This is a favourite piece for me and over 50 years I have owned many fine recordings on CD of it, all of which have been fine too - and justifiably. However, this one has now topped them all and now I own just the one performance - and this is it.
The performance grabs the attention from the very start and is it is apparent that it is immediately capable of being ranked with the best. You could pick and choose various small sections at that exalted level and imagine certain other favourite bits instead but once we get to the Libera Me and the last 20 minutes or so we enter a completely different world of experience - that of the inspirational.
Gheorghiu simply brings to her role a level of commitment that is mesmerising and completely at one with both the music and with Abbado's concept. Photographers will tell you that it is always about the eyes - and Georghiu's have it and they never let you go! She brings all her dramatic and communicative operatic skills to bear with extraordinary power and apparent conviction. Every word, every musical phrase is made absolutely special and of extreme importance and relevance.
At the end there is prolonged silence as Abbado struggles to regain his composure and not a sound can be heard from a packed hall. Everyone knows that they have just experienced something special and they are right.
How lucky for us that this has been caught so very well on camera and as sound. The camera work is typical of this team and is both tasteful and effective The surround sound is all one could wish for, although being greedy, I would add that a Blu-ray version would be the icing on the cake! We live in privileged times! Highly recommended with total enthusiasm.
on 25 January 2014
By the saddest of coincidences, the DVD arrived through my letterbox on Saturday 18th January 2014 - and two days later, the world was stunned by the news of Abbado's death - which made viewing this DVD on the night of 20th January as much an act of homage and remembrance as an act of worship. But even in such circumstances, this is a document of a performance of astonishing power and emotion. The singing of both choir and soloists (especially Gheorghiu, my word!!) is extraordinary, the playing of the nonpareil Berliners is passionately committed - but above all, the visionary, transcendent conducting of maestro Abbado elevates this from the great to the sublime. His facial expression at the end - not in the slightest bit 'an act', but then he was never a showman like some - will tell you all you need to know. Watch it and let your life be changed. I promise.
on 9 June 2008
Verdi's Requiem Mass has been described as his greatest opera, and it is undeniable that it has an abundance of drama. For those who have not heard this work, it goes well beyond preconceptions of 'sacred' music and grips the listener's emotions mercilessly. Of all the requiems that I have heard (and have sung as a bass chorus member) it is a personal favourite.
For years my first choice of recording was Telarc's magnificent achievement conducted by Robert Shaw, and I was ambivalent when I first saw this one as a CD. Live performances have sometimes disappointed me because of the compromise between excluding audience noise and allowing sufficient ambience. This one appeared to have solved the riddle and I had few complaints.
Later the DVD version appeared and I was tempted by the addition of Dolby Digital and DTS audio tracks. This took my pleasure far beyond that given by the excellent stereo CD sound.
Firstly, Claudio Abbado conducts with absolute authority and control over his forces, but this tells only part of the story. He is totally immersed in the emotions of the work, as is evidenced by his expressions when we see his close-up shots. There are moments when he appears close to tears (me too). At the end of the performance he holds a silence of fully 20 seconds before allowing the audience to burst into applause.
I need say no more of the orchestra and chorus than that I can find no point of criticism for either.
Both the mezzo Daniela Barcellona and bass Julian Konstantinov have rich, full, controlled voices and do the work full justice. Video shows Konstantinov to work the hardest of all four soloists, perspiring freely under the TV lighting.
Of the 'dream couple' Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, she is awe-inspiring and he somewhat less so. I have enjoyed the quality of Alagna's superb tenor voice on many occasions, but here he appears a little ill at ease. In the Ingemisco he rushes from the beginning; Abbado and the orchestra adjust skilfully and little damage is done. There are no such problems in the ensemble sections.
It is difficult to find enough superlatives for Gheorghiu's virtuoso performance. Full of passion and drama, her voice soars effortlessly to the demanding heights required by Verdi, and she produces spine-tingling variations of volume and colour.
