it with the musicians. Nevertheless, this is still a very good Traviata and worthy of a shade more than four stars.