I much prefer the DTS audio track. Mike Clements is credited as the balance engineer, and in my view he deserves at least a knighthood, (possibly even a sainthood given the nature of the music!) for successfully achieving an excellent balance between huge forces whilst allowing sufficient ambience with only very little audience noise.
The pictures are fully up to the best I have seen on DVD, albeit with some digital artefacts on moving wide-angle shots. I might have been slightly aggrieved by defocused microphone cables sometimes just becoming visible in the foreground of shots were it not for the knowledge that without them Mike Clements would not have been able to produce such a satisfying soundstage, just wider than the front speakers and with a full dynamic and frequency range. The final 'Libera Me' is a demonstration-worthy section, including the bass drum strokes from the 'Dies Irae' and allowing Gheorghiu to display an amazing array of vocal gymnastics, soaring high above everyone else before ending with a hushed pianissimo.
The SACD recordings of this work that I have heard do not usurp this one in my affections.
An appeal to EMI - please, please reconsider SACD. This DVD shows just how much is gained from good multichannel recording, and that EMI is up there with the best of them. I'm sure I cannot be the only one gradually replacing CD with SACD, and at the moment EMI has excluded itself from that market.
on 13 April 2011
I'm not a very experienced or sophisticated listener where opera's concerned so can only say that this recording gives me huge pleasure every time I listen to it. Originally I bought the CD version but was curious to see the performance too, hence this buy.
I can't offer comparisons to other versions as I haven't seen any others...
Sorry, not much of a review!
on 14 November 2013
Originally intended as a tribute to Rossini who died in 1868, this Capolavoro was restarted in 1873 on the death of Alessandro Manzoni the famous writer who Verdi admired greatly. He turned to the Requiem liturgy not out of religiosity and yet became its ingenious means, consciously or otherwise, to produce a sacred work of such towering universality of stature as to match all others including Bach's B Minor Mass. It's interesting that the Libera Me was retained from the Rossini dedication and has become so memorable since. The work, heavily influenced by adagio/andante in some crucial parts, is in contrast to those influences infused almost throughout by the Dies Irae either explicitly or as an insidious sub-current weaving its presence exponentially from one enclosed movement to the next. The composer was devastated by the deaths of his compatriots, particularly Manzoni, and the fin de monde ambience of the work reflects this as well as assimilating the subliminal, theological connotations of the liturgy with a tonal diversity redolent with interpretive speculation. The performance is seamlessly brilliant from start to finish. Verdi studied a range of composers work and l noted Bach, Mozart and Berlioz as being particularly evident. But there is no question that his magisterial insights and style predominate and a remarkable unique synthesis is engendered. The Swedish Radio Chorus is particularly impressive especially in the Rex Tremendae and Lacrymosa, Berlin orchestra and the soloists simply magnificent.The Libera Me certainly fulfils its climactic intent despite being overblown in some theological quarters defining its `mystery' and strongly influenced the atmospherics in Britten's War Requiem Libera Me without the latter being climactic in the same, liturgical sequence. Gheorghiu's interpretation is certainly the one that confronts any soprano who follows likewise Konstantinov for the bass allied to an undeniable `presence dimension' factor. Abbado conducts with his usual , accomplished, steely sensitivity. There are two recent dvd's of Verdi's Requiem both of which provide an excellent, plethora of gradations to diversify, compare and contrast with this version.
on 14 March 2004
I bought this DVD because having heard sountracks of the performance and enjoyed them, I was intrigued enough to try the video.
It is difficult for a newcomer (for that describes me) to know where to start but I will try.
This interpretation by Abbado is thrilling! The soundtrack is unmeasurably enhanced by the Video. The singers, Angela Gheorghiu, Daniela Barcellona, Roberto Alagna and Julian Konstantinov give their all. To see the expressions; to experience the feeling - It is virtually as good as being at the live performance. Each time I watch it, I see something new. If you like this type of music, buy it. You will love it, each time you play it, you will appreciate it more.